BROADWAY JUNCTION, BROOKLYN, NYC, USA
STUDIO: ARCH 7020, Prof. Seth McDowell, University of Virginia, Spring 2018
PROGRAM: To propose a new urban paradigm for a shrinking post-industrial city, and to develop this paradigm through a series of strategic urban and architectural scale interventions. Project duration: one semester.
COLLABORATORS: Mark Meiklejohn, Wan Ziyu
Although it sits at the intersection of multiple neighborhoods, the confluence of several transit lines, and directly across from a vibrant industrial business zone, Broadway Junction lacks the fine-grained social and community infrastructures that work to define a place. In its current state, the site is physically cut off from its neighbors by roads, rail lines, and a cemetery, and functions as a collection of in-between spaces which amount collectively to a junction without any civic, social, and urban identity. Our project, operating at both an urban and architectural scale, aims to address several key questions:
What might be the neighbourhood of Broadway junction? What is the community; what is its territory? And, to what extent are these things separable, or rather, interwoven among its adjacencies?
Our strategy seeks to promote the type of social amenities that define place on the pedestrian scale, integrate the parallel but separate transit systems, mediate between the ground plane and the plane of the elevated tracks, and forge pedestrian connections across Atlantic Avenue to the industrial business zone and points south. We began researching the site by mapping clusters of key neighborhood assets, including schools, recreation centers, restaurants, religious institutions, community centers and found a noted lack of these facilities in a 1 kilometer radius of the site, but found strong concentrations of these facilities just outside that area among more vibrant communities. Our strategy incorporates the development of these amenities to help define Broadway Junction’s own identity and to form bridges to adjacent communities. The city’s plan to relocate the offices of its Human Resources Administration provides an opportunity for the development of Broadway Junction. Our strategy is to guide this development not as the latest frontier for high-end apartments, but rather as a piece of critical community infrastructure. Our plan serves diverse demographics, from local residents to pass-through commuters, and office workers, but is resolutely responsive to its existing community.
1. Existing Rail Trestle 2. Bridge Ramp 3. Urban Riverbank / Public Assembly 4. Stage / Podium 5. Sound Berm 6. Riverbank Path 7. Commuter Rail Station 8. "Kiss and Ride" / Taxi Queue 9. Industrial / Truck Loading Zone 10. Residential Lobby + Entry 11. Public Green Space 12. Small Retail / Cafe Space 13. Urban Plaza 14. Industrial / Workshop Spaces 15. Professional Office / Artisan Spaces 16. Restaurant + Sidewalk Cafe 17. Commercial Amenity (Grocery, Gym, etc.) 18. Residential Blocks
If the HRA is to move its administrative facilities to the area, we propose utilizing the HRA’s core services to serve the local community and to drive the development of place. The scope of the HRA’s mission includes many service areas which could be deployed in a site specific fashion, integrating its services into the broader community and eliminating the false divide between the recipients of its services and the rest of the population. We propose spaces that facilitate HRA’s integral role in providing social services and promoting economic development. We suggest working with HRA to develop ways to directly engage these facilities with their programming. In this way, Broadway Junction becomes a kind laboratory for the direct provision of critical services. Our plans include: stalls which serve as city-supported small business and career development launching pads; food markets and cafes which specialize in the distribution of quality food to snap recipients; an educational industrial makerspace serving as a career development incubator; and flexible classrooms and auditoriums for educational services. This way, not only is the HRA relocated, but its mission is strengthened, and a neighborhood is defined and provided critical services.
Broadway Junction is dominated by the presence of the elevated rail which hulks over the streetscape. The tangle of overhead steel structure blocks light from the street, the roar of the trains interrupts conversation, and the fields of columns render whole swaths of the site unusable. We believe that any significant intervention at Broadway Junction needs to address these critical issues in order to effectively activate the street life of the neighborhood and create safe and attractive places to live, work, and visit. Our proposal embraces this web of infrastructure as a defining element in our physical approach to the site. We identified four conditions created by the infrastructure that we re-purpose: 1.) A regular grid of columns; 2.) An elevated ground plane left empty by disused rail; 3.) A complex field of columns, girders and abandoned tracks creating a kind of unoccupied industrial topography; 4.) An unused transit bridge. Each of these complex conditions, which presently represent psychological barriers at ground level, become occupiable and critical pieces of social infrastructure. This continuous string of variable conditions results in a proposal which is at once highly variable at the ground level but cohesive generally.
Pedestrian circulation at Broadway junction is presently disjointed, confusing and unsafe. As mentioned above, the presence of the elevated rail in the north-south axis and Atlantic Avenue in the east-west axis interrupt continuous flow in any direction. The mix of intersecting street grids compound an already confusing condition. On the macro scale, we believe addressing those impediments will serve to integrate Broadway Junction with its larger neighborhood context, attract customers to its businesses, smoothly connect the Industrial Business Zone to a potential workforce across Atlantic Avenue, and provide more continuous integration of the subway system with the Long Island railroad. We achieve these ends through a number strategies, but there are two broad moves which summarize our strategy. First, by creating a constructed landform under, through and on the elevated rail we create a well-defined pedestrian route connecting the residential and commercial centers to the east and west of the junction. Second, by building a strand of buildings, pathways and park along the tracks in the north-south direction, we connect the subway, LIRR and IBZ in a navigable, but not monolithic way.
BUILDING ENVELOPE STRATEGY
Because our program and structural strategies are so diverse and contingent on immediate context, our building envelope strategy is not uniform across the site. Nonetheless, it can be broken down into a number of categories. We propose basically three types of buildings, some above the rail, some below the rail, and some under the landform. The buildings at the ground level are specifically laid out to bring in people from the local community, either as visitors, employees, customers or students. Our buildings at the ground level therefore tend to be transparent and porous, allowing for visual connections, and easy access. Above the rail, in the more generic and flexible spaces dedicated to office use, the conditions change. There, the control of light, minimization of glare, and maintenance of view corridors, and the elevational appearance of the exterior were the critical issues defining the building envelope. We propose a system of vertical louvers across the building which leave an unimpeded band open at average eye level. This maintains sight-lines towards lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn and towards the Rockaways, but shades the building creating a light condition appropriate for office use.
Broadway Junction is an immensely complex site, blessed with access to vibrant neighborhoods and a number of prized train lines, and yet beset with seemingly overwhelming challenges. We acknowledge that there is no grand, single solution to this condition, and therefore propose a strategy based upon a network of interventions which embrace the contextual complexities of the site without losing an overall legibility and formal clarity to the place as a whole. In this way, we seek to position a future Broadway Junction as part of a larger, interwoven network, as well as an identifiable place in its own right.