Similar to the community gardens founded in the 70's and 80's that “took back” abandoned and blighted land, this garden reclaims a landscape that would otherwise be developed into housing that maximizes profit at the expense of the context of the neighborhood. The location of this garden is, by default, a statement against the excess development of the area during the housing boom. Taking advantage of the current dip in development, stalled projects and ruins created by the lack of financing, the site is reclaimed from a new type of abandonment. It creates a greater diversity of land use in the neighborhood.
Greenacre Park was designed by Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay Associates with Masao Kinoshita as lead designer. Greenacre Park opened in 1971 as a “vest” pocket park and is privately funded and maintained by Abby Rockefeller Mauze’s Greenacre Foundation. The park is 60-feet wide by 120-feet deep, and conveys an impression of far greater size through a series of well-defined, separate spaces, lush planting, textural variation, and the dramatic use of water...
Ecological goals for an urban garden:
Identify and remediate contaminants.
Reuse suitable exiting site elements to make landscape features such as retaining walls and rubble to shape constructed landscapes or planting beds.
Keep water on site through means of planting, permeable surfaces and proper drainage. This minimizes the use of the already over-taxed municipal sewer system. Use collected site water for irrigation by collecting and storing it in an underground cistern located on the site.
Water features add tremendous value to a garden. They engage all the senses. In an urban environment, the sound of water becomes an important feature to cover the noise of the city and immediately transport the visitor. Standing water can provide a home for mosquitoes and other pest insects, so moving water is preferred. Waterfalls are an effective way to maximize the impact of water in an urban environment. With a recirculating water, you get motion and sound without standing water.
For cooling purposes, misting systems are highly effective. In the humidity of New York summer, the mist appears cloud-like and provides a mysterious effect. In the courtyard a misting system can be incorporated into the face of the building and provide relief for the few unshaded areas during the hottest summer days.
Water features require a recirculating pump, preferably with a u.v. filter to discourage the formation of bacteria if it is accessible for people to touch. This can be connected to the water line and an electrical source.
Without design intent and maintenance, an urban garden is a result of uncontrolled, pre-existing, forces. Airborne seeds or those carried by animals, invasive species, pollutants, litter and storm water reshape the life of the urban site. The process occurs in vacant lots throughout the city.
The size of an urban lot cannot achieve the scale and diversity needed for a self-sustaining ecosystem. The garden must be maintained by its occupants to remain in its desired state. “Nature” is reconstructed in an idealized human form. This is the space for design to enter the landscape of the city.
Taking down some walls, we start finding stamped bricks. Names stamped at the time of their manufacture, denoting their makers- the families, yards and towns of the Hudson River Valley Brick companies. The names are all different, which implies that the portion we are currently demolishing, a previous renovation, was constructed from several different lots of brick. They were being used as interior walls and wouldn’t be visible under layers of plaster. “Back brick,” we call it. The contractor (in 1950?) bought a mixed lot for a better rate. Being from different makers, there would be little consistency in the form and color of the bricks. Some may have already been damaged to a degree. A lesser grade. Didn’t matter. You wouldn’t see them anyway. They were just going to get covered with plaster. The stamps of their makers, placed face down in the hastily applied mortar...
Kristy and I didn’t know anything about graffiti. We invited an artist to come in and talk to us about working on a project. We had a wall adjacent to our property with a large tag on it. Instead of buffing it, we wanted someone to paint over it. Make art on it. Our invited artist tagged subway cars in the early nineties under the mentorship of street art legends. He spoke in a technical language that we didn’t understand- but it was fascinating. He explained to us that the previous work on site was created by toys (amateurs whose work can be tagged over). We were hoping he’d do some throw-ups (quick pieces) on our project, but after buying 200 dollars worth of spray-paint, he had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict.
With the help of Wikipedia, eHow and urbandictionary.com we got the basics down and decided to do some graffiti of our own...
We’re about to tear down this old building. It’s a windowless cold storage facility, a giant drive-in refrigerator. 25 ft wide and nearly as tall. The interior is lit by metal-halide lights that buzz, loudly. The walls are constructed of 6” insulated panels, clad with sheet metal. The reverberations in the room are scary and endless. When you speak to someone 10 feet away from you, the flutter echo drowns out their response, warping words and decreasing conversation to a wavy mess of sound. Sounds stay way longer than they are welcome- a random “whoop” can hang out for minutes before it loses it’s noise and cedes the space to the hum of the lights.
Maxx Katz, walks in, holding a flute...
Sara returned from travels in Europe and shared some of the architectural inspirations she found there. A specific area of her interest involved the traditional synagogue forms of London, as she visited and documented these sites. We discussed the specificity of Jewish architecture to the rituals practiced in the synagogue and the way in which the Synagogue architecture relates to the city through its external forms. We discussed the power of expressing continuity of religion through a shared spatial arrangement as a universal way to relate, globally, despite national or language barriers.
She also walked through Peter Eisenmans’ holocaust memorial in Berlin. The discussion centered on the power of the memorial in relation to the simplicity of the concept. Variations on spatial relationships to the stone markers through a changing sectional relationship with the ground plane create an array of experiences, from understanding the monument as a whole to the specific subjective experiences of being in particular areas.
If you can correctly identify a problem, it's already a historical condition.
We consider it part of an architect’s responsibility to look past the current projects towards the future of the built environment.
The earliest stages of design are contemplation of larger social and environmental problems. Going beyond solutions, we have to envision the potential beauty of the complications of our solutions, how they will evolve and react to the unknown. What if we introduced the unknown as a basic fact at the beginning, a precondition? Randomness or intuition can bring seemingly unrelated design ideas into architectural “visioning”. This is a natural concept to anyone who has studied creativity and cognition.
We don’t know the future. If we propose a solution to a social or environmental problem, we are accepting that problem as a fixed condition, disregarding unpredictability. Our solution will address an historical condition resulting in an exercise that becomes immediately obsolete, an instant relic of our time–and perhaps hubris.
Only by moving forward with creative vision can we positively integrate design in the future. Promoting awareness only goes so far–It is ineffective in creating action. Design should be the instigator, raising questions, creating a mirror-world to aid our thinking, an alternate reality.
Steve switched courses to talk about the different ways architecture is expressed in album art, from pure representation of buildings to graphics influenced by the process of creating architectural drawings and diagrams. Showing a series of album covers, with the accompanying music in the background, the group talked about the architectural significance of each image. Some of the highlights include: The Sea and Cake’s architectural abstract landscapes; Physical Graffiti by Led Zepplin, which shows the façade of two East Village tenement houses and the windows populated by interactive moveable images; Talking Heads, Songs about Buildings and Food, where the incorporation of architecture is a common theme. The images of the band are constructed from an assembly of small photographs to form a cohesive whole in much the same way a physical structure is built by smaller elements. Black Mountain “In the Future” has a forward-looking geometric cover. Luna’s “Penthouse,” which upon close inspection, turns out to be a photograph the Empire State Building, and Wilco’s use of Chicago’s Marina City as the cover to their classic, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” are a few more examples.
Emily baked bread with a recipe used in ancient Rome. We all ate the bread. The talk centered on 3 microscopic elements that fascinate her. . . Yeast, Slime-molds and bacteria.
On an open window sill on Windsor Terrace, she allowed the wild, uncultivated yeast of the bread to rise, slowly the grains carry wild yeast that have settled on them. The yeasts are natural airborne ferments that generate in dough left exposed to a cool atmosphere under specific conditions of moisture and temperature. It is not cultivated like the modern yeasts added to bread or beer. The bread was delicious. . .
She also explained through videos the self-organizing principles of slime mold, which through a series of simple moves, form complex systems that allow their own reproduction and movement across surfaces to food sources.
We discussed the increasing medical understanding of the importance of bacteria to all aspects of our physical health and even brain chemistry. The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 and are estimated to weigh between 2-6 pounds.
Chris walked through the process of creating a study for a memorial at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. The understanding of Sikhism in America is limited and this has been a cause for discrimination and violence. In order to foster awareness of the religion and its people, Chris and Harpreet proposed a cultural center and memorial to violence against Sikh’s in America. The talk traced the basic premises of Sikhism through its cultural expressions especially those pertaining to clothing, while walking through the process of creating a memorial.
The memorial took on site specificity as well as universal themes of light and water to relate to the widest possible audience for furthering awareness and peaceful coexistence. Powerful questions resulted in the idea of memorializing the 2012 mass shooting that occurred at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin. The power of the memorials and vigils held after the events would come from shifting the focus of the events to the expression of unity, inspired greatly by the overwhelming show of support that occurred after the shooting.
Memorials, despite their architectural or symbolic intent, are always created in a specific political climate with sensitivities to a complex array of issues. Emotions of those affected collide with the realities of money, fundraising and the needs of a specific community.
Sanmita presented a series of ideas about architecture’s evolving role in relationship to technology. Starting with classic pencil illustrations of the Crystal Palace, a modular structure erected in 1851 from wood, iron and glass, we explored this monument to technology and expression its age. Sanmita talked about how architecture has evolved with technology and continues to do so.
Technology provides opportunity to future trends that will affect the business of architecture over the next 20 years; it addresses factors including globalization, climate change, the growing use of computers. Today, physical location is less relevant as a designer.
We had a heated discussion about the role of computers in design. The generation of architects graduating from school now is the first generation to have been using computers throughout their entire lives. The reliance on computers as design tools and the current use of parametric modelling tools as means to generate space are hotly debated topics. As computer generated form becomes the norm for a generation of young architects, how does that reconcile with the current building technology and construction industry?
The body in architecture. Bodies in space. Chris gave a talk for a class at NYIT in 2011 about the body in architecture. That lecture spanned the way the body has been perceived in architecture throughout history, particularly in reference to scale—from Renaissance ideals of human form to current ergonomic design. Here, he picked up where he left off, diverging into a lecture about ways art conceives the body in space.
Using the comic book art of Jack Kirby and Todd McFarlane as examples, he discussed the change in comic art from the body as a representation of an ideal “superpowered” man to an expression of form and action in the 2D composition of individual frames. Spiderman’s utilitarian webs become baroque, mannerist and expressive as the comic form evolves. In comics, action is represented with illustration through movement trails, explosions, pows, thwacks and bangs, giving the form of action equal visual real estate to the bodily form.
From here, we discussed Picasso’s “Ma Jolie” and some of the concepts of high analytic Cubism that see the body completely dematerialize in space and become one with the background, collapsing a sense of space and also time. We rounded out the discussion with a review of Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased De Kooning,” in which Rauschenberg was given a sketch by De Kooning; upon erasing the sketch, he ended a journey of De Kooning’s abstract form of a woman in erasure. This was discussed as a conscious expression of meaning through erasure—a respectful homage to the importance of De Kooning’s work.
Dameron Architecture has begun a series of bi-weekly informal talks as part of an internal continuing education program in order to engage the studio in broader design related interests. We’ve been calling it “Bring-Your-Own-Lecture.”
Individual team members, friends and colleagues present ideas that broaden our understanding of design, by revealing their personal interests, research topics and experiences to the group for discussion. These lively conversations feed into the culture and design process of the studio. We will be sharing the content here to show our friends and clients what we’ve been pondering and discussing. Hopefully, this provides some interesting ideas for you, the reader, to contemplate or incorporate into your own work.