356 : Living Levels challenges the notions and culture of New York by attempting to create a new economy whereby currency is non-monetary and instead measured by the skills that one can bring to the community and their desire to teach and to learn. The proposal is designed to target refugees moving to the city and those currently homeless within the city – all of which have a desire to learn and integrate. This exchange of knowledge creates a culturally diverse community where people regardless of background are given the opportunity to learn. Skills and stories of refugees, the homeless and local community are given a platform to be shared.
The proposal acts as a precedent and catalyst for change with concepts that could be implemented in other pockets of space throughout the city. The concept looks to use the existing foundations and infrastructure of the industrial building at West 12th Street creating in 2020 a streetscape with an entrance that is recycled and stripped to create a thoroughfare between West 12th and Bethune Street. The existing building would be used as an exhibition space for the occupiers of the habitable spaces to showcase, market and sell their creations to the local community.
However given the locality of the Hudson River and anticipated effects of climate change the project seeks to adapt over time to with potential uses of the building evolving into a harbour in 2050 for travelling ships to dock and in 2100 an environment for underwater sealife to flourish.
The scheme looks to use an adaptable structure with a series of floating and cantilevering platforms that can shift and rise depending upon the ever-changing sea levels, anticipated storm surges or requirements of the users. All the habitable spaces will continue to be built surrounding the central tower core where the crane arm remains in situ.
On-site energy generation through wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, alongside the capture of rainwater collection for urban farming and greywater systems looks to promote a resilient, future proofed model of living that in it’s simplest form can be viewed as an off-grid community to survive climate change, and future energy tariff rises. It is crucial to highlight that the porous exhibition and market space at ground level ensures the community remains an integral part of the district and does not become isolated.
Co-living units are constructed from locally sourced material with modules designed and built to allow for flexibility. This system provides for a level of sophistication in allowing for passive supervision of spaces through carefully positioned glazed panels but allude to a feel of playfulness in the unique façade arrangements created. Rooflights are positioned above modules to provide spaces with natural daylight in a condensed urban environment.
The skills that are possessed by the residents are shared and taught to other occupants, with the aim that the Market and Exhibition space will house an arts facility, textile making studio, construction workshop, gardening zone and food classes, and many more.
Currently the area is predominantly occupied by 25-44 year olds. This already establishes a range of knowledge and historical experience that when given a platform to share could bridge a potential divide between newcomers to the city and the locals.
The establishment of a Worker Cooperative attempts to build a self-sufficient and self-governing community that still maintain a relationship with the local area. This community has connections with the capitalist model of New York through the construction of markets used to sell products and teach skills that have been built and nurtured on or off site.
The project acts as a beacon attempting to remove the sense of isolation refugees and the homeless have from the wider public and attempts to question and explore a way for those seen as outsiders to a community to integrate but also establish and thrive for themselves.
The issues that 356: Living Levels are proposing to alleviate are not issues that are isolated to Manhattan but are issues that are prevalent throughout not only the US but many Cities throughout the World.
Existing buildings can be retained, and converted into the public realm portion of the site, with the core structure built to enable the future Living Levels to be constructed.