Caroline Marie VanAcker
From Metropolitan Axis to Localizing Grid
In central Beijing, the historic Axis serves as a potent, symbolic connector of the city’s history and culture. In southern Beijing, however, it is instead an obstacle. Sixteen lanes of traffic make what should be a celebrated zone into little more than a highway - its overwhelming scale must be dealt with in order for any kind of future development to be successful. This project proposes to first reduce the size of the Axis road on our site, redistributing its traffic onto several new north-south avenues between the Second and Third Ring Roads. These are crossed by a number of east-west roads that restructure the urban form. Together, this grid system extends the influence of the Axis across the site, connecting it to landmarks such as the new rail station.
Based on an analysis of existing programs in the area, this proposal focuses on three main zones of use, each organized around an open space arranged perpendicularly to the Axis: a business district to the north, a hospital/wellness campus, and a live/work/retail village on the old site of the Bairong Mall. Although the three respond to different functional requirements, they each contain a mixture of commercial, residential, and institutional space. The grid provides a framework for new typologies of development units, ranging from traditional Chinese courtyard residences to podiums and high rise towers. In this way, the introduction of a grid system allows streets to be connective rather than divisive, localizing the urban energy of the Axis.
Systems Integration and Development in Design
The headquarters building for CASIS studied was conceived as an exploration of angled sectional voids piercing through colossal concrete volumes, encouraging visitors to experience surreal, oblique spaces while considering the company's work beyond Earth. In making these conceptual moves a reality, the largest challenge was developing a cohesive structural model that could support the multiple, massive cantilever volumes while maintaining the open interior spaces. The solution combines several multi-story steel trusses and framing with monumental concrete shear walls, creating a hybrid system that preserves the original clarity of the design. The mechanical systems were easier to incorporate, as most move vertically through the building in shafts along the shear walls. In the central important atrium space, the industrial aesthetic is celebrated as exposed circular ducts run parallel with inclined elevators.
The main lobby space was itself a unique challenge due to its scale, angles, and surface treatments, and figured out primarily through a detailed wall section. One side is clad in a large-span curtain wall system supported by a series of perpendicular glass fins and structural cables. The other three faces feature a greebel treatment that introduces a new perception of scale within the space, juxtaposing hundreds of small rectangular boxes of varying depths (created by panels of folded metal) with a vertical span of over 100 feet. The greebel panels act as a functional rain screen and the building's aesthetic exclamation point; lobby spaces behind the enormous curtain wall and deep windowsills buried within the inner concrete walls offer views into a dazzling canyon of reflected light and dizzying scale.
Triangle Development Group
Mott Haven is on the brink of a redevelopment renaissance, but the one thing standing in the way are its public housing projects. However, the NYCHA projects themselves are not the problem - it is the way they have been abandoned as superblock islands, marooned by a stigma that prevents their cohesive involvement in the everyday life of the neighborhood. Smaller-scale interventions that avoid the public housing may make financial sense in the short run, but Mott Haven demands a visionary proposal that treats the root of its growing pains, not just the symptoms. The Triangle Districts proposal accomplishes this by directly engaging with the Mott Haven and Patterson Houses, pairing public realm improvements with a retail vision for Third Avenue that connects to the HUB. It is an ambitious proposal - exactly what Mott Haven needs and deserves.
The Triangle Districts proposal represents a new age for NYCHA, one that introduces a prototype for financial and social success within public housing projects. The proposal further considers the needs of the neighborhood as a whole; Mott Haven can be defined as any number of boundaries (evidenced above), and this plan accordingly deals with both local and regional scales. Much like how the NYCHA projects must soften their edges to welcome interactions with the rest of the neighborhood, the destination of the Triangle Districts will allow Mott Haven to reach beyond its boundaries, attracting new residents and developers. For now, the Triangle Districts act as the harbinger of new economic vitality. In the future, they continues to play a crucial part in the sustained success of Mott Haven.