Timber in the City

Courtyard Render.jpg

Renewscape, New York NY

Studio: Advanced Synthesis Options Studio Timber Explorations

In part developed for Associate of Collegiate School of Architecture (ACSA) Timber in the City competition.

Location: New York, NY

Instructor: Josh Bard

In collaboration with: Dyani Robarge, Nicolas Gomez, Kirk Newton

Situated in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this proposal lies at the heart of New York’s dense network of energy and movement. The city is an organism in constant flux, with dirt-lined abstractions of metal and glass composing the bones of its extensive skeleton. But a shift towards a construction material that works with, rather than against, its environment has begun to occur. Wood can take over the structural duties of concrete and steel in dense urban construction, and remains far more sustainable. Wood as a primary building material presents a renewable alternative to the existing urban landscape and this projects test its limitations, its durability and most importantly its importance as a sustainable material for future use.


Site and Competition Overview

The site is situated in Manhattan’s lower east side in the former Seward Park Urban Redevelopment Area. It is at the corner of Essex Street and Delancey Street. In late 1960’s New York City leveled the southern side of Delancey Street displacing 1,800 low-income families with the promise of re-housing them in affordable housing. With market forces active in the area, the debate of affordable housing was long met with the new planning of the Essex Crossing Development.

Timber in the City competition takes the approach of housing mid-rise, mixed-use complex with affordable housing units, an Andy Warhol Museum and a new and expanded home for the Essex Street market currently sitting opposite the site. The design requires places for inhabitation, repose, recreation and local small-scale commercial exchange as well as social and cultural exchange, all while embracing wood as the primary material of use. Sustainable construction costs and costs savings where possible are optimum and considered important for the competition.


























Aerial view of the site and the block design. The L being the housing development along with the market place situated on the ground floor. The additional piece is the Andy Warhol Museum.

Timber Usage

As timber elements take on each of the project’s complex mix of building components, they empower a more holistic conceptualization of the site. Renewscape’s main structural system is composed of mass timber beams and columns. Above this, a concrete tray supports the dense packing of apartment modules. To save on transportation costs, prefabricated CLT panels are organized, stacked and shipped to the site where they are quickly erected into large modules and craned into place. Below the housing floats a market canopy composed of robotically steam-bent modules to provide shelter and beautiful daylighting effects for visitors below. Full-scale prototypes of the proposed system explored by our group test the viability of this idea.


The intrinsically sustainable timber structural system serves as a conceptual catalyst for the reimagination of other systems within the project. We propose a bioreactor be constructed beneath the site in the Lowline early in the construction process. At the onset of construction, wood scraps from the site are converted into energy within the bioreactor. Food waste created by the market and the residents also harbors the potential to transform into renewable energy.

Above this factory sits another. Fragments of Warhol’s work complement the industrial qualities of the bioreactor, giving visitors a peek into this active underbelly as they meander through a path of the art museum’s exhibits. The large, central courtyard pulls museum-goers, tenants and the general public off the busy street and into an inviting, shaded landscape. During the warmer months this space bustles with the activity of flexible market stalls.

Every element in the project is connected. The city is an interconnected system of movement: movement of energy, movement of ideas and movement of people. Renewscape takes advantage of these relationships to create a microcosm of the surrounding metropolis.Through regeneration, innovation within the urban landscape is possible.

Physical prototyping of the steam bent truss piece that is part of the Essex street market