donderdag 19 april 2012

REVIEW KUL 28/03/2012

My title is ‘A School of Conscience & Redemption – Fountain Avenue landfill cultivates an ecological youth’. So  I’m working on a design for a special kind of school on a unique location, a landfill.
In this presentation, I will introduce one day in the everyday life of a 14-year-old and his 9 year-old sister. They live together with their single mom. Single parent families is very common phenomenon in ENY, at least 28% of the families in ENY.
Next, some statistics on ENY.
We see that ENY has higher proportions of black and Hispanic residents than Brooklyn or New York City.
Also ENY has a very young population, at least 34% of the people is below 18 years old. So basically one third of the population is at the age of attending elementary school or high school.
But despite this young population, there are a lot of school dropouts. 43% of the residents aged 25 and older, does not have a high school diploma. And only 8% has a college diploma.
As a result, in East New York about 30% lives below poverty line. And in some poor areas, indicated in red, 50% of the people live below poverty line, with 32% earning less than $15000 a year.
Back to the school day… 7:04am.
7:05am! Time to get up!
7:30am A typical American breakfast. Parents in East New York usually leave early because it takes a long subway ride to get them to their work. So the kids have to take care of themselves, but there are always chips and biscuits at home and McDonalds is just around the corner.
In East New York there is 30% of obesity. This area overlaps almost exactly with the existing food deserts in Brooklyn. Food deserts are areas with shortage of fresh food.
Next, 7:55am. Time to take the bus to school…
… since there are no bicycle lanes in East New York. Although in a radius of 6km, this is the fastest transport system. So there is very much potential to introduce bicycle lanes in East New York: the dotted line is a Studio Brooklyn intervention by Pieter Vandenhoudt.
8:15am. The bus reaches Fountain Avenue landfill. This is a very intriguing place. It’s a great void in the landscape, with a misplaced road and an evenly grassed surface. But actually, this is a huge pile of trash, 160feet high. Fountain Avenue landfill was operational from 1961 until 1985 and received 8700tons of waste each day.
The decomposing waste creates methane gas. A network of pipes collects the landfill gas after which it can be transformed and used as an energy source.
A landfill is carefully capped with several layers and about 3feet of clean soil as a topping. A study describes that the best way to build on a landfill is with pile foundation, since this technique prevents the congestion of landfill gas being trapped under the concrete floor slabs.
8:22am. The bus arrives at the school. It is stretched out over the landscape, touching both water and earth. This is a school of horticulture and has in its building both an elementary school, which gives a more general schooling, and a high school with a more colored education, such as agriculture, horticulture, biotechnology, culinary courses, animal care, … The goal is to cultivate a more ecological minded youth, introduce a healthier lifestyle and support the local farmers market.
The building is made up of 3 lobes connected by public functions, such as an auditorium, a sports hall and a student restaurant. The first lobe in the north includes agriculture, culinary courses and animal care. The second lobe connects with the water and contains water biology, art courses using Jamaica Bay and the Manhattan skyline as a source of inspiration, and central heating and sanitary education that focuses on landfill-gas-to-energy. The last lobe in the south houses the horticulture and biotechnology education, dispersing into several greenhouses in the landscape.
In section, the elementary school is situated on the top floor, letting the students descend to the water and land as they complete their education. The building is interpreted as a simple garage-like structure with cheap materials, such as corrugated fiberglass and OSB.
Floorplan 0
Floorplan +0.5
Floorplan +1
8:30am. Start of the lessons. The classrooms are 7 by 10m and have two glass walls for maximum light. There are cupboards in front of the glass that can be filled with attributes from every field of study.
Also the configuration of the classroom shows what studies are held there, for example a regular class configuration for elementary school, easels for the art studies, biology lab, culinary courses, lab, animal care, …
The filled cupboards really show the identity of the classroom. In this example you clearly see the cupboard for culinary courses, art courses, animal care and horticulture or biotechnology.
The outer wall consists of corrugated fiberglass on the outside, a terrace of 1.5m and a sliding window at the inside. The terrace functions as an intermediate climate and can be used as a small vegetable garden with climbing plants growing over several floors. In winter, this intermediate climate can be used as a buffer zone for the cold, and in summer, it can be used as a ventilation area.
10:10am. A healthy nutrition break, cultivated by the school.
10:40am. Practical course in the greenhouses.
12:20pm. A healthy lunch provided by the cookery school.
The goal is to extend this school day until nighttime, providing a reflection on how a school of horticulture can transform East New York and introducing the schools additional function as a refuge in case of hurricanes.

Titel and Abstract of Thesis

A School of Conscience and Redemption
Fountain Avenue landfill cultivates an ecological youth

In case of flooding due to hurricanes, a large area in East New York has to be evacuated, only Fountain Avenue landfill is spared, rising 160feet above sea level. This is where a school of horticulture will give shelter to the refugees and will act as a community center. At the same time the new school facility will teach the students basic techniques of agriculture, biotechnology and converting landfill gas to energy. The goal is to make the students more aware of the environment at a young age, improve local access to healthy food and build and share knowledge. Promoting seasonal fruits and vegetables will reduce transport traffic, greenhouse gases and time. In East New York, 30% of the people is obese which overlaps almost exactly with the existing food desert in Brooklyn. Low income neighborhoods appear to have the highest need for fresh food supermarkets. Hence the importance for students to learn how to grow vegetables themselves in order to obtain a more healthy lifestyle which they can promote in their own families.

vrijdag 17 februari 2012

Updated case study

This is an updated version of the case study on two waterfront projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
'The East River Waterfront Esplanade' by the city of New York itself, and 'Performance Park' by HM White Architects for a designcompetition. 
There is a clear difference in designquality between the two projects. Whereas the East River project by the government appears to be much more calculated and has had years and years of preparation and studies, they don't seem to reach their goals. The project is not as flexible and diverse as they claim it to be, and the waterfront is not physically accessible at all. The green on the waterfront is mostly used as a visual, esthetic quality and not as an active solution to cope with for example sea level changes, ecosystems, different activities, ... This is where 'Performance Park' does a better job.

woensdag 15 februari 2012

1 februari 2012 REVIEW3 at KULeuven

I started this thesis with a specific interest in flooding. This is a major problem in New York City since it has mainly hard surfaces near the water that cannot absorb any water. When we look at the impact of hurricanes in East New York for a category 1, 2, 3 and 4 storm, we see that a large area in East New York is prone to flooding. And all these people must be evacuated which can be happening more often since climate change will cause more and bigger storms. Only Fountain Avenue landfill, 160feet high, is spared. This will be my site for the design.

A landfill is a very intriguing place and they appear all over the world. It is a great void in the landscape with a misplaced road and an evenly grassed surface. You can really feel this present absence. Slide 8 gives a view from the Wildlife Refuge in Jamaica Bay. It shows the landfill and the high rise buildings of Manhattan. Brooklyn is very flat and not visible in this image. The next panorama shows Pennsylvania Avenue landfill, the Starrett City apartment towers and Fountain Avenue landfill. Lots of projects try to transform landfills in beautiful parks, Fresh Kills Park for example. But we have to remember that beneath this artificial hill there are millions of tons of garbage.

How did New York City manage its waste? Until the late 19th century garbage was dumped in the streets. It consisted of dead animals, garbage and ashes. In 1895, the department of Street Cleaning fell into the hands of Colonel George Waring. He introduced new techniques and he made the sanitation workers wear crisp white uniforms. They were known as the White Wings and a personification of cleanliness and hygiene. In the end of the 19th century, New York City had its first incinerator and they started burning the garbage. But this resulted in poor health and landfills were made to dump the garbage. Slide 14 shows all the former landfills in Brooklyn, which are a lot! For example Fountain Avenue landfill at Jamaica Bay and Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island which is now transformed into a large-scale park by the design office Field Operations. It was closed in 2001 and was the biggest landfill in the world. Now there are no more landfills in New York City adding to the vision of ‘a greater, greener New York’. But this doesn’t mean that New York City produces less garbage. Everyday 38000 tons of waste are produced which are transported via an extensive network of truckroutes. The garbage is transported to other States, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia. There is need for a more ecological approach which is best integrated in peoples education.

UrbanOmnibus recently posted the fourth and final video in a series "City of Systems".
This one is about waste removal. In this video, Elizabeth Royte offers a glimpse of the
complex process of  historical and presentday garbage collection in New York City, from
the 18th century until now. This video gives a more detailed and graphical overview of 
New York City's waste management.

Now, what to do with the closed landfills? Usually, former landfills are transformed into a golf course or a park. But parks are easily too beautifying, we mustn’t forget what lies underneath. I believe you can do more with it since land is scarce. We need to recycle land. A first Quick Start Proposal was based on the idea that underneath the hill there is a lot of useful material. Which you can pull out of the ground. For example landfillgas can be collected and used as an energy source to heat houses. The question was: “What comes out of the box?”

Back to the flooding map, I was looking for an interesting program. I started mapping the functions in the evacuated zone and I discovered that there is a high concentration of schools in this region. High schools, elementary schools and charterschools, all in the 19th schooldistrict. Slide 22 shows the American schoolsystem which is quite different than our schoolsystem. Ages are linked to grades and there are different trajectories possible from elementary school, sometimes via middle school, to high school. When we overlay the schooldistricts map with the poverty map, we see that there is poverty in the 19th schooldistrict in East New York. At some places 50% or more lives below poverty line. The 19th schooldistrict also has a very young population. About 40% is under 21 years old.

So for my design I propose a school of horticulture for about 1000 students consisting of both an elementary school and a technical high school. Elementary school will focus on regular courses, such as English language arts, maths, science, social studies and physical education. The technical high school will focus on more specialized courses, such as horticulture, biotechnology, agriculture, sanitary installations and central heating, animal care, arts and culinary courses. Giving the students a high school diploma in the end. The infrastructure needed for this school of horticulture consists of classrooms, computerrooms, playgrounds, library, student restaurant with kitchen, assembly room, laboratories, workshoprooms, garden with greenhouses and compost infrastructure, landfillgas to energy installation, teachers office, sports hall with showers, nursery, head teacher’s office, student learning assistance (CLB). The goal is to make the students more aware of the environment at a young age and to improve local access to healthy food and to build and share knowledge. Promoting seasonal fruits and vegetables will reduce transporttraffic, greenhouse gases and time. Also, the vegetables will be more fresh and it supports local farmers. This more healthy lifestyle is very important for Brooklyn. In East New York, 30% of the people has obesity which overlaps almost exactly with the existing fooddesert in Brooklyn. Low income neighborhoods appear to have the highest need for fresh food supermarkets. So it is important that students learn how to grow vegetables themselves and how to get a more healthy lifestyle.

Slide 28 shows the existing topography of Fountain Avenue landfill, the Beltparkway and the proposed location for the school of horticulture. Placing the project to the side, away from the center of the landfillsite, will improve its relation to the water. Because in the end we will have to learn how to live with floodings. People can come to the school by boat. In case of big hurricanes, the landfill, being the highest point in East New York, can serve as a refugecamp with the school as a community source.  Children will bring their parents and grandparents to their school where they can wait for evacuation.

Slides 30 to 35 show a few images to illustrate what this place could be like.
_The school wants to improve the relationship between the students and the water. After schoolhours, this place can serve as a recreation area for the larger community. The soft waterabsorbing landscape will help to cope with floodings.
_Students will learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and how to use greenhouses.
_Also animal care and farming will be part of the education.
_The school itself will be part of the landscape, using the wide space and providing a community source for refugees in case of flooding.
_Busses to bring the children to the school and back home.

The last slide shows a table of contents of my thesis.

zondag 8 januari 2012

Design Proposal_Landfill as a place for design

Landfills appear all over the world. In New York city alone there are about 96 former landfills. The Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island was the largest and the last one being closed.

Garbage is something of all times. As long as there have been people there has been garbage. It’s a proof of human activity. Think about objects and tools archeologists have found that date from the Stone Age. These objects are exposed in museums and aren’t considered as garbage but as valuable artifacts that learn us a lot about history and culture. Nowadays there is a new profession related to archeology, the so called garbologists who dig in landfills looking for layers of civilization, with the oldest layer at the bottom and the newest layer at the top of the hill. Garbologists can learn us a lot about who we are, what products we used to like, who much we consumed, … And since we produce more and more garbage, history can be reconstructed more precise. This is a chance to see garbage more as an opportunity or even a resource, since the recent remining of landfills, than a pile of dirt.

Landfills were created out of concern for the public health in the beginning of the 20th century. Until the 1860s people were still dumping their garbage, ashes and dead animals on the streets. Which resulted in a really bad smell, vermin and lots of diseases. The NYC government took care of this by taking the garbage out on barges and dumping it into the ocean. Then followed by burning the waste in incinerators since 1885, then dumping in landfills and eventually recycling since 1989. In 1895, Colonel George Waring was the one that laid the foundations for the waste management system that exists in NYC today. He introduced new techniques and technology. Today New York City’s Department of Sanitation is world’s largest sanitation workforce. New York City is one of the main players in the consumer society. It produces about 38000 tons of waste per day of which 55 percent is trucked to landfills, 33 percent is recycled and 14 percent is burned.

By now, most landfills have reached their maximal capacity and are being capped and covered with an even grassed surface. These artificial hills form a strange and intriguing landscape. You immediately see and feel this great void, this great nothingness in the landscape and a misplaced road. The fence adds to this air of mystery. The only things that might give away that this once was a hill of tons of garbage, are the pipes to collect methane gas. Garbage is becoming an economic product. Methane gas is being sold as a natural gas to heat houses and dumping becomes more expensive because of the decreasing number of landfills.

But what to do with those immense unoccupied hills? Most of the time these former landfills are transformed into a golf course, a ski piste or a park. No creative program has been defined yet.

Fresh Kills Park Blog posted the following movie, which adds to the idea of 
landfill remining.

Focus Forward, a new series of short films about forward-thinking innovators,
brings us The Landfill, directed by Jessica Edwards and Gary Hustwit.
The film is a brief profile of the small but highly efficient Delaware County Landfill
 in Upstate New York, which is using a system of composting, recycling, and
 landfill gas (LFG) capture not unlike the one used at Fresh Kills two decades
 ago. The all-in-one facility is able to divert 70% of its material through recycling
 and composting, and converts its LFG to electricity through incineration,
 producing enough to power 300-400 homes."

Quick Start Proposal

I made this Quick Start Proposal for the pinup of November the 18th. It’s based on the idea of landfill mining. Landfills are full of useful materials such as cardboard that can be used as cellulose insulation, woody biomass used as compost, plastics that can be cracked  into hydrocarbons for fuels and methane gas as a natural energy source. It’s all about closing the production cycle.

I started playing with the conceptual idea that you can pull out a new city, nest or community out of the ground. The idea of a self-sufficient community that uses the compost in the landfill to build vegetable gardens in  Jamaica Bay, which also help to break storm surges, and uses landfillgas to heat itself. When using more and more materials from the landfill, the landscape will sink and make more room for the water.

zaterdag 7 januari 2012

East New York and Jamaica Bay

Site analysis

This presentation starts with a mental map of our sites. In this exercise, we have drawn the site by heart without looking at any maps. This way the drawing becomes an abstraction of reality which shows the important big phenomena occurring at the site. And best of all anyone can interpret this simple medieval perspective.
But let’s start at the very beginning, during the last Ice Age of the Pleistocene era, 1.8million years ago. This map shows the large ice cap covering the half of North America. During the Holocene 12.000years ago the ice started to melt.
Rivers and glaciers start scraping the landscape, transforming it more or less in today’s topography. Also the Great Lakes and the Hudson River were formed. This waterconnection to the inland of America was one of the main reasons, why New York became such an important harbor.
On this map you see Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jamaica Bay. These geological sections also show clearly how the Hudson River and Jamaica Bay were scraped out of the landscape.
When we zoom in to Jamaica Bay and East New York we see slow slopes by the bay and one strip of hills more northwest, which must be have been spared by the glaciers. (Water is not drawn on this map because the shoreline is constantly changing, it isn’t a fixed border. But we can say there is a movement of water towards the land since the ice caps from the last ice age were melting, filling the bay with water, and now sea level still continues rising.) Jamaica Bay became a very fertile area with plenty of fish and oysters and a great bird nesting place. At least 55 ecosystems lived there, which is enormous.  Lenape Tribes settled around the bay about 6500years ago, for example the Canarsie and Rockaway Indians. One of the Lenape tribe paths lead through this hill pass.
At this point there was a junction of 2 railroads, part of the Long Island Railroad System. This junction will later become known as Broadway Junction. West-east  there is the Manhattan-Jamaica Railroad. And north-south there is the Manhattan-Beach Railroad.
At this junction the railroadtown New Lots was settled in the 19th century. Ten families lived there and their principal occupation was farming.
By the 1880s the population has grown immensely due to large immigrations from Europe. The need for housing was high and so they urbanized large parts of Brooklyn. In New Lots this urbanization reached until New Lots Avenue because the small rivers and wetlands didn’t allow large scale buildingactivities.
In the next decades diverse visions were formed for the Bay. Robert Moses , commissioner of parks, wanted to make Jamaica Bay into a great waterpark to protect the wetlands, in contrast to others who wanted an industrial port in Jamaica Bay, like shown in this picture. By 1920 there was a shift to more industrial and commercial activity. Which eventually lead to competitive visions to make the bay into NYC new refuse dumpingsite or to make it into a recreational area.
Anyway, these visions and the growing population lead to hardening of the estuaries and filling of the wetlands to provide more buildingspace, which has a great impact on the biodiversity of the wetlands. These landfills can be made with sand from the bay, from the so-called borrowpits and canals in Jamaica bay, or refuse dumping, like the Fountain Avenue Landfill.
In the 1970s the built environment reached until the Beltparkway and beyond in Howard Beach.
These building activities lead to poor waterquality in the Bay from the 1920s. The impact of the 40 sewage outfalls, the growing population, narrowing of the in- and outlet for fresh water of the bay, and JFK airport, was very harmful for the biodiversity on the wetlands. Even shellfish harvesting had to be stopped, although Jamaica Bay produced between 1/3 and ¼ of the shellfish marketing.
This is when Robert Moses proposed a new concept in the 1930s, the parkways. The Beltparkway was especially designed to protect Jamaica Bay against the impact of urbanization and commercial activities, because people could not get passed this highway. Robert Moses said that if people wanted to visit the wetlands, they could go to the wildlife refuge at Broadchannel next to the Crossbay Boulevard. The Beltparkway also served as a park for the latest form of mobility, the car. Protecting the bay with a highway can be seen as a contradiction in the vision of Moses, since Highways are one of the main airpolluters. But yeah, Moses thought he was doing the best thing for the bay.
 Along the Beltparkway we can define different typologies of borders that show the inaccessibility of the waterfront, like fences, highways, privatized waterfront, and landfills. Especially the landfills are strange phenomena, since they’ve built these artificial hills of dirt and waste, that not only block waterfront access, but also take away any view of the bay.
The landfill is also one of the unbuilt environment typologies that we have determined. Along with community gardens, vacant lots, and the wetlands itself, which is a very diverse landscape from water to mudland, to salt marshes, to reef grass, shrubs and woodland.
The Beltparkway not only divides nature from built environment, but also sustains very different communities on the different lobes along the shoreline. This matrix shows different characteristics per community. For example Howard Beach and Starrlet City show very contrasting results although both communities lay relatively close to each other: Starrlet City is much more dense, the  people earn less money, huge poverty, and most of them are foreign born. And Howard Beach and Mill Basin, which is a very rich community, show very little differences.
The differences in these communities are also visible in the landuse. For this map we made sections every 18degrees and colored them according to the landuse, water and different wetlands.
To better compare these sections we have put them under each other. We see the landuse is very diverse and only howard Beach lays next to the water as a residential area.
When we go back to the Beltparkway we can see that it connects the shore and and moves around Brooklyn.
When we add the other roads like Atlantic Avenue and Linden Blvd, we see a clear east-west direction, so from Jamaica towards Manhattan. There are some north-south connections, but these are not as important.
Most subwaylines follow the same east-west direction, except for theL-lineover here  and the A-line that goes to Far Rockaway. We can conclude that there is clearly a division in east-west strips.
Around Atlantic Avenue we can determine a commercial strip, the grid, and at junctions of subwaylines and Atlantic or Linden Blvd we see industry, and around the Beltparkway big infrastructures accessible by car, like the Gateway Mall, parkinglots at Starrlet City and Canarsie.
When we  zoom in, we clearly see the morphology of the different east-west strips. The commercial strip around Atlantic Avenue, with  different and bigger grains. The grid that continues until Linden Blvd with mostly residential housing. At Linden Blvd the grid stops. And then there are areas with bigger grain, like industrie and public housing, and as biggest grain the shoppingmall and the parking lot at Starrlet city. So basically this map shows how the progression of the build environment happened towards the bay. And remember how the water moved towards the land because of sea level rises, resulting in an interesting zone where water and land meet.
The area between New Lots Ave and Broadway junction has a very rich diversity of typologies, since this is the oldest part of East New York. East New York is also referred to as the museum of failed public housing typologies. However the 1 - 4 family unit is the most common typology. We started a specific research on these houses. We were surprised by the diversity of solutions for this collective housing problem. Some typologies have one communal entrance, others have one door for each family. Some older typologies has been modified to serve multiple families. Each solution also implies a different solution for car parking, which has a big influence on the streetscape. This is still an ongoing research but we believe that the rich diversity of typologies in east new york's fabric is a quality that certainly should be preserved.
So over all we can conclude that the site East NY-Jamaica Bay is very diverse. The different strips, the wetlands, the borders and the different identities around the bay. All on the mental map again as a synthesis of our research, which is probably even more understandable right now.