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.
Each tower works in a symbiotic relationship with its hydroponic crops. Greywater collection from the mixed-use spaces irrigates crops, which filter the water to be re-used. Inedible plant material is composted; heat from this process is converted to energy to help power the building’s activities. Additionally, the whole of Sym.bio.pia anchors an intricate community network inclusive of the Hudson, Harlem, and other waterfront neighborhoods with their own iterations of this project. Thus, Sym.bio.pia is conceived simultaneously as an iconic urban farming structure that brings public access to the Harlem waterfront, and a replicable component of a city-wide sustainable nutrition and economic network along New York City’s waterfront.
The second place design, the Hudson Exchange by SWARM, consists of a multidisciplinary educational and experimental hub for experts and activists in food policy, nutrition, ecology, and urban systems. Spaces in this sprawling waterfront complex include a green market, food barges to transport produce, educational and research facilities, and a series of terraced gardens that steps down towards the Hudson, framing a view of the city’s skyline in the background. The centerpiece, however, is a tidal pool area that doubles as a wetland restoration laboratory.
The third place entry, Harlem Harvest by Tyler Caine, Ryan Doyle, and Guido Elgueta, is an energy and resource-positive complex that houses hydroponic agricultural environments and floating community gardens, providing agricultural education and produce to Harlem residents. The student prize was awarded to Stairway to Harlem by Daniel Mowery from the University of Virginia. His proposal consists of an educational campus where knowledge is shared about various forms of agriculture, food vending, and health and nutrition. At the water’s edge sits a sustainable shipping port. The whole system is connected to existing waterfront infrastructure such as River bank State Park.
Through its biennial competitions such as Harlem Edge: Cultivating Connections, The Emerging New York Architects Committee hopes to stimulate the minds of young architects to creatively tackle today’s principal urban issues. By publicly showcasing the best entries to this competition, the group pushes the dialogue about issues such as food production and adaptive reuse of defunct infrastructure to the forefront of the profession, encouraging a more complete dialogue about the opportunities and responsibilities facing New York City’s architects today.