Respecting an urban proposition she suggests in her related works and theories, Becca has explored a redesign of existing infrastructure rather than a demolition and new construction. “There is no need for new buildings,” you might catch her saying. With the rise of a collective eco-conscious, and the increasingly evident necessity for sustainable thinking, Becca’s ecological strategy is more “a requirement than a choice.”
What was the quintessence of an under-cared industrial wasteland, the Greenpoint Bus Wash has been transformed into a multi-use, community oriented space, capable of becoming a node for a developing community, over an urban residue on a far street-side.
Further integration with the surrounding community was a forefront intention of the new design, with a redesign of the existing park space, whose circulation and pathways carry through the design of the structure to create an interwoven continuity of spaces. The jointure of several of the park paths, just to the east of the building’s centroid, creates a dramatic point of public access and becomes an anchor for the organization of public spaces. Lobby and other public-oriented space are compartmentalized about the dramatic intersection of pathways. Flanked to either side, the monitor museum and multi-use public space, ideally seen as a farmer’s market, stretch out toward the waterfront, while the Apparatus bay hurdles the streetscape. Thus, the poetry of the East River scenery complements the poetry of community and history, while the first responders are nudged against the community street-system, becoming most-accessible to its extents in the event of emergency.
What was taken into reconsideration by the critique was the arrangement of a second storey, private spaces for the live-in firefighters, whose personal quarters were arrayed into a seemingly efficient system of “locker spaces” at the interior of the building’s footprint, but could not receive adequate light, nor had any relationship with the outside. They were quickly called out to be psychologically uncomfortable. A suggestion and future ambition would be to relocate such rooms along the structure’s edge, the opposite condition of the existing central, interior concentration.
Structure was certainly a hallmark of the proposal, with additive trusses and pillars lining the exterior of the old building, creating both the aesthetics of an industrial colonnade and yet an impression of weightlessness. The roof and almost all structure would become dependent on suspension from a line of trusses, rendering all interior structure much more simplified. The opportunity allowed Becca to redesign more interesting roof structures, and act more independently of the pre-existing column grid, which in this iteration becomes more of a tool of spatial definition than of structural essentiality. The new structural system, alone, produced one of the most identifiable design schemes among the entirety of the studio.
So if interior conditions are new, and the structural system is new, what of the old structure is maintained in the new design? The shell? Or has the shell become more a symbolic element with minimized bearing on the totality of the new design? This idea, through different aspects and considerations was the forefront of the critique’s comments and concerns throughout the remainder of the session. Becca’s representations were more than adequate in explaining spatial configuration and design strategy, however, was not indicative of relationship between ‘old-and-new’ that seemed to be such an important aspect of the entire project. Critique Lisa Iulo recommended a more diagrammatic approach to plans and sections that clearly identified pre-existing structure from new structure, through different means of poche and hatching, better allowing for the dialogue to be displayed. Becca’s collages and graphic representations of her design’s aesthetic potential were also suggested to be reworked to better emphasize the dichotomy she has explored.
Through design, this dichotomy was suggested to receive better emphasis by rethinking the surrounding conditions, such as the streetscape, understood to be the intermediary between old and the new, hosting structures of all ages. Understanding how to better shape and confront the streetscape by better crafting its facades might be an opportunity to take advantage of.
Despite all the evident potential, and what seemed to be understood by the critiques as an attempt to respect and reuse existing conditions, the strongest comment in the entire critique was that Becca’s design approach was simply too modest. “It could be more assertive,” asserted Lisa Iulo. Without giving much explanation, the audience was left to mostly interpret and define modesty for themselves. Perhaps the modesty came from the organization of spaces? There was certainly a minimalistic approach in allocating compartmentalized spaces, with what seemed to me an evident interest in maximizing, the open, public spaces. Perhaps the formal relationship of such interior spaces were too literal, too orthogonal to the master shape of the pre-existing structure.
It certainly should have not been a critique on the building’s footprint, as such would be necessary to uphold the attention of adaptive reuse. Perhaps Lisa foresaw a potential addition, or a contrasting element for juxtaposition that would be capable of erecting this conversation of aesthetic duality, though it was evident such would not be Becca’s intention, as clearly she intends to make the most out of the existing footprint, only executing a slight modification to regularize one of the footprint’s corners that featured a skewed and formally awkward corner. In regularizing the shape, there is a clear intention of de-emphasis, and a clear emphasis on the interior reorganization. Despite the evidence, perhaps the idea was misunderstood by the critique. Even through the regularity of the floor plan, responsive to the existing condition, the sections and new structure certainly offered aesthetic interest, certainly captivating enough to passer-byers on the street. No neighboring building featured a colonnade of trusses and piers that so evidently helped to define interior space, and no other neighboring structure could feature such openness and relationship with the green environment around.
The best way for Becca to move forward, and perhaps ‘radicalize’ her proposal’ would be in needed reorganization of the second floor, thinking of how to welcome light and maximize the efficiency and psychological ease of such spaces, all working under a condition of structural independence she granted herself with her monumental truss system.