Student: Guillaume Fillion Lapointe
Advisor: Fabrizio Gallanti & Martin Bressani
Studio: Design Studio Option (DST)
Year/Term: Fall 2016
Alphabet City and Lower East Side were once the densest neighborhoods in North America. A “complex interplay of ethnic, racial, class, political and sexual relations” made those neighborhoods the most vibrant places in New York City(13). However, it was perceived with fear and revulsion by the population outside of “the hood”. From their very beginning, both were immigrants’ neighborhoods – After the early Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam and Irish immigrants, they were then populated by Germans, Jews, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians and lately by Italians, Chinese, Afro-Americans and so on. Their predominant position, sandwiched between Midtown and Wall Street, recently made them attractive to Real
Estate developers. When symbols and rhetoric characterise Alphabet City and Lower East Side as “peculiar and offbeat”(12), the enclave soon became appreciated by an inquisitive middle class seeking the edgy “bohemian mix” appeal of the neighborhoods(12).
Traditionally working class neighborhoods, Alphabet City and Lower East Side are now flushed with modern amenities, sanitized of their past. Marketable difference and pressure from the two poles of New York City (Wall Street and Midtown) are rapidly transforming them. They were once known for peddlers, hookers, street merchants, over-sized gay clubs like the Saint or edgy venues like Fillmore East or the famous punk underground club The CBGB. In an effort to sanitize the city, most of this palimpsest of history and the madness of the city has been erased.
This project is paper architecture. It does not speak of program nor of site specific responses in a definite manner. It speculates on the language of architecture and of the city. Nonetheless, it is interesting as part of the speculative exercise to examine the situation of Lower East Side and Alphabet city as pre-existing context for this block. Like in Coney Island, the delirium is being expelled and replaced. My project aims at keeping a form of delirium in a new architectural language build from the pre-existing evidence of the city and the intertextuality of its fabric.