"The Harlem Edge: Cultivating Connections" is currently on view at the Center for Architecture in New York City. It is the fifth Biennial Design Ideas Competition put forward by AIA's Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA).
The decommissioned 135th Street marine transfer station was chosen for the basis of the competition, which was open to emerging architects and students.
Access to green spaces and availability of fresh food is an important issue in New York. A large aerial map illustrates the many large buildings and concrete grid structure of a small section of Manhattan. Nourishing USA, a not-for-profit organization based in Harlem, was chosen as the competition client. "One of the things that came up when we were developing what the program could be was distribution, and the idea of bringing back the marketplace on the waterfront," AIA regional director and competition organizer Venesa Alicea says. "There's a search for nutrition, access to the public, and educational opportunities. There are community gardens but the infrastructure is not there."
Competition winner "Sym•bio•pia" by Ting Chin and Yan Weng of Linearscape Architecture tackle the issues of lack of food production and abundance of waste by proposing a series of self-sustaining towers for growing and harvesting food, filtering grey water, and providing essential real estate space. Here, the transfer station becomes a transportation hub with bike and kayak rentals and public amenities such as a gym, swimming pool and farmer's market. "One of our main ideas was to be able to grow food next to the neighborhood and to reduce the transportation costs associated with bringing food from outside the city," Chin says. "And the local community will have a direct source to healthy food."
Towers are designed to be split in half. Southwestern facing sections house hydroponic farms, while north facing halves provide real estate opportunities. "The idea is a symbiotic relationship between the two sides," Weng explains. "Another important idea we were thinking with this type of facility is that it could be replicated anywhere," Chin said. "Towers all along the edge of Manhattan could provide food for the neighborhoods." Chin and Weng received a $5,000 prize for their winning entry. "I hope this can open a discussion for revitalizing the waterfront," Weng says. "We're hoping that even something small scale can change the situation."
The exhibition layout is organized around several themes encapsulating the various approaches the entrants took in regards to the program. ENYA's concern with the waterfront has stretched across each of the five previous competitions. The Department of City Planning has since caught up, introducing its "Vision 2020" waterfront plan in 2010, which itself is a response to a mandate from the City Council.
"Harlem Harvest" by New York-based, Tyler Caine, Ryan A. Doyle, and Guido Elgueta, places an emphasis on education and research and is the 3rd-prize winner. Their proposal is comprised of floating community gardens, year-round vertical garden, onsite kindergarten, and water taxi stop.
"We helped them understand the site and let them know what it takes to be an architect, and what it takes to be in construction," Rivera says. "It's cool to see what they come up. They say 'we could make this major move' and you say 'I didn't think of that.'" The high school mentorship programs, as well as the ENYA competition and the New Practices Competition, are part of a larger scope envisioned by AIANY President Aliotta: “Future Now,” which aims to show "new directions in the design profession," in particular those related to "innovative technologies and sustainability."
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