Gallery: Winners of ENYA’s Harlem Edge Urban Agriculture Design Competi...

Last Thursday, July 12, The American Institute of Architects' Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) celebrated the winners of its 5th biennial ideas competition, The Harlem Edge: Cultivating Connections, with an exhibit opening and awards event at The Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village. The competition, as in previous years, seeks to broaden the scope of architectural discourse by challenging young architects to resolve site-specific, New York City based design problems. This year's Harlem Edge competition focused on the site of DSNY's decommissioned 135th Street Marine Transfer Station on the Hudson River, inviting participants to create a multi-modal transit hub and nutrition educated facility. With the assistance of competition client Nourishing USA, a group of esteemed judges chose 3 winning projects and a student prize, which are on exhibit along with other distinguished entries until the end of October at the Center.

image ©Linearscape

Each competition team was evaluated on four main criteria. In the spirit of NYC’s Vision 2020 waterfront development plan, and its Waterfront Redevelopment Program, designs must expand access to the Hudson waters for Harlem residents. Following the client’s mission of striving to provide “nutrition for all,” each project must also explore the possibilities of urban agriculture at a large scale. Additionally, entries were evaluated on the broader criteria of sustainability and creative programming striving to stimulate economic activity. The winning projects provide concise, holistic design solutions that concentrate on the potential of large scale urban agriculture while providing a great variety of public spaces and uses on the waterfront.

The first prize of the 2012 ENYA competition was awarded to Sym.bio.pia, from architects Ting Chin and Yan Wang of the firm Linearscape. This structure consists of a faceted landscape that meanders along the Hudson, rising through a web of sloped paths and emerging into a series of iconic towers housing vertical hydroponic gardens. The faceted surface serves as a park and connector to the nearby neighborhood, seamlessly tying Harlem to its waterfront. A ferry stop and farmer’s market activate the dock where the transfer station once stood, while further inland a swimming pool and fitness center provide a variety of active uses for residents. The paths follow the linearity of the West Side Highway, sometimes actually using the road and adjacent buildings’ structure as supports for the intervention.

Sym.bio.pia’s public spaces provide activity from the Hudson River waterfront to the upland Harlem neighborhood, but its towers go a step beyond. These vertical hydroponic farms enhance the project and bring environmental, agricultural and economic vitality of the project and the neighborhood, providing a nexus for the emerging market of urban agriculture. Composed of stacked modules that provide adaptability and opportunity for growth, the towers’ form is reminiscent of a cubist sawtooth. Seemingly random, this shape is derived from the necessity to provide optimal residential and commercial spaces at each floor via flat slabs, while taking advantage of sunlight to the south via offset sloped surfaces. The tapering farming “end” of each pod thus provides an indoor and outdoor growing surface, maximizing the potential for food production.

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