Prototypes for Public Infrastructures | MArch Thesis

Prototypes for Public Infrastructures

Advisors William O'Brien Jr., Rafi Segal, Andrew Scott


It is understood that infrastructure is needed in order to support the occupation of dense urban centers. Cities are filled with technical structures that handle transportation, water, air, and power amongst other necessities. Expanding infrastructural systems require larger swaths of land to accommodate increasingly specific and singular functions. With increased urban density and the rising value of land a new architectural approach is needed to realize the full potential of these infrastructural projects, and while we have observed many large scale transformations there is a potential for small scale projects to serve as a catalyst for urban renewal.

In New York City the newest addition to the subway system, the Second Avenue Subway, has required the construction of a number of ancillary structures that house mechanical equipment, ventilation shafts, and egress. These buildings have been criticized for their failure to contribute to street life along Second Avenue, a matter made worse by the fact that the land the buildings occupy was taken through eminent domain. This thesis proposes an alternative to the existing attitude toward ancillary structures by introducing a series of micro scale public spaces that allow these infrastructures to be reclaimed by the community. These programmatically “thick” infrastructures create opportunities for unpredictable and variable uses to emerge in the city. The dense urban environment demands a layered public realm and by extension multifunctional and programmatically varied infrastructures. Through the introduction of new programs, these once hidden and inaccessible spaces can transform into a public utility for the city.