Michael R. McGrattan
Advanced Design Studio: Plattus
Beijing is a city characterized, especially in recent years, by mega-scale development. The city is organized by enormous blocks and streets, and has continued to move forward with developing mega scale urban projects.
Coinciding with this super development has been a renewed interest in a smaller, tight knit fabric, perhaps as a relief from the large scale development prominent throughout the city. Qienmen st, the redevelopment of traditional hutong fabric into shopping streets, MAD’s hutong bubble, and the back lakes area among others have all shown a renewed interest in this type of world.
The proposal is a tightly knit network of regularized streets, canals, pedestrian pathways, and pocket parks beginning by generating a unit of development that was flexible enough to create small scale urban spaces, but could also be altered to frame larger public spaces. The unit consists of 12 meter wide bars that can be varied in lengths that are ideal to accommodate flexible uses. The proposal also redistribute the primary central road across the site and creates a more regularized street system to break block sizes down, disperse automobile traffic, and create a more pedestrian oriented world. The buildings were designed to frame particular public spaces, at a scale that was able to mediate between the large and small fabric across the site. The three overlaid networks consisted of a dedicated pedestrian street, green spaces and waterways that play up existing historical elements on the site and separate the pedestrian from primary arterial roads. The edges of this system act as appendages that allow for existing neighborhood fabric to tie into new development. The system is anchored by 3 different types of major public spaces.
The project brief challenged each group to establish a planning, zoning and development scheme for Mott Haven, a neighborhood in the South Bronx. Our team determined that Mott Haven was already a vibrant community, and had the potential for significant growth without substantial modification. However, the neighborhood lacked a cohesive plan to draw the activity on its periphery into its heart. To that end, the proposal unifies small pocket parks into one long path, weaving through the southern half of the study area. Inspired by the greenways in Philadelphia’s Society Hill, the design incorporates existing parks and vacant lots beginning at the Plaza Borinquen. This network, the Mott Loop, increases the walk-ability of Mott Haven and helps to break up the long avenue blocks. Supported by a Community Improvement District Corporation, each park will be carefully programmed and serve as a vital part of the network.
The Loop’s true strength is its modesty and scale. The project does not seek to channel Haussmann but rather returns to the true scale of a neighborhood. In a place where government initiatives have demolished entire blocks, the Loop builds upon an existing fabric, requiring little to no relocation. Instead, unites and enhances what already exists. By connecting the parks, both physically and visually, the proposal will create a cohesive public realm in the neighborhood. It is upon this spine, supported with a new comprehensive zoning scheme, that the redevelopment of Mott Haven will begin in earnest. Yet, the proposal does not end at the park but rather plans for and incorporates the future housing and commercial development that will lead to the future of Mott Haven.