Brownsville Housing

Project Summary:

The site was split between two locations in the same area of Brownsville, Brooklyn, a community plagued by typical symptoms of a low-income neighborhood, flight of the upwardly mobile to other areas of the city and a vicious cycle of poverty. Students were encouraged to look at the various agencies associated with public housing in New York, (ie. New York City Housing Authority & Dept of Housing and Urban Development) and specifically the grants and money provided by these agencies. The southern site selected in this case was a long 8 block strip sandwiched between the old model of low income housing (the tenement high-rise) in a classical Corbusier towers in the park model and a “New Urbanist” low rise multi-family buildings to the south. The intention of this project is to mediate between the two.

Project Description:
Initial investigations for the project centered on the funding formulas of the multiple grants & programs which make billions of dollars available, specifically under the Bush Administration, the new emphasis to re-introduce funding for “Faith Based Groups”. The thinking is that if one can harness this “Faith Based” money used for essential services (ie shelters, clinics, classrooms, etc..) and hybridize them with other program (ie. Love motel, recording studio, escape pod, etc..) one can stretch this money even farther. These hybridized programs were divided into three functional groups, Housing, the Services for the housing, and Landscape. Organized vertically, these functional groups were made either public or for the private residents that lived in the complex. Through providing better housing the hope is to challenge the notion of low-income housing as transitional. The Housing Units at the ground level are referred to as “Virtual Units” or “Pods” because of their introverted smaller nature and emphasis on digital interaction with the outside community and are located at ground level or on the 2nd level. Because of their small size, they are also able to be scattered to infill space throughout the project.

The next larger unit size called “Service Units” house families and are so named because of their direct adjacency to private services. The last housing units are called “Physical Units” because of their adjacency to physical landscape. These units are the largest and allow the mixing of market rate housing to be included in the project.

The three distinct housing units are brought together by sharing private Services for the exclusive use of the residents. These private services are located in the upper levels and as mentioned are flanked by “service” housing units which blur the line between where the unit ends and the services begin. Public services are provided for the local community at large and are closest to street level.

The other unifying element of the project is the blanket like Landscape The landscape functions as a public space shared by residents and the local community alike and in a private context, provides the required nature for the “physical” housing units. Finally as a means of privacy, a Screen is deployed, either in the form of landscape (green) or as an actual built screen (hard). These screens give way in strategic locations to allow views through the site connecting the other two adjacent housing typologies through the site.

Project collaborated with Benjamin Porto