Typecast is a long-term, research-based investigation into a variety of building typologies to question what it means for a site to assume an architectural “type,” and to identify the ways in which these classifications have become stale, overly simplified, or misunderstood — how they have been typecast. By doing so, we aim to reframe the conversation about these places that are central to our lives as hosts to a significant amount of untapped human, spatial, and social capital. While technologies progress and policies shift, our understanding of building typologies tends to remain static and unresponsive. Typecast attempts to bring new perspectives to existing types, rethinking how they can best nurture contemporary ways of living in the city.
The first inquiry will focus on the isolated superblock apartment buildings known as “towers-in-the-park.” The deficits of this typology are well known, with its absence of street-life integration and perceived association with concentrated poverty. Towers-in-the-park are often stereotyped as dangerous ghettos and symbols of urban blight, a characterization reinforced by notorious failures such as Pruitt-Igoe, which was ultimately demolished in the 1970s. However, their particular assets—including productive ecological potential, opportunities for elder living, minimal site coverage, open space programming, and co-operative ownership models—have not been fully explored. We seek to raise awareness of this typology and cast it in a new light through photography and imagery, supported by policy research and conversations with residents about their experiences of living in towers-in-the-park.
This feature collects a series of posts from the League’s Urban Omnibus that launched the project. UO Editor Cassim Shepard and League Mills Fellow Andrew Wade introduce Typecast and the initial focus on towers-in-the-park. In addition, a series of photo essays explore five study sites: Co-op City (Baychester and Eastchester, The Bronx), by Amani Willett; Sea Rise and Sea Park East (Coney Island, Brooklyn), by David Lang; Todt Hill Houses (Emerson Hill, Staten Island), by Ben Stechschulte; Electchester (Pomonok, Queens), by Cameron Blaylock; and the Alfred E. Smith and Vladeck Houses (Two Bridges, Manhattan), by Anna Beeke. More material will be added in the coming months as we seek to provide a nuanced and complex view of the social capital of each site while noting how the buildings and landscape help or hinder different scales of community building.
Caitlin Blanchfield uncovers the nuances of Co-op City that make this unique development relevant to our broader understanding of social infrastructure, community pride, and affordability.
Brad Fox travels to Staten Island’s Todt Hill Houses and reminds us that amid debates on how design can produce environments of opportunity, people are what ultimately make a place.
Sarika Bansal investigates how traditions of advocacy, community tensions, and chronic underfunding inform residents’ opposition to a new development proposal at Smith Houses.
Ari Paul visits a Queens housing complex constructed by a labor union of electricians, and uncovers a history that provokes urgent questions about contemporary housing challenges.
A long-term Architectural League study into architectural typologies that begins with a closer look at five “towers-in-the-park,” one in each borough of New York City.
Ben Stechschulte photographs the Todt Hill Houses in Emerson Hill, Staten Island.
Announcing the winners of the Architectural League Prize 2017: Support
View lecture videos, read roundtable conversations, and see profiles on each of the eight 2016 Emerging Voices.
Sticks by Hou de Sousa was the winner of Folly 2016. Read an essay on this functional structure by Pasqualina Azzarello, Socrates Director of Public Programs; a roundtable discussion featuring the designers among other participants; and a look at this year’s other notable competition entries.
Announcing the winners of the Architectural League Prize 2016: (im)permanence