Urban Design Studio 3, Columbia University Collaborator: Tzu-Ying Chuang, Jimmy Guo Instructor: Kate Orff, Geeta Mehta, Julia Waston, Dilip da Cunha Location: Varanasi, India
Our project focuses on the death rituals in Varanasi and their impact on local and regional ecological system. Thousands of people from India come to Varanasi each year to be cremated on Manikarnika Ghat after their deaths. Tons of wood, especially mango wood from nearby areas are shipped to Varanasi for the cremation process.
Varanasi’s death industry revealed a great potential being re-envisioned more ecologically friendly while at the same time preserving the existing rituals and religious heritage. The existing condition on the sandbank calls for a regenerative development. Due to an increasing amount of cremations at Manikarnika Ghat, some of the cremations are already taking place on the sandbank across the Ganges River. Meanwhile, the fragile ecology on the sandbank and green areas on the Ram Nagar side are threatened by the construction of a new highway and bridge.
Therefore, we propose new regenerative infrastructures on this side of the Ganges to release the overwhelming pressure on the Manikarnika Ghat with new cremation sites, hospice care centers, and death hotels. They will also revive existing temples, kunds and agricultural areas to heal existing urban scape. In detail, the proposed regenerative infrastructures will extend some of the existing roads, intersect with the historical pilgrimage route, and finally reach into the sandbank. These infrastructures will reactive and connect with their urban context, and will provide job opportunities and ecological benefits to local residents in Ram Nagar, many of whom are known as low-income.
A walking path that interconnects these developments along the boundary of sandbank will allow pilgrims’ and tourists’ flow for rituals and sightseeing. At the same time, a gentler and more ecological cremation process will be proposed. Instead of directly dumping 1350 tons of wood and body burning ashes into the Ganges each year, we are proposing filtering of the ashes in a terraced system step by step that will minimize river pollution while respecting people’s religious beliefs. The ashes will instead be channeled through planting systems that promote filtration and bioremediation. The State Board of Environment and Ecology of Uttar Pradesh will organize and control this process. Hence what will be proposed is a framework including ecological areas, farms, hospice centers and cremation areas to strengthen the connection between itself and its surrounding context.
We expect the new death landscape can become more self-sustaining with rapidly growing trees along the ecological fingers that lead to the forested area outside Ram Nagar fulfilling some of the demand for wood for cremation, while improving the environment. We will also propose space for light-weight installations that will facilitate making the sandbank a great place for social, cultural and recreational gatherings.
Waterfront Development & Eco Architecture
M Paul Friedberg Partners Mentor: Einat Grinbaum Location: Washington, DC Contribution: Data Collection, 3D Visualization, Rendering
Transforming an industrial wasteland into a vibrant waterfront park including a twelve-story sustainable building with green roofs and shared courtyard.
Urban Design Studio 1, Columbia University Collaborator: Ban Edilbi, Yuqi Cui, Jimmy Guo, Location: Hunts Point, Bronx
This project aims to provide a series of recreational spaces along the South Bronx waterfront, which can engage people with the waterfront and connect them to the rest of the Bronx River. In addition, the project complements the proposed food-way scheme, which links the Bronx River, Hunts Point, Soundview and West Farms communities through food related activities on the waterfront. One of the main issues we found from our analysis is that the food-way project comes to an end where the food distribution center facilities meet the waterfront. However, these facilities are highly dependent on truck movement and lacking in waterfront activities. Our scheme focuses on extending the scheme to Barretto Park by allowing both of these activities to coexist through creating layers of program space.
Specifically, this project will revitalize the waterfront with interventions in local industrial contents such as implementing community kitchen, compost garden, flea market, community center and public green-way. The compost garden allows people to compost waste from the Food Distribution Center and grow their own produce. They can also cook fresh food from the produce that they grow in the nearby community kitchen. Those people who wish to buy cheap and fresh food can go to the flea market. The existing prison barge will be turned into community center which includes an educational center, cinema and library to enrich the residents’ life. We will also introduce a ferry terminal for the residents from other boroughs to visit and local workers to commute.
Capstone Project, Purdue University Instructor: Sean Rotar Location: Genoa, Italy
This project seeks to revitalize traditional Mediterranean city Genoa’s waterfront by promoting port industry and energy transformation. It is a pilot project for advancing smart city in Europe.
Mountain, sea, aging seaport and traditional downtown with dense urban fabric are the four typical characteristics of a Mediterranean waterfront city. Genoa, which forms the southern corner of the Milan-Turin-Genoa industrial triangle of north-west Italy, is one of the country’s major seaport and economic centers.
As an aging seaport, the disorganized waterfront of Genoa is no longer a job creator and it is looking for industry change. Relocation of the airport and reorganizing port terminals create opportunities for reclamation of the land. Highway SS1 creates a distinctive barrier for people from downtown to access the waterfront.
As emerging tourism and sea level rise, the city calling for a new airport rather than its outdated coastal airport. It is a great opportunity to reclaim the land to people of Genoa, and act as birds sanctuary and clean energy test ground for Ligurian Sea.
Industrialized and aging seaport is looking for energy and industry transformation. Not only the waterfront will be more welcome for residents and tourist, but also function as a pilot system for solving marine pollution and energy problems.
Sustainable Stadium Development
Urban Design Studio, Purdue University Instructor: David Barbarash Location: Inglewood, CA
Inglewood used to be the sports capital of Southern California, playing host to the Lakers, the Kings and Hollywood Park racetrack. This 298-acre project aims at creating a vibrant new city center with the construction of City of Champions Stadium for Los Angeles Rams on existing Hollywood Park. Also, the vant land development within inglewood would be a vital part for making the development sustainable.
Agricultural Landscape along Wabash River
Case Study, Purdue University Instructor: Bernie Dahl Location: Dawrin, IL
Cornfields and flat landscapes are the symbols of Indiana. This project aims at transforming monoculture farmland along the Wabash River into a diversified agricultural land. The three main methods would be limiting nitrate pollution, bringing back ecological corridor and diversifying agricultural usages.
Land Time Bank
Revitilize Abandoned and Foreclosure Properties
Urban Design Studio 2, Columbia University Collaborator: Deeksha Kalra, Yinzhu Shen, Stanley Zhang Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
The increasing number of abandoned properties in Poughkeepsie is a public hazard both in terms of health and safety. They attract infestation, tend to become a congregation point for illegal activities like drugs, and a refuge for the homeless. One major contributor to the creation of these abandoned properties is the long process of foreclosure and the sale of tax liens to investors outside the city of Poughkeepsie.
The low spending capacity of most residents can be seen in both their inability to pay mortgage timely and pay for proper maintenance of houses. Expensive contractors required for maintenance of houses leads homeowners and landlords to procrastinate repair and maintenance jobs. Poughkeepsie has 41.1% of old houses (pre-war) and these tend to have higher maintenance cost due to outdated fixtures and materials being used for their repair. Both abandoned properties and poorly maintained houses cause overall deterioration of the neighborhood.
Technical jobs like plumbing, electrical, HVAC which support house maintenance are ‘Low training - High Pay - High Skill’ jobs. The presence of technical schools, construction companies and organizations like the Hudson River Valley housing and Habitat for Humanity in the Hudson Valley, present an opportunity to create a system where training, creation of jobs, maintenance of houses and revitalizing abandoned properties can be linked to support each other.
We propose the creation of a Poughkeepsie Land & Time Bank (PLTB). A bank which would provide services like maintenance in return for your time to community building. The first phase would be to advocate a change in policy where in a property vacant for more than a year and falling below Level C category of maintenance will by default come under the ownership of the Poughkeepsie Land & Time Bank. This phase would also include the creation of a Technical training- Construction hub at Cottage Street, an area which already has the base to support such activities.
The second phase would include two scenarios. In the first scenario, we argue that maintenance requires two key ingredients – material and services. The latter being the part that makes maintenance an expensive proposition, PLTB’s training centers will provide free services to homeowners, landlords and renters in return for community hours dedicated towards maintaining urban food gardens on vacant land in their neighborhood. The material cost for maintenance will still be borne by the homeowner.
In the second scenario, the abandoned properties that come under PLTB will be revitalized, stabilized and sold to either potential developers or will become co-ops with shared ownership. This model would help share the high property tax and maintenance cost of homes.
Both scenarios would in turn help improve the aesthetic and economical value of the neighborhood.
Siheyuan Typology Study
Urban Seminar: Fabrics and Typologies, Columbia University Instructor: Richard Plunz Collaborator: Chenyu Xu Location: Hufangqiao Area, Beijing
Throughout Chinese history, the siheyuan composition was the basic pattern used for residences, palaces, temples, monasteries, family businesses and government offices. In ancient times, a spacious siheyuan would be occupied by a single, usually large and extended family, signifying wealth and prosperity. Today, many remaining siheyuan are still used as housing complexes, but many lack modern amenities.
Siheyuan also serves as a cultural symbol of Beijing and a window into its old ways of life. It is a economic and cultural asset to the city, even to the world.
Modern Beijing’s population boom has made housing one of city’s biggest challenges. Siheyuan today are typically used as housing complexes, hosting multiple families, with courtyards being developed to provide extra living space. The living conditions in many Siheyuan are quite poor, with very few having private toilets. In the 1990s, systematic demolition of old urban buildings took place in Beijing under rapid economic development. Many Siheyuan are being torn down to address the problem of overcrowding, and have been replaced by modern apartment blocks.
Our proposal aims at preserving and reviving the old siheyuan district, which is not only will bring better and convenient life for those who currently live in, but also give historical identity and memory to the neighborhood. Specifically, we will diversify the function of siheyuan modals by creating different scales and level of spaces, including small scale residential, medium scale cultural space with mixed-use, and large scale for commercial use. In addition, we introduce bridge house modals to create rooftop platforms and connections for activities. We will also keep the original skeleton of the urban fabric and preserve an art museum of a celebrity. The proposed plan give a new definition of order and hierarchy of space by rearranging living units, street, public area and commercial zone.
Taipei Technology College Complex
X-information Modeling Class, Columbia University Collaborator: Shihao Liao, Chenyu Xu Location: Taipei, Taiwan