dinsdag 3 april 2012


3     North Crown Heights and Prospect Heights are currently subject to gentrification which is a process of urban renewal due to the influx of middle-class into disadvantaged neighborhoods, often displacing poorer residents.
4     It is possible to map gentrification with parameters like ownership rate, monthly gross rent,
5     number of recent in movers and the vacancy rate.
6     We can summarize these parameters with the spatial gentrification index where we can see a shift from west to east.
7    This west-to-east movement is the result of the spill-over effect in Park Slope in the west and the presence of historic districts in the east, which are know to be very attractive to first-wave gentrifiers. According to newspapers and blogs we can say that Franklin Avenue is the current border of this gentrification wave.
8     SITE
9     My site is located between Franklin Avenue and the historic districts at a leftover of the intersection of two different orientated grids. It is fair to say that this place and its surroundings will change vastly in the next couple of years because of the gentrification.
11   The name of this leftover is Grant Square.
13   Although it doesn't like it today, Grant Square was once an important place in Brooklyn. Not due to the formalistic intersection of 2 long roads but because of the importance of these roads.
16   Neighborhoods like Crown Heights are still very community oriented because of their extensive unofficial economy as a result of their quite disadvantaged situation. First wave gentrifiers are known for there involvence in art so simply said, the area's focus will change in the couple of years from community to art, to the degree that gentrification increases.
17   I want to design a building that can act like a mirror for its surroundings: it has no exclusive program. It must be able to carry programs like leisure, a library and a community center today and programs like micro-conventrion center, exhibition center and creative industry center tomorrow. And everything in between tonight... These programs are just examples of possible occupations.
18   Which architectural language is able to satisfy these extreme flexible needs? The combination of Adolf Loos' Raumplan and Le Corbusier's Plan Libre offers me the possibility of very flexible functional places and very expressive spaces. The Raumplan can be the Plan Libre's expressive circulation, for example when the building is a big library.
19   Two additional staircase and elevator shafts create the possibility to divide the bulding also vertically. A couple of Plan Libre floors can be linked with a large Raumplan space, for example architecture offices around their lobby.
20   The combination of two styles of architecture and two staircases is able to adapt to many programs. One can say that the building is pure architecture, ready to meet any program.
22   Grant Square is formed by one busy road and one quiet one.
23   I redirect the quiet road in order to create a square. The yellow is the building's site.
24  The building's volume is the result of its neighbors. Its depth as well as its height are aligned with them.
27  This building is nowadays an elderly home but it was once the home of a very important Republican club, known as the Union League Club. They are also the ones who build the General Grant statue. The building used to have a small tower.
28  I propose to rebuild this or a modern small tower in order to regive the building and the square its historic importance appearance. I follow by giving my building a modern equivalent.
29  The Raumplan and Plan Libre in the 3D volumetry.
30  Grant Square and the volume
31  Ground floor
32  I lay a 6 feet grid (the largest office standard grid) on the building site and square.
33  The below ground level.
34  The placement of the staircases in the darkest part of the volume, the center.
35  The Raumplan spaces, entirely accessible with the left staircase.
36  The Plan Libre floors around both staircases ànd the Raumplan.
37  This is an impression of the facade, due to a lack of time it's quite ugly but it's about the idea of the Raumplan vs the open plan in the facade, together with the square.
38  The square consists of three L-shaped surfaces, dividing the square into different places. Grass, trees and benches fill some of the squares of the grid between the L's. Two existing bus stops are replaced.
39  The L-shaped surfaces accentuate the square's neighbor's entrances. The L-shape surface returns inside the Raumplan spaces of my building.
40  We begin our walk through the building in the lobby.The brounish area south of the lobby area are shops, ateliers or other more public functions.
41  A double-heigh space welcomes you and guides you to the first floor but we go right, to the underground level.
42  The gray area is a double heigh big room, also free accessible with a ramp next to the building. The brownish area serves as technical space, storage, ...
43  A big window seperates the lobby and the big room.
44  We now follow the ramp to the first floor...
45  ..where we enter the cube.
46  The left image shows a small library on moment t1: the open plan space is linked with the cube which serves as a reading room.  The cube is closed from the next Raumplan space. The right image shows moment t3 where the entire Raumplan space serves as one long exhibition space.
47  The curved stair is based on SANAA's big curved stair in the Kunstlinie in Almere. The vertical rise in the cube supports the spatial experience of the space.
48  The next Raumplan room is the auditorium. you can see that all the Raumplan spaces are accessible from the left stair case, and that the open plan spaces are connectable to the Raumplan. For example, the right open plan space can be the auditorium's changing room in case of a theatre etc.
50  The auditorium is located on the north side of the building in order to give the open plan under the auditorium more sunlight and create an extra spatial experience in this quite dark part of the building by heading towards the bright light while climbing the auditorium and therefore experience the increasinlgy lower ceiling.
51  The auditorium's steps are quite deep, like OMA's Kunsthal in Amsterdam, able to adapt to various programs.
52  We continue the walk through the Raumplan space. The 26 m long small hallway focuses on the open square while feeling compressed by the relatively low ceiling.
54  The last roof is a big cuboid, mostly surrounded by windows, giving a great view of the building's surroundings. The open plan area can serve, for example as a kitchen if the cuboid houses a bar.
55  The room is connected with the roof terrace.
56  Two different potential programs: a bar on t1 and the last part of the exhibition on t2.
57  The entire project as a last impression.

vrijdag 24 februari 2012


Grant Square revisited: design of a flexible hybrid in gentrifying Crown Heights

Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are in constant change. Crown Heights is no exception as it is subject to gentrification. Next in the wave is Grant Square, a triangular leftover from the intersection of two grids with different orientations. Although the square was once one of the most prestigious spots in Brooklyn, it is nowadays up for a revision. The design of an adjacent hybrid building can play an active role in the transformation of the neighborhood since the building has no exclusive program. The combination of two different types of spaces -open and closed- creates opportunities for alternative social and urban dynamics. Its flexibility is not conceived as characterless floors:  architecturally defined spaces can host various programs, able to adapt to various needs as gentrification continues. From community center, school, library, theater, and offices to micro-convention, art and exhibition center. Flexibility remains possible within each compartment, without letting one function obstruct another, on the contrary: intensifying the contrast will give the building its appeal.

woensdag 8 februari 2012


2)            “The street is dead.”, with this sentence, Koolhaas draw me in the world of public, private, collective, and shared spaces, places, spheres, realms, and domains. We tend to think that the public space fulfills an important role in increasing the ‘social cohesion’ in society because in philosophical discussions the public sphere is the place where society is formed or at least the arena where the collective will is formed with regards to the future of society. This is because it is so to say the sphere where we encounter the proverbial ‘other’ and where we must relate to ‘other’ behavior, ideas and preferences. 
3)            This theoretical thinking exercise is very relevant to the current situation in north Crown Heights. Although neighborhoods constant change, the arriving of young middle class merely white individuals, known as gentrification, creates strong supporters and opponents and therefore tends to divide the current residents. This leads us to my subject, can ‘successful’ public space assist in the social transition of the neighborhood? The core of successful public space lies not so much in the shared use of space with others, let alone in the ‘meeting’, but rather in the opportunities that urban proximity offers a ‘shift’ of perspective. Through the experience of otherness, one’s own casual view of reality gets some competition from other views and lifestyles. However, this shift in perspective is not always pleasant and the pure, politically-correct view of public domain as the Great Fraternization in the public space is not realistic. Not all groups in society will use this public space but the creation of spaces providing opportunities for confrontation with the otherness, a change of perspective, an exchange are nevertheless very valuable for the social cohesion of a neighborhood.  
4)            Gentrification can be mapped with factors like the increase of ownership rate, monthly gross rent and 
5)            the increase of the  number of recent in movers and the decrease of vacancy rate. 
6)            These factors can be mapped with the spatial gentrification index which shows a gentrification wave in east direction. 
7)            This is a very logic movement because Park Slope, west of Crown Heights, is already strongly gentrified while 2 historic districts in crown heights were not so long ago approved. 2 more historic district were recently submitted. Cultural institutions and historic architecture, and especially entire historic districts, serve as a catalyst for first wave gentrification. Although I cannot yet show a more recent gentrification index, blogs like ilovefranklinavenue and articles in newspapers only confirm the process. The RentJuice Index reported that the cost per square foot of residential rentals in Crown Heights rose 18 percent in the last quarter of 2011, the fourth-highest increase in the city. And Census data along Franklin Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue shows an increase of the white population between four and twelvefold from 2000 to 2010. 
8)            The site
9)            The site where I want to design a public space and a building is logically  located between the current ‘border’ of the gentrification wave, Franklin Avenue, and the future zone, the historic districts. An interesting point is the crossing of the 2 grids because they cross at a square and squares have more potential of becoming a destination than streets.
10)         The crossing streets are  Bedford Avenue and Rogers Avenue.
11)         They cross at Grant Square. Currently a ‘park’ according to the New York’s department of parks and recreation.
12)         This is a south to north view.
13)         A west to east view.
14)         And a south-east to north-west view.
15)         Design Program. My goal is short said to design a public space and a hybrid building that can be destinations for the new and current residents of north Crown Heights and thus can assist in the experience of the ‘otherness’ and so helping creating a common identity.
16)         The green is open space you see, is open space. Only parks and sports fields. No squares. When there is a market of neighborhood party, streets are closed off. This is no problem but why not creating a square which is always available for these events? Open and central , not sealed off like sports fields usually are.
17)         1 of the 2 streets forming Grant Square is a relatively busy road but the other has the potential of becoming a shared surface street. This concept is built on the equality of the street users. Studies have shown that it is safer because people drive slower due to the shared use. Blind people have a disadvantage due to the removal of the curb but other tools can fix that. In case of for example a market, the shared space is more easy to close and the created ‘pedestrian only’ space is, due to the entire flat surface, a much more comfortable area because you don’t have the temporary character you have with a closed street.
18)         First wave gentrifiers are often artists and the designing of a design center can therefore be an interesting program for the hybrid building. These photos are of the design center de Winkelhaak in Antwerp which is very successful. The concept is to offer fully equipped offices and more for the ‘creative business’. You can rent offices of all sizes, whether or not shared, for as long or short as you want. An exhibition space is also present. It is the perfect ‘incubator’ for small and young offices.
19)         The area of Grant Square is a blind spot of community centers although it is a great place for this type of program. And especially for my design goal.
20)         The biggest disadvantage of gentrification is the replacement of economic weaker current residents.  Subsidized housing can help some of them. Encouraging home ownership also supports economic self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and community pride.
21)         Summarized, I have made a design for Grant Square as a shared space and a hybrid building containing a design center, a community center and subsidized housing. By combining them in a complex way, I tried to create interesting crossings between programs and users.
22)         You can see the new Grant Square in the middle and the hybrid building on the right. The glass surfaces house the design center, the wood the community center and the concrete surface houses the dwellings. The façade facing the square is at the same height as his neighbor, a retirement home. While the façade facing the neighborhood street is one level lower where he meets its neighbor. The ground floor houses the exhibition space. 
23)-31)       Plans and sections    
32)             Thesis Content