Smooth Space For New York City by Stanley Russell / Mie Araki / Vikas Mehta
Identify a public space
This proposal starts at the macro scale and envisions a continuous “smooth space” [Deleuze and Guattari] connecting New York city to the Appalachian trail with nodes of free speech and creative expression along the way. New York city in its current highly “striated” condition is beginning to inhibit a free flow of ideas and human resources. If left unchecked this condition could eventually suffocate the city and drain it of the creative energy that it was once famous for. One scenario for smooth space could come from the Appalachian trail through New Jersey along the Hudson river, across the George Washington Bridge, through the Hudson river greenway, through Morningside and Central parks, across the Queensboro bridge, and through Queens. The smooth space would allow unfettered pedestrian access along its entire length The nodes of free speech and artistic expression would happen in places where huge infrastructure projects have left under utilized spaces at street level or have relegated some of the most dramatic spaces in the city to the automobile. Spaces with potential include the tunnel through the George Washington Bridge along Riverside Drive, the area under the Henry Hudson Parkway viaduct in Manhattanville, the area under the Queensboro bridge at Queens Plaza and the space under the Airtrain JFK elevated railway. The Manhattanville site was chosen for this proposal because of the dramatic existing structure and the adjacency to Columbia University, Harlem and the postulated “smooth space” connecting all of New York to the Appalachian trail.
The Manhattanville viaduct is an iconic structure supporting the Henry Hudson Parkway from 130th to 134th streets. Geographically the area under the viaduct is a break in an extensive green belt that ends at 129th St. to the south and picks up again at 135th St. to the north. Our proposal seeks to connect the green belts to the north and south for pedestrians to move freely from north to south across Manhattan. The crossing paths of academics from Columbia University, residents of Harlem and urban nomads making their way across New York City will provide a rich environment for free speech and creativity. Our proposal consists of ribbon-like folded floor planes that weave through the existing viaduct structure and bring people gradually down to street level via a series of ramps. The sloping surfaces of the ramps become seating areas for people coming to watch lectures, musical presentations, dramas, debates or just to sit and rest. The floor planes bridge over 130th st. allowing uninterrupted traffic flow. 12th avenue would be completely closed to traffic and 131st, 132nd and 133rd streets would have raised crosswalks to slow down traffic and these crosswalks would be completely closed to traffic during certain events. The folding floor planes create several different scale spaces that are able accommodate events of many different sizes from concerts or rallies to lectures or small group discussions. Graphic boards between the structural supports provide canvases for different kinds of creative expression and the display of information.
Our proposal is large in scale and would be costly to implement. To ease the cost burden the project could be implemented in several stages. First 12th ave. could be closed to through traffic for special events for the arts or rallys supporting important causes. The folded floor elements could be implemented from the south in several stages beginning with observation platforms at different levels until finally bridging over 130th street. Block by block improvements would eventually move northward until the entire proposal is completed. Funding would come in the form of federal grants such as Community Development Block Grants, Sustainable Communities Grants, and National Endowments for the Arts grants as well as donations from private donors like Columbia University, other local businesses and patrons of the arts.
Stanley Russell- Professor, Architect
Mie Araki- Artist
Vikas Mehta- Professor, Urban Designer
Stanley took the lead role in design in consultation with Vikas over urban issues and strategy. Mie contributed the artist’s perspective in the design of spaces for artistic expression and the graphic representation of the proposal.