20 years after the September 11 attacks, 130 Liberty Street (Site 5) is the final parcel of the World Trade Center (WTC) masterplan left undefined. Given the severe lack of affordable housing in downtown Manhattan, a group of residents and activists, called The Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5 WTC mobilized to argue that the tower on Site 5 should be composed of entirely affordable units.
In support of the grassroots coalition, New York Review of Architecture and Citygroup organized a call for alternative visions. In this issue, we share all 41 submissions, along with a set of accompanying essays, not as a final word, but to show that there is room for a larger conversation, and architects can and must play a role in it.
#28 is a limited-edition Risograph print of 1,000, designed by Freer Studio, printed in SoHo at a83 and collated and folded at citygroup. Read on below for some excerpts.
In the Issue…
100% AFFORDABLE: Todd Fine
The sketched ideas in this issue will hopefully begin to change the conversation from the design and architectural position. They affirm visions of urban housing that maximize the potential of public land at a time when dual ecological and socioeconomic crises demand new thinking. Given the visibility and meaning of the World Trade Center, the site offers a redemptive potential. At the very least, this issue's call emphasizes that the fight over the World Trade Center's redevelopment is not over, and that architects still seek to make ethical statements about its pursuit.
UNAFFORDABLE: Nicolas Kemper
This definition of affordability is not only hard to understand, but still harder to justify once you understand it. It leads to nonsensical incentives and byzantine inefficiencies. Even for those who qualify, it becomes available only after winning lotteries whose odds can be as steep as a thousand to one. It would make more sense to simply create a universal right to housing of a certain quality.
PERSPECTIVE: Michael Robinson Cohen and Violette de la Selle
Groups that challenge real-estate power, like the Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5WTC, are often cynically labeled as contrarian and lacking their own vision for future development. This claim rings false when protesters are armed with images that manifest their aims. It is perhaps in service of this type of activism that architects can gain a renewed faith in the images of architecture.
I REFUSE: Carolyn Bailey
It’s worth debating whether or not such tactics of invisibility, abstraction, or absurdity are useful or appropriate responses to the very real challenge of how to best move forward with 5WTC. Nonetheless, they critically point to the same strain of haunted capitalism that troubles most urban design projects of this scale and context. Perhaps the World Trade Center is best left as a speculative fiction that refuses to perpetuate its own history.
I MEAN, LITERALLY: Marianela D’Aprile
A bit farther afield but remaining squarely within the bounds of the brief, Overlay Office’s entry proposes a non-architectural way to root the building in its community: a program through which local union workers could, in exchange for their labor, own units in the tower. Still, the building itself provides a number of amenities within a fairly straightforwardly designed tower, joining a number of other entries in claiming that the answer to the housing crisis might be as simple as just building more units.
ON THE GRID: Phillip Denny
But my favorite is Brad Isnard & Chris Gassaway’s proposal. Here the grid is given horizontal emphasis, articulated as banding not unlike the play of spandrels and windows at Lever House on Park Avenue. Their approach lends the building an alternating rhythm that carries upward from street level to rooftop. The tower comprises four stacked blocks, each separated by a floor of communal green space. Every apartment has a generous, semi-enclosed balcony. It’s a simple idea executed well. The grid ensures equal access to air and light for all. Long live the grid.
TOO MUCH: Alex Klimoski
The impulse to resort to more building troubles me, especially when there are other solutions to lowering housing costs in New York worthy of our attention, namely property tax reform and adaptive reuse or reinvestment in the existing housing stock. Rather than expending the labor and resources required for new building projects, I hope that we can adopt more compassionate and holistic methods to address the housing crisis.
LAUGH IT UP: Sammy Medina
In contrast to speech proper, the formal and tectonic vocabularies that architects have cultivated over decades and centuries are still primitive, scarcely capable of emitting anything beyond a groan or shriek. Compounding the problem, most buildings are fixated not on the here and now, but on some distant temporal horizon; jokes, contextual as they are, stale quickly. At several hundred feet, they’re a slap in the face.
41 PROPOSALS FOR A 100% AFFORDABLE 5 WTC
Featuring Urbata, IKMueller Architecture PLLC, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Ethan Ma, Overlay Office, TWA Architectural Group, Álvaro H. Félix, ANY, Dank Lloyd Wright, Dorian Pulvermacher, Jesse Gates, Joel McCullough and Benjy Akhavan, Marc Wouters Studios, Office of Things, Palma, Shingorashi, UE Architecture, Ariel Poliner, Brad Isnard and Chris Gassaway, DesignAware, Hanneke van Deursen, Institut für–gegen Baukultur, Leyuan Li, Liyu Xue 薛李煜, Edgar Jesse Rodríguez, Elif Karaköse, Jeannette Cook, Colin Wolf, Rob Leising, ESDA: Daniela Abella Guerra and Ekam Singh, Nine Stories, Sebastijan Jemec, Mojtaba Nabavi & Zeinab Maghdouri, Nina Rappaport and Sara Mountford, William Albert Flower, Kryan Kenison, Grace Gordon, Travis Wicks, Josh a Rieck, Benjamin Cole, Brooklyn Fields, Connor Zydek, Filip Kanaylo, Nick Meier
After you read the issue, put together all four sheets showing the submissions to create a 34" x 21" poster.
To support the work and receive #28 by post, subscribe here.
NYRA is a team effort. Our Deputy Editor is Marianela D'Aprile, our Editors at Large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny and Alex Klimoski, and our Publisher is Nicolas Kemper.
To pitch us an article or ask us a question, write to us at: email@example.com.
For their support, we would like to thank the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Thomas Phifer, and Stickbulb.
To support our contributors and receive the Review by post, subscribe here.