Urban Design Studio I: Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Site Profile: Bay Street I Staten Island

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by June 6, 2017
Site Profile: Bay Street I Staten Island

Staten Island is the least densely populated of the five boroughs with only a little less than half a million…

The 6th Borough

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by May 25, 2017
The 6th Borough

The 2017 5 Borough Studio is about to kick off. This year, we will turn our attention to the relationship of the five boroughs with the space that connects them all – the water.

A Community Center in Brownsville

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by December 28, 2016
A Community Center in Brownsville

The 5 Borough Studio in Action: A community center in Brownsville Brooklyn designed and built with the help of students and faculty

Urban SOS Fair Share: A Student Competition

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by July 19, 2016

Urban SOS: Fair Share

Turn your final studio project into a contribution to Urban SOS, an annual competition presented by AECOM and Van Alen Institute in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, challenges students around the globe to come together across disciplines to tackle some of our cities’ most pressing issues.

FairShareDeckCover-1160x896The seventh edition in the series, Fair Share explores how the principles of the “sharing economy” can be applied to support more equitable access to resources, improve the built environment and enrich the quality of life of urban residents. Final proposals are due September 12, 2016. The winning teams take home US$15,000 in prizes. In addition, AECOM will make available up to US$25,000 of cash and in-kind staff time to support the implementation of the winning proposal. Download the competition brief here

Sharing Models at Storefront

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by July 15, 2016
We are experiencing the emergence of a culture that is marked by a return to, redefinition, and expansion of the notion of the commons. The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of globalization is reorienting us away from trends that have emphasized individuation and singular development, and toward new forms of collectivity. 
Over the last decade, emerging technologies and economies have affected aspects of our everyday life, from the way we work and travel, to how we think about shelter and social engagement.

How will the sharing movement of today affect the way we inhabit and build the cities of tomorrow?

Manhattan, one of the most dense and iconic places in the world, has been a laboratory for many visions of urbanism. Sharing Models: Manhattanisms invites 30 international architects to produce models of their own visions for the city’s future. 
The models, each a section of Manhattan, establish analytical, conceptual, and physical frameworks for inhabiting and constructing urban space and the public sphere. Together, they present a composite figure; a territory that is simultaneously fictional and real, and one that opens a window to new perceptions of the city’s shared assets.  

July 15th – September 2nd, 2016
Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street, New York

Build Public

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by June 29, 2016

As many teams have been thinking about public space this summer, this example might enrich your approach to creative partnerships. Build Public brings a “start-up” mentality to the world of public space, leveraging creative public private partnerships and new innovative financing and governance tools to create, fund and maintain high quality urban public spaces in San Francisco. more on build public here

Event: The Sharing Movement

Category : BLOG, EVENTS · No Comments · by June 7, 2016

The 5 Borough Studio is not the only ones interested in the physical manifestation of sharing. See these two events as part of the Storefront for Architecture’s Manifesto series:

SUMMER 2016 explores the CO-CITY: The City as a Collective, Cooperative, Shared Space

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by June 1, 2016

Aztec Dance Group Calpulli Tletl Papalotzin at Corona Plaza during Oye Corona, 2013 (photo by Neshi Galindo)

The city is a collective experience. It is a complex system “consisting of a vast multitude of individuals, institutions, processes and physical entities, all of which give rise to the buildings, cultures, laws and services that we think of as the urban. Though each one of these may be owned or controlled in a specific way, the holistic entity we call a city (in many cases a towering achievement of human culture) grows in an uncontrollable way from the synthesis of these many parts, with no singular ownership, and is therefore something we have “in common” rather than co-own”.[1]

As the boundaries between the responsibility of the state to provide public space and public goods (such as transportation, education, water, power, etc.) and the degree to which private entities provide such goods blur, the idea of the ‘common’ or the ‘collective’ may offer a third alternative to ‘public’ -which doesn’t always mean accessible to all and ‘private’ -which doesn’t mean closed off to all. The idea of land or services that are commonly owned and managed speaks to a 21st-century sensibility of participative citizenship and peer-to-peer production. In theory, at least, the commons is full of radical potential.[2]


In this studio, we want to investigate the differences between public, private and collective urban spaces and develop design approaches for a new urban commons. Technology has given rise to new forms of economies, of sharing and of providing access to goods and services in the city. Companies like AirBnB, Uber, Lyft or WeWork are challenging traditional means to live, move or work in the city.

What kinds of new urban spaces are created by this rise of membership-based collectives?
Other forms of ‘commoning’ such as the cooperative housing movement have a longstanding history in New York City dating back to the late 19th century, but are struggling to create contemporary versions in a housing market that is dominated by private interests.

What would new cooperative spaces look like? How can they compete in the current real estate market?
How can well-known examples for urban commons such as community gardens be scaled up to address larger infrastructure issues in the city such as transportation, energy or food production, resiliency, water or housing?  Can we create greater efficiency, density and affordability through models of shared ownership and responsibility?

Air and water may be two of the most obvious common resources, we all share and rely on. They are also among the most vulnerable to the tragedy of the commons.[3]
What kind of urban infrastructure can protect our common resources?
How do we ensure equitable access to these resources?

[1] John Bingham-Hall (2015): FUTURE OF CITIES: COMMONING AND COLLECTIVE APPROACHES TO URBAN SPACE, Theatrum Mundi, LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science


[3] While used earlier, the phrase “tragedy of the commons” is attributed to the 1968 essay by Garrett Hardin in Science Magazine, describing how shared or common ownership poses a threat on environmental resource if not appropriately regulated.

Public Housing: An Urban Design Challenge

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by December 9, 2015

See the combined work of the Summer 2015 5 Borough Studio in this PDF.

Over 400,000 New Yorkers live in public housing provided by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest public housing authority in the country. NYCHA manages more than 178,000 apartments in over 320 developments across all 5 boroughs. If NYCHA was a city, it would be more populous than Cleveland or Miami. Distributed throughout the five boroughs, public housing was largely built between the 1930s and 1970s during an era of massive public investment in housing and infrastructure. Today, the federal government continuously reduces its financial support for housing authorities to sustain this asset leaving the New York City Housing Authority with an estimated $16 billion deficit for needed repairs. Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York City in 2012, revealed yet another weakness. More than 30 public housing developments were damaged by the storm affecting more than 80,000 residents and adding to the financial and physical problems.

Despite numerous declarations of failure of the modernist housing ideal beginning with Jane Jacob’s critique in 1961 in the Death and Life of Great American Cities and the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe Houses in St Louis in 1972, our inheritance of this type of urban fabric is enormous and cannot be ignored. Commonly attributed to the ideas of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), cities around the world subscribed to the ideal of single-function districts with modern housing towers surrounded by green spaces, light and fresh air that replaced and contrasted the dense and inhuman conditions of overcrowded and tuberculosis-ridden tenements. In time, the ideal turned sour, the isolated developments into concentrations of poverty and neglect instigating endless discussions whether architecture and planning are to blame for their demise or failed public policy and mismanagement. While recognizing the challenge of the aging buildings themselves in need of significant repair (80% of the building stock is older than 40 years) this studio turned its attention to the urban dimension of the superblocks and the neighborhoods they are situated in.

Some common themes emerged from this studio:

Tactical Interventions
Several proposals used relatively small-scale interventions to activated spaces within NYCHA’s campuses and at its edges. Driven by the ambition of bottom-up approaches, these are intended to be implemented by ‘external’ actors –community groups or groups of residents– to provide a mix of uses, and activate public spaces as a way of increasing safety in and around the developments.


Open Space
The promise of the tower in the “park” seems unfulfilled. The existing open spaces can rarely be called parks. Fenced in lawns, often trash-strewn and inaccessible, are a burden on NYCHA’s maintenance staff and of little resource to residents or New Yorkers. Are they private or public? Rather than reintroducing the street grid into the superblocks, students sought to assign higher performative values to the existing open spaces, be it for food production or water management. In the process of redesign, open spaces can also be redefined more clearly along a gradient of public to private offering public connections through the superblocks where it seems appropriate and assigning greater privacy through design to spaces used by residents.

Infill as part of a comprehensive plan for the development/neighborhood
Unlike the current procedure at NYCHA, which is in the process of issuing several RFPs for development of individual sites on its property for housing, students proposed infill as part of a comprehensive concept to improve the overall site. Unafraid to touch existing buildings, integrate new and old, the emphasis for infill developments are uses that benefit the existing neighborhood combined with housing for new residents or for those being displaced by new ground floor uses.
groundfloor Download a PDF with all projects here.



Inequality and Transit … Part 2

Category : BLOG · No Comments · by July 22, 2015

This one comes from the New Yorker and was actually published 2 years ago. “if the borough of Manhattan were a country, the income gap between the richest twenty per cent and the poorest twenty per cent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Lesotho.” it proclaims and goes on to measure income along all of New York’s subway lines. The richest stop is Park Place(!) on the 2,3 line with a median income of over $200,000. The poorest stop is the Sutter Ave stop on the L train with just over $12,000.