Preface: This project was produced for a Final Thesis in the Spring Semester of 2011 at Pratt Institute with James Freeman. Since then, the ideas presented here have morphed into a fuller view of the myriad factors that affect recuperation.
The thesis targeted the essence of physical space and its affect on the process of healing - a strategy that focused on reclaiming elements of the urban environment, and building upon them to create spaces to serve community functions of education, health and recreation.
What the thesis failed to consider was the economic disparity within a population living under the weight of industrial collapse, or any event that results in destabilization. This is a challenge for public policy and the existing economic and social structure, however because architecture has such a profound influence on the way we navigate physical space and address basic needs and comforts, it is imperative that we consider the physical environment as a manifestation of these policies.
Upon reflection, the project presents a naive attempt at resolving an issue deeply rooted in the short-sightedness of policy and private industry. The media is screaming that the world is urbanizing and that this is a wonderful thing. Yet, the idea that cities are coming back to their former glory should be looked at with a keen eye, and possibly a bit of skepticism - we should be asking who is it benefiting and who is being left out of this picture?
- Irina Vinnitskaya, 2015
"No one can win against kipple," he said, "except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.” - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K, Dick
Choice Programming: We chose to focus on three main programmatic functions of the interventions: education, fabrication and performance. These functions are all events that necessitate citizen involvement to create and observe, The educational programs, linked by pedestrian and biking paths to Binghamton University, include research facilities, archives that provide historical reference points, and experimentation labs. The pathway through the city invites residents and visitors to observe and participate in the production and accumulation of knowledge. The fabricating and manufacturing facilities recall Binghamton's past and use the railroad and its vestiges as a spring board for establishing studios and factories that link back to the research facilities through the extension of the pathways. The interaction of these moments: the users, the observers and the passers-by are all inevitably involved in the performance. Performance is the inherent nature of this hub of activity.
Nothing exists in a vaccum and nothing stands-alone. Each function is a key player in revitalizing a street-life. Its architecture is one that is open and engaged. New building components are fused to the vestiges of existing factories and the dead spaces on which they sit - the barren and empty lots - become a place for people to gather, and participate. Paths cross through buildings offering views into the activity below - even passive meandering becomes active observation - a kind of architectural exhibitionism evolves.
From the paths that rise above the street through the buildings, the viewer is exposed to industrial gantries carrying raw materials to the storage facility in the distance. Simultaneously, classrooms are engaged in the experimentation of building instruments out of repurposed materials, while a few rooms down, expert craftsmen are polishing off a finished product. Before making the connection between these activities, another set of gantries is carrying the raw material, already cut, to the fabrication facility behind the visitors. Navigating through the series of buildings, people are moving through a production timeline revealing the narrative of how objects are made. At each stage they are invited to participate through open studios, workshops and libraries, promoting a social collaboration to the specialized production of tools for the city.
ReClaim | ReThink | ReCharge
What is an (urban) void? The Presence of Absence: a collage of moments and residual physical objects throughout Binghamton that reflect a past that can no longer be engaged in the present. The project addresses an urban connection through the city using various programs that generate engagement, create an armature along which industry can develop, and promote cultural expression. This approach embraces the potential of industrial and manufacturing forces as a source for economic revival, and more importantly for cultural and social relationships to have a significant role in its development. The project assumes that a policy is in place to support the equitable use of these underdeveloped spaces.
Binghamton is a city where the car is the primary means of transportation; wide boulevards devoid of pedestrians, hundreds of parking lots, and miles of highways divide the city. This condition establishes an environment in which social and cultural interaction is limited to a few select areas and where street life is predominantly scarce. We looked at Binghamton in its entirety - locating significant cultural institutions (present and former), infrastructure, and the voids in between them - unused buildings, vacant lots and open air parking lots with a mono-use. Among these voids, we chose precise moments for intervention and called them nodes of development. With these factors in mind, Binghamton University in Vestal, NY, the existing commercial rail line, and the Downtown area all served as starting points to develop connections, both infrastructural and programmatic, throughout the city. These nodes are seen as potential catalysts for the infrastructural connection that takes place above ground.
A CATALOG OF URBAN VOIDS
A city of (urban) voids. You've likely heard many versions of this story before. A booming city goes bust as soon as the titan of its industry collapses or is relocated, or a storm surge comes and smashes it to bits. Depending on the decade within which the economy stalls out, the remnants are shadows of their former glory frozen in time.
Binghamton, NY was a thriving city propelled by IBM's headquarters. Today, the main economic driver of this city is Binghamton University in Vestal, NY. The physical landscape is dominated by vast swathes of empty parking lots, disused manufacturing buildings and wide streets with intermittent foot traffic. This investigation involved the re-animation of unused and abandoned spaces with this city. Binghamton is a representative case study for a strategy to confront the economic problems that American cities face today.