Pockets, Carpets, and Spine
Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize
The objective of this project is to turn Real de Palmas, a low-income workers housing settlement of 60,000 inhabitants near Monterrey, from an agglomeration of houses into a self-sufficient city. Different scales of interventions respond to problems ranging from underused backyards, lack of public amenities and civic programs, nonexistent employment opportunities and need for more housing. The urban strategy takes advantage of the existing structure while allowing for organic growth.
Rezoning the central Spine of Real de Palmas lends program and function to the road system. Enlarging sidewalks and introducing bike lanes prioritizes pedestrians on the currently underused road. Building extensions to houses and introducing commercial activity along the Spine yield new work space for the inhabitants.
The Carpets work on the scale of the neighborhoods and connect existing green areas to offer a place for community activities. Comprised of unified paving material, urban furniture or planting, and covered recreational areas, the Carpets are designed to provide a sense of identity for each neighborhood.
The Backyards recall the ‘Vecindad’ housing type and convert underused backyards into shared spaces. This intervention is a more efficient use of space and creates new relations between the neighbors. In some house types, sideways extensions take advantage of the five-foot gap between the buildings and provide an additional bedroom.
Pockets, anchored around existing civic buildings, break the relentless grid of houses and introduce recreational, cultural, and civic programs. The Educational Pocket provides desired programs in the development – a trade school and a library connected through shaded outdoor spaces. The Market Pocket is inspired by two common, existing market types in Mexico: formal and permanent structures of mercados and informal, temporary tanguis.
Computation and Fabrication
The parabolic sunshade creates focused multidirectional lighting. The 2” deep surface follows evenly the geometry of the back to back parabolas. The consistently distributed holes along the surface have various sizes. The size of the holes is determined by their sectional location. The further the hole is towards the concave part of the surface, the smaller the diameter of the hole. Additionally, the directions of the holes remain always perpendicular to the surface at their location. To accentuate the directionality, perpendicular hollow “plugs” with different sized openings are extruded from the holes.
The surface was initially modeled in 3D Rhino. Thereafter a Grasshopper parametric script was developed to produce the holes consistent with the rule set. For the fabrication process, a 3-axis CNC mill was programmed with various sized drill bits, utilizing the “flip milling” technique to accomplish the consistent thickness. Finally, the plugs where swept in Rhino from the geometry of the holes, derived from the earlier parametric script. Once modeled, the plugs were 3D printed in the plaster printer and finally glued on to the surface of the foam.
Post-Professional Design Studio
Central Square in Cambridge characterizes a mix of programs and activities. It is said to “be messy but in a good way, where a 99-cent McDonalds and a 6.99 carrot-beet juice with wheatgrass boosters can co-exist.” Central is inherently not one thing, but rather an intricate network of many, diverse parts. There is a collection of many small elements - parking lots, murals, and benches - that create their own networks. Currently they are overpowered by the large street-block-building structure. The large and the intricate are out of balance, which has created dull public spaces, limited to the linear edge of Mass Avenue.
With our scheme we attempt to preserve Central’s unique atmosphere with all its messiness and unpredictability by introducing a new urban order. A building matters but not more that than the space between the buildings. The organizational porosity encourages a meandering cross-movement through the site, dissolving the linear barrier of Mass Ave and creating a more rich urban experience. We took elements existing on site; downplaying the role of big components (buildings, roads) and amplifying the intricate ones (trees, lamps, benches). By creating a new relation between big and intricate we achieved a place with little hierarchy; a spatial matrix capable of unifying on urban scale while respecting the identity of its components. Fields of intensity overlap, amplifying the intricate, making a tree or bench no less significant than a building.