Between City and Water

Partner | Jianwei Shi
Elements of Urban Design Core Studio | Fall 2015

Advisor | Felipe Correa, Anita Berrizbeitia, Carlos Garciavelez
Featured in GSD Platform 9


The typical Manhattan blocks along the water edge of East River are limited in programs, typologies and connectivities because of the FDR Drive that stretches from Battery Park to 125th Street, and stands above ground. Consequently, the open spaces located along the water edge, which serve as an threshold between city and water, are also very narrow. In contrast to the rest of waterfront, an expanded threshold is placed at the Con Edison site on Avenue C and 14th Street.

Through settling multiple block typologies for different programs, a belt of public space, which stretches across the opposite corners of the site, connects all buildings and attracts citizens and visitors to the water edge. A public promenade forms a zig-zag pedestrian loop that bridges over FDR drive, and extend the public space to the anchor programs on the water. 

A belt of open ground spans across the site and divided the site into two major portions. Extending the courtyard typology of a typical Manhattan block into the site along Avenue C. Openings are made to allow maximum solar energy into the courtyard units. The move that responds to both Manhattan grid and Queens grid on the water edge creates continuous loop of public indoor space. The focal points that are northwest to FDR Drive are extruded in verticality to house offices and labs, and the other focal points on water are connected through lifted platforms cross over FDR Drive and stairs that lead to the platforms. A system of public space and buildings--the public promenade--with commercial replenishment from the towers, transits pedestrians to the water. Residential communities are connected to the system through a complete open belt on the ground. 


Two major circulation impulses the indoor public programs before FDR Drive and the outdoor public programs over water. The interior spaces generated by the public promenade buildings and partial courtyard space become the destinations to draw pedestrians to the end of the blocks. Simultaneously, the interior spaces ground the business incubators spaces ground the business incubators and research labs housed in the towers above. Stairs continue the sidewalks for pedestrians to access the public plazas on upper level, cross over the FDR Drive. Anchor programs at the end of the overhanging platforms would be the destinations for pedestrians, and the programs would be ferry stations, amusement park, performance platform, and restaurants and bars collections.

A great variety of unit types are generated according to the changes of building size and courtyard layout. Types include studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three- bedroom, and duplex-apartment in different sizes and shapes, in order to fulfill different desires. The proximity of different unit types varies so the tenants would have unexpected interactions with their neighbors in communal areas.