Group 2 Collective Ecological Infrastructure / In Grid We Trust

2011-05-03 18:24:29 -

“If we try to define the problems which architecture is facing today we will find that they can be divided into two categories. The first comprises the problems which require an understanding of local environmental situations and the role of architecture as the consolidating and coordinating discipline. The second category consists of the problems which are not connected with the environment and require action at a much higher level. The problems here are those which architecture faces in relation to industry, art, government, and the other forces of modern expanding society. It is our task to define the role of architecture in both these fields.”
- Constantinos Doxiadis, Architecture in Transition: 88.

What is the relationship between a building and the larger systems of the environment – constructed and natural—in which it sits? This workshop examines issues of site, sustainability, and the relationship between scales of environmental processes from the urban and infrastructural to the architectural.
The physical infrastructures of the twentieth century – those of roads, rail, air, data, sewage, water, amongst others – have tended to operate as singular and independent systems. The infrastructures of the twenty-first century, if they are to respond to impending urgencies with respect to resources and climate change as well as emerging social conditions and cultural desires, will need to become integrated with each other and most importantly, integrated with the qualities of space and environment they help engender. This requires reexamining the conventional relationship between infrastructure and landscape, infrastructure and public amenities, infrastructure and architecture. In turn, the discrete architectural project should be understood as being incorporated within a network of relationships – from economies and ecologies to politics and culture – a network that it potentially transforms.
The workshop posits that rather than understand architecture as hermetically sealed from its environment, architecture is integrated into the environmental networks that envelop it. What is the role and place of architecture—as a discipline typically invested in stasis and timelessness—within such a milieu? How can temporality and the temporary be engaged and challenged? How does architecture operate with and through time, even as a static point within a fluctuating field?
The workshop attributes new roles to the architect – not simply problem solver, but cultural, environmental and spatial detective, bringing to light the forces (economic, cultural and environmental) at work within a given geography, and the physical networks at the service of these forces. The workshop asks what the role of the architect today is, with the imminent need to mount urgent responses to significant infrastructural and environmental challenges. Design is perhaps the field where technical, political and environmental forces can be best given a figure. We are not so much interested in solving the problems as developing projective, speculative experiments that reframe the problems through architecture. To this end, we will use Manhattan as a site of architectural/ infrastructural/ ecological investigation.

The zoning of New York, while restrictive, has been successful in producing vast amounts of difference situated within an overall coherent framework. As noted by R.Koolhaas’ ‘City of a Captive Globe’, New York’s zoning allowed for the reconciliation of the individual (distinct buildings) with the collective (street grid and podium), which is at the core of the political concept of pluralism. The two basic planning structures of the grid and sunlight considerations produced not only a thriving collective realm but also one that could be represented in form. A re-examination of zoning needs to center on soft rules that allow for adaptable, responsive and flexible architecture and surfaces. These new zoning laws will be situated in an ecological model –a complex, non-linear system that can reconcile both intrinsic (social) values and extrinsic (environmental) characteristics. Form, however, need not look like ecology, but rather preform like ecologies. We will first hold onto the confidence of legible urban forms. From here a new type will emerge that is both political and environmental.
The street grid in New York has been crucial to the overall legibility of Manhattan, its internal connection and to the subdivision of the basic planning block. But without automobiles, the roads are open for unique and innovated responses. The grid and its associated road infrastructure are emblematic of a networked public in New York while private development colonizes each of the subdivided blocks. This has produced an urban vision concerned with the vertical. Instead we will reconsider the horizontal – the thick 2D surface that negotiates the public and territorial ecologies and focus our energies on densifying the grid itself to open new land for mutant environments. Further we will reposition the public and private realms into new hybrid building/infrastructures. The major transfer station outside Manhattan will mark the transition from hard infrastructures of the 20th century to soft infrastructures of the 21st century. These collective spaces can negotiate control vs. choice, determinacy vs. indeterminacy and the individual vs. collective.
The future Manhattan waterfront has become a caricature of nature. Instead we will examine the notions of surface and limits in reconfiguring the waterfront. Performative surfaces can merge infrastructure, ecologies and new programmes in diverse and unexpected ways. Limits are important for the overall configuration of the island, its legibility and interface with the water.

Participants will be split into groups examining:
Roads/ Infrastructure: 3-4 Students
Surface Ecologies: 3 Students
Bridges + Transfer Stations: 2-3 Students
Atmospheric Ecologies: 2-3 Students
We will meet together each evening to review each of the group’s progress and ensure overall unity / coherence and criticality of ideas.
During production of the project, we may revise the above groupings to reflect individual strengths of designers.
For instance, these new groups could be (i) Renderings (ii) Diagrams (iii) Plan/ Section Drawings, etc.

Tuesday May 31st: Introduction, preliminary meeting, groupings and investigations. Overall discussion of strategy/ approach.
Wednesday June 1st: Group Work, desk crits Review: End of Day
Thursday June 2nd: Group Work, desk crits
Preparation of drawings – diagrams/ rhino files/ etc.
Internal Presentations: End of Day
Friday June 3rd: Group Work, desk crits.
Review: End of Day
Saturday June 4th: Production
Presentation: Review –End of Day
Sunday June 5th: Production/ Printing (please ensure enough time for plotting)
Presentation Review –End of Day
Monday June 6th: FINAL REVIEW
Tuesday June 7th: Printouts/ Quality Prints
Wednesday June 8th: Travel to NYC (Note: NB will be travelling to NYC on June 7th)
Thursday June 9th: Prize Ceremony, Guggenheim, NY
Friday June 10th: Discussion at Center for Architecture, NY


Neeraj Bhatia is a co-director of InfraNet Lab, partner of The Open Workshop and Visiting Wortham Fellow at Rice University. He received his Masters of Architecture + Urban Design from MIT where he was studying on a Fulbright Fellowship. He has worked for Eisenman Architects, Coop Himmelblau, Bruce Mau Design, OMA, ORG and Lateral Office. Neeraj previously taught at the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto. He is co-editor of -Arium: Weather + Architecture (with Jürgen Mayer H., Hatje Cantz Publishing, 2009), Bracket [Soft Systems] (with Lola Sheppard, Actar, 2011) and co-author of Pamphlet Architecture 30: Coupling (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010). InfraNet Lab is a non-profit research collective probing the spatial byproducts of contemporary resource logistics and The Open Workshop is a design office examining the project of pluralism.

2011-05-03 21:57:55 -

Image: Superstudio, Fundamental Acts Series

2011-06-02 21:28:49 -
Work in Progress

How can you use the New York grid in the future when there are little recourses left and water levels have risen due to climate change? According to Group 2 here nature and ecology comes in. New York must become a self-functional system, and not by using solar panels and windmills. You need to do more than that, for example by making buildings intelligent and by making use of the existing grid.

Group 2 also let the water come into Manhattan, to create a set of characteristic neighbourhoods island that are connected to each other and to Central Park via a green grid. The characteristic, interesting neighbourhoods already exist and by making them islands you only emphasis their specialness more. Right know the Group focus on this new green grid and the different kind of green spaces; deciding what will be land and what will be water; and redefining typology for it is not the purpose that floor space will be lost when the water comes in.

2011-06-03 23:48:29 -
Pecha Kucha work in progress

2011-06-05 14:33:44 -
24h to go

2011-06-22 22:27:25 -

2011-07-18 20:31:48 -
interview Neeraj Bhatia

No architect is an island. Rice fellow, alumnus re-imagine Manhattan through Archiprix. Interview with Neeraj Bhatia for the Rice University website

2011-07-20 16:42:15 -
final presentation

In Grid We Trust

[Slide 1] The most important phenomenon of the 21st century that conditions our life is the prolonged world economic and energy crisis.
[Slide 2] In America it causes blur zones between various neighborhoods to fall into deprivation and consequentially abandoned places.

[Slide 3] The dissolution of permafrost due to climate change and its associated effects on rising sea levels has made nature into a destructive entity. Renewable energy and increased emphasis on harvesting resources in a sustainable manner is required.
This is the scenario of our project, this is the inevitable and incumbent scenario of our days.
We have to save Manhattan from the disaster: economic disparity, rising water levels, climate change.
If we observe the map of New York, we immediately realize that the most important feature of Manhattan is separation. And as an island it remains totally independent from all surrounding urbanization.
And if we zoom in Manhattan, we can distinguish two fundamental components: the grid which provide the framework to the city and represents the collective sphere and neighborhoods which represents individual identities.

[Slide 4] The rising of sea level will flood all, and We let the water into blur zones. It's a necessary process of amputation to save the strength of the healthy neighborhoods.
A grouping is born and all the islands form a new plural identity of Manhattan, creating a residual voids, that awaits new opportunities.

[Slide 5] The 'neighborhood' islands are developed by overlaying the cultural boundaries and the morphological division. The island densities determine the degree of elevate in the topography. The larger the island, the higher and more densely populated. The smaller the island, relatively lower and less populated.

[Slide 6] Essentially the current grid of Manhattan forces the city to grow vertically. But with the reversal of the figure ground in the residual space between the islands, horizontal surfaces are liberated. This emancipated surface of the thick 2D is productively programmed for energy production, water retention, agriculture, phytoremediation, to recreational and cultural use and they form a series of ecological pixels.

[Slide 7] The Grid was the criteria used to build Manhattan and it becomes the criteria to preserve the city: the instrument for preservation and connection. We use the grid to connect the islands of the newborn fragmented and linked framework.
Cars are banned and the grid change its original program.
An analysis of existing programmatic distribution informs the wiring of the new grid.
While the grid remains a generic, neutral frame, it is diversified into a tartan structure with different programs:

[Slide 8] Ecological
[Slide 9] Farming
[Slide 10] Industrial and Manufacturing
[Slide 11] Energy
[Slide 12] Civic
[Slide 13] Commercial
[Slide 14] Leisure

[Slide 15] The Grid Matrix: a possible composition of different programs.

[Slide 16] Therefore a programmatic tartan structure is superimposed on a morphological and social structure of islands.
The grid is extruded to inform urban frames as containers of all urban ecological, industrial programs.

[Slide 17] This first section shows how the frame is organized. The lower half is a specific and articulated infrastructure that hosts the conduits for distribution of water, energy, sewage, soils, resources, goods and people etc. The upper half is a consistent module that allows for urban functions such as residences and commercial activity. Essentially the framework allows these ecological pixel to operate efficiently and in a symbiotic manner. At the top is the section reserved for all possible programs as structured in the grid.
[Slide 18] A view.

[Slide 19] In this second section, a hydroelectric harvester runs through the framework, collecting energy through the transfer of water from one basin to another. These turbines collect and store the energy which is distributed to surrounding programs. This water is moved to create energy as well as for life support of particular pixels as irrigation, grey water, and livestock management.
[Slide 20] Another view.

[Slide 21] Getting into the microcosms of the subsystems. The voids formed between these urban frames are essentially rooms. The functions of farming, production, disposal, ecology, recreation are tied into a symbiotic relationship. These surface pixels operate like mutant natural environments that gain efficiency only through the proximity and infrastructural wiring enabled by the urban frames. Each room has an input and output which connects with the main system.

[Slide 22] For example: the water collected in the phytoremediation grid can be directed towards other pixels which require water such as farming, recreating, market spaces, civic amenities and for energy production. At the same time once the farming receives its share of water the harvest grown from the same can be transported to the market pixel which lays adjacent to it, hence from the market place the goods can be accessed by the people which is well connected to the civic and recreational pixels. The energy grid at the same time harvest energy from various sources such as the sun, wind and rain which in turn are distributed to all islands and surface pixels. Thus the spaces form a symbiotic relationship with each other which is enhances because of their proximity.

[Slide 23] Hence we can see that the entire island is composed of multiple layers. The grid is composed of lines that synthesize programs and the islands are composed of surfaces that synthesize morphology and culture. Together this forms a new ecological template that combines social political and economic realities of the future city.
[Slide 24] Here the final view

[Slide 25] In Grid We Trust

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