Columbia GSAPP 
Fall 2018
Hamilton Heights; New York, NY
Academic Studio - Design
Faculty: Amina Blacksher
Solo Project
The prompt for Studio Blacksher introduced the section of Broadway between 120th + 152nd Street in Manhattan as just beyond the periphery of 'tourist New York;' cut off of maps and unrecognized in comparison to the glimmering lights of Times Square or the bustle of SoHo.  Therefore, this design aims to create an object of observation and observing that can be recognized from the scale of an airplane seat in transit into or out of New York City.
The project began with a mapping of each intersection between 120th St and 152nd St.  Defining each end of this section of Broadway, towers built by institutions of worship soar above the valley that forms between either end.  Coupled with Columbia University anchoring at the southern edge and City College of New York on the east edge, the contrast of religion and education highlighted the infrastructure of human curiosity present in the neighborhood.
Major religious towers demarcate the northern and southern edges of the research area.  Stretching nearly 400 ft high, the Neo-Gothic Riverside Church (1930) is the tallest religious structure in the United States.  On the northern end of the site, set on a bluff is one of the last remaining active cemeteries in Manhattan, operated by Trinity Church.  Co-located on this site is the Church of the Intercession, built in a combination of Gothic Revival and Tudor Revival.

Columbia University, where this project was undertaken, is also a major (and formerly religious) institution in the neighborhood.  Columbia recently embarked on constructing a new campus along Broadway at West 125th street, to significant community chagrin.  
Columbia's tallest building on its main campus, the Northwest Corner Building, located just a block away from Riverside Church.  The construction of this building (2010) resulted in the severe blockage of the telescope on the roof of Pupin Hall next door, a critical teaching and research tool for the often overlooked Department of Astronomy.  As a result, the primary telescopic resource for the University is located outside Tucson, Arizona--nearly 2,500 miles from campus.

Image Courtesy of Columbia Daily Spectator 

("Columbia Astronomers See Stars No More" - 30 September 2009)

The intersection mapping exercise (above) identified a typology of intersections: the design of Broadway intersections created an interstitial space that was sometimes open to pedestrians, and sometimes not.  There was only one location where there were two back-to-back blocks with an open promenade:  Broadway between 146th Street and 148th Street.
The intervention looks skyward examining the infrastructure of observation that exist above Hamilton Heights.  New York's airspace is some of the busiest of the world; and many of the common routes into or out of New York City's three major airports intersect with Hamilton Heights.  Three of the most common airplane paths that cross over the site are represented in the tower with three carved tubes that form observation decks and a central core in the middle.  The top of the tower serves as a site for amateur astronomy exploration, addressing new possibilities of community interaction between Columbia and the community.
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