The city's population is expected to mushroom to 9.1 million by 2030. Here's a novel way to accommodate that growth.

By 2030, New York City is projected to be home to 9.1 million inhabitants. Given the rigidities of the city’s natural and built topographies, New York will have to undergo a hyper-densification to accommodate its growing populace. But what’s to happen when the existing networks of infrastructure and housing have reached their maximum capacity?

After the Street, an ‘Experiments in Motion‘ studio sponsored by Columbia University GSAPP and Audi of America, charged eight students to develop an answer to this very problem. Recent grads Mengyi Fan and Marc Moukarzel responded by looking to the street to find the city’s great "unexploited building space" where they think the next step in New York’s (inward) expansion will unfold.

From its assassination by Le Corbusier to its later resurrection by Jane Jacobs and subsequent shirking by Robert Moses, the street–that erstwhile urban corridor, artery, thorough way according to which metropolitan life is oriented and activated–has occupied a central role in the polemics and design of the future city.

Yet Fan and Moukarzel’s proposal neither replicates the “violence” of the Modernists (or at least, that of its colorful language), nor the quaint fabricated stage sets of their pomo successors. Instead, the project references the hallucinogenic, neon-tinged city-worlds of Philip K. Dick novels and their subsequent film adaptations (see this year’s "Total Recall"), borrowing from them their impossibly dense and layered networks of buildings and infrastructure.

Beyond the Street presents a new strategy for density through a “multiplication of the street”, one suspended above the ground plane yet horizontally stratified so as to create all new, fully articulated urban spaces. That is to say, spaces not just for vehicular and pedestrian circulation, but places to foster new urban experiences. Fan and Moukarzel liken this stratification to Rem Koolhaas’s case studies in Delirious New York which investigated the sectional eclecticism contained within the formal body of the skyscraper, a spatial development made possible only by the elevator and the vertical dimension it opened up. This technological leap in building design “led to the relationship between the reproduction of floor slabs and the juxtapositive nature of the programs on each floor”. “If the street is approached in a similar way”, the duo write, “how can its identity be reinforced through juxtaposition and reproduction?”

The designers proposed pulling the street apart and compressing it into new “sandwiched” structures that could be inserted into the gaps between adjacent buildings. These would be balanced atop thin armatures anchored at ground level, minimizing their footprint and, thus, allowing the street to fulfill its more traditional function of moving cars and people.

Still, the relationship of street to storefront will have changed significantly, with existing infrastructure combined with new programs and circulation cores to ensure points of access to the blocks above. It follows, then, that the nature of the street would be irrevocably altered, but also made to adapt to the specific needs of its users.

“If the block is deemed as private ownership, then the street is a communal relationship. If the scenario is explored as a masterplan with many collaborators, then it could also convey a new rethinking of zoning laws. As an incentive, owners and developers give back street space to build or expand into it. It is not just an incentive, it also creates new social spaces and improves quality of life on a scale relative to the multiplicity of the street.”

Fan and Moukarzel envision these opportunistic structures to accommodate start-ups, creative agencies, and artist studios on the cheap. They would also contain residential clusters, shops, and cultural venues, not to mention public parks (think the High Line)–all diverse environments that would enrich the fabric of New York’s celebrated urbanscape.

See more of the project here, or browse on to Experiments in Motion for more on the studio. Plus, head over to the “Imagining the Lowline” exhibition (September 15-27) in the Lower East Side, where Experiments in Motion have installed a 50-foot model of Manhattan that charts the future of mobility latent within the city’s substructure.

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  2. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  3. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  4. Fishing boats, with high rises on the banks and a mosque in the distance.

    Will Sea-Level Rise Claim Egypt’s Second-Largest City?

    Al-Max village in Alexandria was ruined by floods in 2015. Yet, despite climate change’s growing threat to the city, critics say it has scarcely been addressed.

  5. Warren Logan

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.