Presentation of the theme 'Living Models'

Our sub theme is Living models. First of all, I shall explain what Living Models mean for us. Having a home is a social right. And for us Living Models is about the position of the housed individual in the global tendencies inherent to New York. It’s about the individual subjected to these large scale trends. We started our research by investigating and mapping these tendencies.

In the last decade Brooklyn’s population has grown with 39.000 people, which means right now Brooklyn has to provide housing for just over 2.5 million people.
To fulfill this demand 69.000 extra housing units have been built over the last ten years. This is more than new units in Manhattan and Queens together. Apart from a few exceptions, we can see a pretty homogeneous growth in housing units in the area of Brooklyn.

A third widely known trend is the persistent growth of rental prices. Throughout the history the city developed a wide range of tools to control rents. However it seems that some tools miss effect, as the PH rent for example almost doubled in 6 years. Today, in times of economic crisis affordable housing is more important than ever.

The last trend we noticed was the ever decreasing footprint of housing projects. This offcourse has many reasons but one of them is that Brooklyn is running out of space.

Basically we can recapitulate the problem as follows: On one hand there’s a great need for more affordable housing, on the other hand there’s less and less buildable space. Combined with a real estate driven housing market, we quickly saw the complexity in the present housing problem.

Next up, we researched some typical Brooklyn typologies. As you can see, there’s a clear relationship between typology and morphology. The tenement for example, designed to maximize the unit density, is much deeper than the brownstone. The word typology implies a multiplication of the same configuration.

As a result the morphology has an influence on the block. This is clear when we study the negative space of a building block. Each typology implies different qualities and different uses of that unbuild space.

So taking the present tendencies in account, we can ask ourselves the question which typologies are the most suitable today.

Another theme that we have studied is Brooklyn’s public housing. By gathering different distinguishing characteristics we tried to systematize the public housing projects. For example the distance to the nearest subway station, the median income and the unemployment rate. But very soon the data became very impersonal, so we came up with the idea to create the Brooklyn Public Housing Cardgame.Its the same cardgame you typically find with cars, boats and so on. We replaced the amount of horse power with median household income. So for example project A with a higher median income will beat project B. We also added some cards with non public housing projects, color coded by typology. It gives a really strange feeling to literally play with these emotionally charged buildings.. We also think it’s an interesting way to continue the debate over a drink.
By creating this game we got some new insights on typologies. A typology is an answer to the needs for a specific group of people. Therefore a typology will continue to attract that same group. So basically typologies make a city static. If so, should we continue to think in terms of typology?

Next map shows all the public housing projects in relation to the poverty rate. The results are striking. Even while the city has historically strived to achieve a mix of incomes in public housing, almost two third of PH residents live in concentrated poverty. Possible explanations are the past of racial discrimination, the persistent building on the economical least desirable locations, the modernist urban design ideas and the political failure to created mixed income. Concentration of poverty has a serious impact on unemployment, education, crime, etc. Off course throughout time deconcentration of poverty created a challenge for urban planners. But why do these ideas miss implementation? Can we develop a radical new system of public housing to deconcentrate poverty?

Presentation of the theme 'Living Models', by Camiel Van Noten, Pieter Van den Poel and Koen Moesen.
Presented at GSAPP Columbia University on Wed. 9/28.

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