Brooklyn YMCA | Core Studio II

Located along the East river, the YMCA proposal occupies the edge of Williamsburg waterfront. As a reaction to the privately owned public space in the BIG architects’ proposal, I was interested in this idea that the YMCA will give up a portion of their land to be completely public in the form of a greenspace. Therefore, the provocation is to vacate 5 acres of land in front of the YMCA footprint, to be used as grazing land for free roaming cattle. The placement of a pastoral greenspace in the urban fabric of Williamsburg undermines the contemporary positions on land development. It is attempting to resist the issues of late stage capitalistic development driven by land value and the luxury real estate. As a nod to the Wheatfields by Agnes Denes, the paradoxical presence of the bucolic landscape in an urban setting questions the recent history of development as the unchecked totalizing forces of urbanism escalate density, land value, and inequality.

The YMCA itself is a long horizontal bar stretching to the full length of the site, flanked by narrow and tall residential towers. The foregrounding of bucolic landscape monumentalizes the building’s presence on the site. From a distance, the facade of the YMCA and the figure of its towers resonates with the Manhattan skyline on the horizon. As one crosses the grass that buffers the YMCA from the rest of Brookyln, the opacity of the facade dissolves, revealing layers of transparency and reflectivity. Standing before the polycarbonate pane, the image of Brooklyn behind prismatically shifts between glimpses of athletes inside and vistas of the East River. Inside, the lively surface of the swimming pool foregrounds the waters beyond. The facade therefore becomes a mitigator for planes of sight, and a site of convergence between the YMCA and the rest of the city.