Coney Island YMCA | Core 2 Studio

Core 2 Studio
Mariana Ibanez, William O'Brien Jr., Rosalyne Shieh
Spring 2019

To design a building for the YMCA is to improve the residents' life. For a public building that provides essential daily amenities, how to let in and reach out was my top priority during the design process. Also, for a building proposed on Coney Island, the relationship between the building itself and the city was also taken into account. For a district with such a diverse demographic profile, and an island with a haphazard planning past, how to design a building that would improve the overall urbanity was also a looming question to be addressed.

In 1969, Archizoom proposed the nonstop city, an infinite grid with elemental programs, subdivided by partial lines of walls, and interrupted only by natural features, as an instrument of emancipation to free the residences with its blankness, its featurelessness, and its endless connectivity.
Similarly, Superstudio at the time proposed the continues mountain, attempted to understand the nature of architectural continuity, where the world is rendered uniform by technology, culture, and all the other inevitable forms of influence.

What I found interesting and pertinent to my projects is that in both cases, the nature of the city is simplified to be a collection of rooms, subdivided by partial walls. Interior programs are flatted and displayed in juxtaposition with what was inherent from nature, such as mountains and lakes, and in my case here on the Coney Island; we have the beach, the boardwalk, the social housing communities, the theme park, and finally, the disordered and delirious nature of the island.  

For this project, the program of the building was first laid flat in comparison with the existing features from adjacent parcels on a gridded system. In this scheme, proposed Y becomes a container for programs and a connector among communities and different user groups by providing a shared container at the center, where programs are laid flat. Swimming pools, training rooms, gyms, and other active programs are all placed in this shared central volume. Connecting this volume and the surrounding parcels are five additional oblique containers that vary in size and thickness. The program grids within such containers are differentiated from the original gird with an angel to extend the connection from the central volume to the adjacent neighborhoods.

For example, responding to the concerns from the Y during the site visit regarding schools on the island lack open space and outdoor teaching opportunities, the container connecting the school to the Y is treated as an extension of the school. Kitchen gardens, outdoor classrooms, and test kitchens are proposed here, leading schools kids to the library above the central container, and sports facilities below it. For the container connecting to existing housing projects, playgrounds and running tracks are recommended as additional amenities for the residents. And finally, for the last piece connecting the Surf Ave, facing the ocean, the most active corridor on the island. An architectural presence is constructed by extending the Y to the street, to create an address for this building. In this container, cafes, small restaurant, reading rooms, and computer labs are prosed to better serve the communities in general.

The architectural expression of the building is an extension of the underlying program grid of the interior. By doing so, the invisible organizing structure for the building program is put up for display as the building's external facade — the homogenous and sometimes even nondescript nature of the exterior strike a dramatic contrast with the hyperactive interior. Moving through the building via ramps and staircases feels like riding a gentle roller-coaster, but with something more: the excitement of moving through many different programmed containers assembled as one single building.

On these grounds, there should be no doubt that, although come with parts, the proposed Y is one single building. Each container is reduced to a single space connecting to the central plate. So too are its contents. And thus all the objects, programs, and everyday activities are placed on one single extended plate, where they are dispersed and displayed.

The roof and the facade of the Y are semi-transparent, with glowing light from above. Radically differentiate itself from its towering context. While the building attempts to reach both horizontally and vertically, the boundary of the Y is subjectively expressed by its program but not the facade. The compression within the containers and the repetitive elements and programs within speaking to an immersive infinity. As part of the urban assemblage of Coney Island's delirious and fantastical world. The Y becomes a spectacle.