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Williamsburg’s Waterfront: From Gentrification to Generification and Beyond

Julian Meisen

Content 1.0. Introduction 2.0. The context of Generification 2.1. Gentrification in Williamsburg 2.2. Deindustrialisation at the waterfront 2.3.

Rezoning Williamsburg

3.0. The nature of Generification 3.1.

Introducing Generification


Generification as an architectural phenomenon


Generification as a social phenomenon


Generification versus Gentrification


The City as a Product

4.0. Conclusion 5.0.

Critical Continuation of the City: A proposal for Williamsburg’s Waterfront

New York/Paris: The Shape of Two Cities – Urban Studio Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation GSAPP Columbia University Prof. Brian Sahd Fall 2013

1.0. Introduction

The North of Williamsburg has been subject to strong

After contextualising the new developments by examining

forces of change within the last decades. The most recent

major processes of change within Williamsburg, such as

change came with the new developments on the waterfront:

gentrification, deindustrialisation and rezoning, I will

The Northside Piers and The Edge. This paper tries to

define generification as an architectural phenomenon on

question the traditional interpretation of a gentrified

the one hand and as a social phenomenon on the other.

neighbourhood by proposing a more refined reading of

Further, I will give an account of the consequences of

the change that is happening in Williamsburg. Taking the

a market-driven conception of urban space at the scale

fundamental discrepancy between classical gentrification

of The Northside Piers and The Edge, before I finally

and the development of the Williamsburg waterfront, I

conclude that generification has created an enclave that

will introduce a new term in order to describe the novelty

is marked by its incompatibility with the given context

and the distinct character of a new force of change that

of Williamsburg. Finally I will introduce an architectural

occurs when the upgrading of a neighbourhood is no

project as an alternative proposal for the development of

longer caused by private individuals but by corporations

Williamsburg’s waterfront.

and real estate developers: Generification.

01 Study area


2.0. The Context of Generification 2.1. Gentrification in Williamsburg

Very few urban areas give a better example of what

we see that the number of white residents has risen by

is referred to as gentrification than Williamsburg,

75%, while the Hispanic community was diminishing by

Brooklyn. The gentrification of Williamsburg started

25%. Further, the number of people holding a bachelor’s

with illegal conversions of loft spaces by artists in the

degree or higher has increased by 16%, opposed to a

1970s, resulting in a systematic conversion of industrial

mere increase of 5% in Brooklyn and New York. Finally,

space into residential and commercial space within the

the 73%-rise of non-family households (against plus 16%

last decade.¹

and plus 8% in Brooklyn and New York) shows how

Gentrification is largely defined as a conflict over space

gentrification is shifting the composition of households

between unequally wealthy residents: Peter Marcuse

towards away from the family model and therefore

speaks of “lower-income residents” as opposed to “upper

mirrors the rising number of single living residents.

income households”2 and Neil Smith of “working class”

In Williamsburg, the influx of wealthy people has been

against “middle class”.3 For this reason the conflict

strongly affecting the real estate market: The prices

between the new gentrifiers and the local residents

for single and multiple family buildings, as well as

becomes most obvious in the increase of income.

condominiums multiplied five to six times since 1990

Williamsburg’s demographic data4 renders a clear picture

and the number of vacant housing units increased by not

of this shift. Between 2000 and 2011 the average income

less than 12 100% (compared to 113% in Brooklyn and

decreased both in Brooklyn (by 4%) and in New York City

83% in New York) between 2000 and 2011.5

as a whole (by 9%), however in Williamsburg (defined

It becomes evident that a tremendous demographic

as North-side and South-side Williamsburg, according to

difference between the new and the old inhabitants of

the NYC Census) income increased by 85% in the same

Williamsburg, based on different financial power, has

timespan. As well, data on race, education, and household

emerged. The new wealth of Williamsburg residents is

composition between the years 2000 and 2011 shows a

further reflected in the growth of the real estate market

more accurate profile of the gentrifying “class”: Mostly

that is likely to outprice the old residents and continue the

white, mostly highly educated and often unmarried.

displacement that began in the 1990s.

Looking at the two major racial groups in Williamsburg,

1 Winifred Curran: ‘From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Urban Studies, p. 1431, Vol. 44, No. 8, 1427–1440, July 2007. 2 Peter Marcuse: Islands of Decay in Seas of Renewal: Housing Policy and the Resurgence of Gentrification, in: Housing Policy Debate. vol. 10, pp. 790-791, 1999 3 Neil Smith: Gentrification and uneven development, in Economic Geography, p. 139, 1982. 4 NYC Census data, 2013:

5 NYC Census data, 2013:


2.2. Deindustrialisation at the Waterfront

For many decades Williamsburg has been a powerhouse

urban development. As industry was for logistic reasons

for various forms of industrial activity, such as breweries,

traditionally located alongside rivers, the space that it

oil refineries, sugar refineries and apparel manufacturing,

leaves behind is particularly attractive––especially in

most of them located at the waterfront.6 However,

Williamsburg where it is facing the Manhattan skyline.

numbers prove that the nationwide decline of urban

Besides that remaining industrial lofts that are often

industrial sites has also affected Williamsburg: Between

converted into apartments, the conversion of industrial

1991 and 2002 industry in Williamsburg decline by 40%

space also entails the demolition of industrial buildings in

and manufacturing––more specifically––by 72%.7 As a

order to be replaced by new residential buildings.8

result, formerly industrial space becomes available for

02 The Sugar Domino Refinery and Havemeyer Park

6 Winifred Curran: ‘From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Urban Studies, p. 1431, Vol. 44, No. 8, 1427–1440, July 2007. 7 NYC Department of City Planning, 2005: greenpointwill/greenplan3.shtml

8 Winifred Curran: ‘From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Urban Studies, p. 1431, Vol. 44, No. 8, 1427–1440, July 2007.


Thus, it is the deindustrialisation of Williamsburg that

Whereas the rezoning also addressed protective

makes highly attractive urban space available and thereby

measures, such as affordable housing and the protection

supports the demand of redevelopment that is created by

of certain industrial activity, it laid the foundation for


an unprecedented acceleration of the neighbourhood’s upgrading caused by the real estate developments that

2.3. Rezoning Williamsburg

were consequentially realized. Disguised as a sensitive reaction to the ocurring changes,

When the New York Department of City Planning announced

it seems that the rezoning can be considered as the final

the rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in 2005, its

step that enabled redevelopment and thereby accelerated

primary goals were presented as a reaction to the change that

the influx of new money into Williamsburg.

has been occurring in those areas for years: Deindustrialisation and gentrification.9 The planning framework of the rezoning is guided by the Community 197-a Plans.10 Its two major objectives are to “achieve waterfront access” and to “facilitate housing and local commercial development”, which means turning deindustrialisation into a public benefit by creating open spaces near the East River as well as reacting to the decline of manufacturing and the increase of residential and commercial demand through the influx of new residents by changing the zoning from manufacturing to commercial and residential.

03 Zoning before 2005

04 Zoning after 2005



Mixed Use



9 NYC Department of City Planning, 2005: greenpointwill/greenoverview.shtml 10 NYC Department of City Planning, 2005: greenpointwill/greenplan1.shtml


3.0. The nature of Generification 3.1. Introducing Generification

With the rezoning of 2005 the change in Williamsburg

and the waterfront, called The Northside Piers and The

has taken another dimension. As pointed out before,

Edge. Given this example, it seems that gentrification––

the shift from industrial to commercial and residential

which is normally associated with the restoration of old

use through the rezoning of North-Williamsburg

structures––has generated a wave of redevelopment.

redevelopment has finally become possible. The most

This raises the question if redevelopment still is a matter

prominent results of this development are the luxury

of gentrification, as Neil Smith points out in 1982: “I

high rises built in 2008 and 2009 between Kent Avenue

make the theoretical distinction between gentrification

05 Construction workers building a fence around the Sugar Domino Refinery to prepare its redevelopment. The Northside Piers and The Edge in the background.




06 Illustration of the social and spatial gap between the gentrified and the generified part of North-Williamsburg






city like the contemporary airport – ‘all the same’? What

rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of

is left after identity is stripped? The Generic?”13 In his

new buildings on previously developed land.”11 Further

description it is the generic that sums up the nature of

it seems that gentrification has mutated into something

change that is manifested in the aesthetic and social

that actually is opposed to the core characteristics of

transformation of the guidelines of urban development.

gentrification, such as the rehabilitation of identity and

In the following I will apply Koolhaas’ conception of the

history of urban structures, reacting against the growing

generic on my description of the redevelopment that has

uniformity of cities through the proliferation of chain

been taking place at the North-Williamsburg waterfront.

stores and real estate developments.

By discussing it as a mutation of gentrification and

In order to discuss the essence of this mutation I will refer

thereby regarding it as its following stage, I want to term

to Rem Koolhaas’ 1994 essay The Generic City.12 Since

this development generification.

his 1978 retroactive manifesto on Manhattan––titled

Arguing that generification separates its territory from

Delirious New York––Koolhaas has been interested in

the already gentrified area along Bedford Avenue I will

the role of architecture within capitalist society. Adding

draw the dividing line along Kent Avenue, regarding it

globalisation alongside capitalism as another major factor

as the border between the generified and the gentrified.

for his account of contemporary urban development, in

Further I will discuss the term gentrification as both an

The Generic City he is questioning the effect of global

architectural as well as a social phenomenon.

capital upon the urban environment: “Is the contemporary 11 Neil Smith: Gentrification and uneven development, in Economic Geography, p. 139, 1982. 12 Rem Koolhaas: The Generic City, in: Rem Koolhaas: S, M, L, XL, pp. 1248-1264, New York 1995.

13 Rem Koolhaas: The Generic City, in: Rem Koolhaas: S, M, L, XL, p. 1248, New York 1995.


3.2. Generification as an architectural phenomenon a) From “The Generic City” to Generification

Central to Koolhaas’ observations is the aspect of identity.

the Generic City as a “repetition of the same structural

Although the loss of identity is a recurring element in his

module” 14, which in regard to the rezoning plans can be

text, it is probably his critique of the absence of a centre

recognized as the multitude of equally shaped high rises,

and therefore the absence of a tool of identification that

united in their staggered silhouette, generating the typical

provides the clearest picture of the spatial implication of

image of Manhattan skyscrapers, shaped by New York’s

the loss of identity. Comparing the notion of the absence

zoning laws (see image 10). In Koolhaas view the choice

of an urban centre as the absence of identity with the

for high rises over vertical buildings turns the Generic

proposed reality of the New York Department of City

City into a declaration of “density in isolation”.15 As a

Planning’s visualisation, it becomes clear that Koolhaas

high rise disconnects its inhabitants from the ground level

critique is applicable. The pictures show separated groups

and therefore from public life on the street, the divide

of high rises along the Williamsburg and Greenpoint

between the new residents of the waterfront and the rest

waterfront (see image 09); a long homogenous strip of

of the neighbourhood can be seen as spatially manifested

condominium towers as a new part of the city––due to its

in its architecture. By ignoring the industrial past of their

geographical layout not able to have a centre as a point that

site the new developments are an example for the kind of

connects its single parts. Moreover, Koolhaas identifies

development Koolhaas is describing: Existing buildings

07 The Edge

08 The Northside Piers

09 Illustration of Zoning

Source: NYC Department of City Planning

10 Illustration of Zoning

Source: NYC Department of City Planning

14 Rem Koolhaas: The Generic City, in: Rem Koolhaas: S, M, L, XL, p. 1251, New York 1995. 15 ibid. p. 1253


have been erased and thereby all links to the past. Furthermore, Koolhaas is stating that “all generic cities issue from the tabula rasa; if there was nothing, now they are there; if there was something, they have replaced it. They must, otherwise they would be historic.”16

As well, Koolhaus maintains: “Each Generic

City has a waterfront, not necessarily with water (...) but at least an edge where it meets another condition, as if

11 Pier with outdoor furniture

the position of near escape is the best guarantee for its


enjoyment”17 (See image 11). Referring to the interior

take the “sedentary position“18 Koolhaas is ascribing the

spaces of the Generic City Koolhaas pictures it as place

generic experience to (see image 12).

for a sedated lifestyle––an attribute that seems to in line

As shown, Koolhaas’ essay The Generic City serves

with the marketing images of the amenities offered in The

well to critically examine the spatial characteristics of

Northside Piers and The Edge. Those images show large

developments like The Northside Piers and The Edge as

wellness and workout facilities that enable its residents to

the outcome of generification.

12 Whirlpool in The Edge

16 Rem Koolhaas: The Generic City, in: Rem Koolhaas: S, M, L, XL, p. 1253, New York 1995. 17 ibid. p. 1257


13 Rem Koolhaas: The Generic City, in: Rem Koolhaas: S, M, L, XL, p. 1250, New York 1995.


b) Urbanization and the absence of architects

the proliferation of enclaves, walls, and apparatuses of control. (...) The rise of urbanization as an apparatus of

Developments like The Northside Piers and The Edge

governance is marked precisely by the constant dialectic

are the result of a twofold process: Rezoning and

of integration and closure.”19 It seems that generification

development. Thus, the two major actors involved are

as the result of the apparatus Aureli is referring to––

city planners and developers, forming what I want to

which in Williamsburg’s case would be planner-

call a planner-developer-complex, characterized by the

developer-complex––leads to certain spatial formations,

absence of mechanisms of architectural culture, such as

which Koolhaas already touched on in his comments

architectural competitions for instance.

about verticality, edges and the absence the centre,

In his 2011 book The Possibility of an Absolute

now complimented by Aureli’s enclaves and walls. The

Architecture Pier Vittorio Aureli highlights the distinction

absence of mechanisms like architectural competitions is

between architecture and urbanization, whereas his

hereby symptomatic for the non-transparent process of

definition of urbanization is similar to Koolhaas account

managerial development of urbanity.

of the Generic City: Architecture that is shaped by the

Hence, the very nature of urbanization, as opposed to

global capital, conducted through a managerial ethos.

architecture, seems to equal the spatial and architectural

Further, he remarks: “Today it is clear that the outcome

aspect of generification, both strongly affected by the

of the logic of urban governance manifests itself (...) in

absence of architects.

13 Site fence enclosing one of the vacant lots at the waterfront.

19 Pier Vittorio Aureli: The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, pp. x-xi, Cambridge 2011.


14 Children and Nannys in front of The Northside Piers

3.3. Generification as an Social Phenomenon

Having described generification as an architectural

The primary finding is that the average income of

phenomenon, I want to shift the focus to the social implications

those participated in the survey turned out to be around

of The Northside Piers and The Edge. Whereas gentrification

$192.000. That is almost four times more than the

is defined as the scenario when medium income residents

average income in Williamsburg, which was around

move into low income areas, generification could be the case

$48.000 in 2011. Given that the Williamsburg numbers

when upper income residents move into new medium income

are already reflecting the effects of gentrification and

areas that have been low income areas before. In order to

that the average income in Williamsburg in 2000 has

examine the demographic implications of those upper income

been around $26.000, the data for The Northside Piers

people, I conducted a survey amongst 35 residents of the new

and The Edge illustrates the enormous acceleration of

waterfront developments on October 18th 2013.

the wealth in the neighbourhood that is taking place and


gives further reason for the above mentioned increase

A Survey amongst residents of The Northside Piers and The Edge:

in real estate value in Williamsburg, especially in the years after the completion of The Northside Piers and

Where did you live before?

The Edge. Above all it mirrors the socio-economical



divide between the gentrified and the generified part of


13 %

the neighbourhood.

Outside NY


Since the data draws the picture of an upper class

71 %


enclave, being distinguished from the neighbourhood it is located in, it raises the question seems how its residents relate to the rest of the city. While most of the

Why did you move to Williamsburg’s waterfront?

respondents stated that their main reason to move to the waterfront is its proximity to Manhattan or the building they moved into (both 29%), only 14% of the respondents

Proximity to Manhattan

29 %

The Building

29 % 14 %

Williamsburg Amenites

stated that their main reason to move to Williamsburg


was actually the neighbourhood itself. Further, it turned

3% 25 %


out that their social environment is still mostly located in Manhattan, as 40% of the new waterfront residents

Where do most of your friends live?

indicated that the majority of their friends are living

40 %


in Manhattan, against 34% in Brooklyn. Numbers on

34 %


public transport show that 40% of the respondents are


using the ferry to go to work, whereas only 37% take

3% 23 %

Outside New York

the subway, 17% the car and only 3% go by foot or bike. The ferry station is the only direct connection of public

How do you get to work?

transport within the newly developed area and it seems

40 %


to be the main link between the waterfront enclave and

37 %


the part of the city towards which, according to the data,

17 %


most of its residents orient themselves: Manhattan. At the time I conducted the survey I also had the chance to have a conversation with some of the inhabitants of

By Foot




The Northside Piers and The Edge (see image 15). One male resident in his mid-thirties told me that “basically Here I get more space for my money!

everyone” in The Northside Piers moved there because they were outpriced by the extreme rise of real estate value in Manhattan. Others were confirming this.

This is actually Manhattan!

Everyone in Northside Piers moved here because Manhattan became a bad deal!

Referring to the social and spatial structure of the new developments another female resident made very clear that in her view “this is actually Manhattan.”

15 Quotes from residents of the The Northside Piers and The Edge


16 Ferry leaving the Williamsburg station.

The data gives above all two major insights: Firstly, it proves that the new residents belong to a much higher income group than the middle class residents of Williamsburg, that are largely considered as gentrifiers, and secondly, that the new residents are socially and economically stronger connected to Manhattan than to Williamsburg. For this reason, the new developments do not seem to be a mere enclave but an exclave of Manhattan––a Generic Exclave.


3.4. Generification versus Gentrification

In order to highlight the divide between what I have

the new developments rather shows how daily life can

called generifiers and gentrifiers, I have listed a number

be governed by an all-encompassing service (such as

of juxtapositions, exemplifying the major distinctions

A 24-hours attended lobby, children’s playrooms and

between both groups.

parking service), turning the residency at The Northside Piers and The Edge into a hotel-like experience that

a) Generic Exclave versus The New Frontier

is normally associated with residential buildings in Manhattan.

Opposed to the term Generic Exclave, The New Frontier d) Sedated versus Hyperactive

describes the area of prevailing gentrification. As the heading-west-movement of early American Settlements, to which this term refers, gentrification is characterised

When it comes to leisure, the amenities of the waterfront

by the conquest of urban space, widening the inner

developments provide a miniature landscape of the

city by moving towards the periphery. The movement

sedative: swimming pools, fitness centers, sauna,

towards the outskirts (which is evident not only in the

whirlpools, massage and yoga rooms. However, leisure

case of Williamsburg but rather with the more recent

within the gentrified part of Williamsburg looks different.

gentrification of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant) is

The hedonistic lifestyle of the hipster crowd, especially

directly opposed to the strong ties with the Manhattan

during the night, is in the constant state of distraction

city center maintained by the generifiers.

and hyperactivity, seduced by an infinite amount of bars, nightclubs, art openings and underground parties.

b) Expats versus Pioneers e) Waterfront versus Main street

As the inhabitant of an exclave can be defined as an expat, the people that are setting a new frontier are acting as pioneers. Expats and pioneers may share the same

The landmark of the Generic Exclave is the waterfront––

place, however they are fundamentally different in their

less a social space (at least in its current design) than a

relation to their environment: The expat is defined by

place defined by nothingness (the water) and a promise

being distanced but still linked to his origins, whereas the

behind that: Manhattan. The centre of Williamsburg

pioneer strives for the unknown, distancing himself from

gentrification is however its main street: Bedford

his origins. This logic can be applied on the juxtaposition

Avenue, is a social space to its core––the agora of both

of generifiers and gentrifiers

the gentrified scene and the old residents.

c) Service versus DIY Whereas Do-It-Yourself proves to be the attitude of the gentrified Williamsburg with more and more DIY houses opening, providing the scene with alternative art and event spaces,20 21 the wide range of amenities in

20 21 Marcin Ramocki: Brooklyn DIY, Film, New York 2009.


3.5. The City as a Product

Although we can look at generification from an

have been added to the immediate streetscapes through

architectural and a social point of view, both aspects

the redevelopment of those blocks. Considering the

become united in its functional logic of exclusiveness.

strong resistance against the proliferation of chain stores

The spatial concept of mixing a wide range of amenities

in Williamsburg, documented by various newspaper

with residential space gives away the possibility of a

articles,23 24 the trade-off remains clearly negative for the

streetscape seamed by those public uses that have been

greater community. The green space close to the water––

internalized within developments such as The Northside

in its design highly generic in the Koolhaasian sense––is

Piers and The Edge. The understanding of the city as

hardly compensating. As a consequence the parasitical

a conglomerate of separated but accessible functions

relation of the new developments towards the city makes

connected through public space is therefore attacked

it incompatible with the existing structures.

by the integration of functions into exclusive space.

Through their size and agglomeration The Northside

Referring to the rise of market-driven urbanization Aureli

Piers and The Edge are not merely single buildings, but

describes this situation as the “constant dialectic of

form a new part of the city. At the same time they are

integration and closure”.22 Whereas the exclusive sphere

not conceived as parts of the city, but as a product for

of the The Northside Piers and The Edge has integrated

the real estate market of New York City. By privatizing

restaurants, bars, lounges, spas, gyms, swimming

traditional elements of the public city developments

facilities, children’s playrooms, cinemas and sports

like The Northside Piers and The Edge are creating an

grounds (see image 17), only a few restaurants, a dog

exclusive sphere, favouring the enclave over the city.

walker shop, a Duane Reade store and a CVS Pharmacy

17 Amenities in The Edge


22 Pier Vittorio Aureli: The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, p. xi, Cambridge 2011. 23 Paul Harris: Brooklyn’s Williamsburg becomes new front line of the gentrification battle, The Guardian, 11 December 2010. 24 Charles V. Bagli: As a Neighborhood Shifts, the Chain Stores Arrive, The New York Times, 11 November 2010.


4.0. Conclusion

Today generification is a major force of change in Williamsburg. Having deindustrialisation, rezoning and above all the continuing gentrification paved its way, generification must be regarded as a phenomenon of late gentrification. It drastically accelerates the on-going increase of real estate value and thereby promotes the problem of displacement that the area is facing since gentrification has started to transform the neighbourhood. The social antagonism within the community has become more complex. The traditional conflict between lower income local residents and middle class gentrifiers has turned into a conflict between the new upper income residents and both middle class, as well as lower income


residents. Through the clash of generic architecture and

1-2 family

corporate retail against existing structures and local

Multi-family walk up

identity, the divergence between the self-conceptions of

Multi-family elevator

generifiers and gentrifiers becomes evident.


As shown, the new antagonism is not only a conflict


over residential space anymore, but also about industrial


and commercial space and therefore about whole urban


environments.25 From a spatial perspective, the heart

Public Facilities

of the problem lies in the fact that the potentiality of a


public city is dismissed in favour of exclusiveness. The

18 Landuse in North-Williamsburg

incompatibility of generic urban structures has to be countered by stressing the idea of a continuation of what the legacy of an urban structure of a city such as New York––a structure which is conceived as a rich pattern of separated functions (see image 18), tied together through public space and eventually creating a rich diversity of both urban forms and urban functions, leading to greater diversity within public space––the fundamental quality of urban life.

25 Neil Smith in: In Williamsburg, rocked hard, The New York Times, 28 May 2011.


5.0. Critical Continuation of the City: A proposal for Williamsburg’s Waterfront In the following I will propose an architectural project for an alternative development of Williamsburg’s waterfront. The project aims to be highly compatible with the urban structure of Williamsburg, while yet being an independent and progressive proposal. The project sacrifices the possibility of being realistic in favour of a stronger expression of its conceptual ideas. In reference of the preceded analysis of the current condition of the Williamsburg’s waterfront, the project is based on three points: 1.

The continuation of the city, as opposed to the enclave.


The architectural structure of the city, as opposed to the generic.


The contextualisation of the new within the old, as opposed to city without history.


1. The Continuation of the city Looking at the land use of the area between the waterfront and Bedford Avenue, we see a colourful pattern of diverse functions (see image 19). Taking this condition of diversity as principal quality, the project tries to continue this rich pattern to the waterfront in order to create a vivid mix of spatial functions (see image 20), assembled within public space and thereby inverting the spatial logic of the existing waterfront developments. On this way it is also possible to keep the traditional use of manufacturing at the waterfront, although in smaller scale, reflecting its decreased but still existing relevance. Instead of applying the existing size of blocks and thereby its grid, the proposal establishes a much small grid that allows a combinatorial game of placing deliberately freestanding buildings. As a result, the amount of public space in between those buildings increases tremendously, creating a medina-like structure of lanes and small squares.

Parking 1-2 family Multi-family walk up Multi-family elevator Residential/Commercial Office/Commercial Industrial/Manufacturing Sports/Leisure Public Facilities Park 19 Landuse in North-Williamsburg after the rezoning

20 Landuse in North-Williamsburg after the rezoning


2. The Architectural Structure In order to provide infrastructure and to continue the road network the proposal creates a second level of scale, the projects takes up the concept of the superblock (see image 21). The superblock antagonistically relates to the small-scale grid mentioned above, by framing the loose continuation city and thereby manifesting the role of architecture as a means of separation and definition. The slender, frame-like buildings of the superblock contain residential space, which thereby becomes intensely linked to both the streetscape as well as the urban condition of the public space inside the large-scale courtyards (see image 22). Thus, residential space is no longer isolated, as within the disconnected waterfront high-rises, but exposed to the public and vice versa, stimulating a stronger engagement with the city and its community. In order to create vivid spaces withine the residential frames, the “courtyard”-buildings are containing public functions, such as office space, commercial space, manufacturing, public institutional space, leisure and recreational spaces or parking. In order to avoid closure (not to be confused with separation) the residential slabs stand on columns. The resulting colonnades below the residential space allow permeability between the “courtyards” and the streets. The edge lenght of the Residential Frames measures 460 feet.

Parking 1-2 family Multi-family walk up Multi-family elevator Residential/Commercial Office/Commercial Industrial/Manufacturing Sports/Leisure Public Facilities Park 21 Landuse in North-Williamsburg + Residential Frames

22 Floor plan type of residential slab


3. The Contextualisation Rejecting the idea of the city without history, the project opens up a brutally honest dialogue between the existing buildings and the projection of the plan (see image 23). As a critique of generification, the space around The Nothside Piers and The Edge will be flooded, so that the buildings become islands, disconnected from environment. As monuments of failure they will become part of the waterfront ensemble, being literal enclaves. In order to keep the unique character of the industrial character, all buildings older than the rezoning will be preserved and used within the concept of the continued city. The simple grid also allows incorporating other spaces, which are defined by the condition of the site, such as parks, beaches and reservoirs. Hence the contextualisation leads to a fragmentation of the structure that is defined through the continuation of the city as well as its architectural structuring.

Parking 1-2 family Multi-family walk up Multi-family elevator Residential/Commercial Office/Commercial Industrial/Manufacturing Sports/Leisure Public Facilities Park 23 Landuse of the proposal (Small grid + Frames + Context)

24 Residential frame + Public court


25 Plan


26 Montage


27 Montage detail

Sports grounds Urban park Colonnades Pre-Zoning building River park Small squares and lanes Residential slab

28 Street corner


29 Montage detail

Preserved warehouses Generification Memorials Reused industrial buildings Floating industrial tanks Reservoire Floating pool


Bibliography: Aureli, Pier Vittorio: The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, Cambridge 2011. Curran, Winifred: ‘From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Urban Studies, Vol. 44, No. 8, July 2007 Lees, Loretta: Gentrification, New York 2008. Koolhaas, Rem: S, M, L, XL, New York 1995. Marcuse Peter: Islands of Decay in Seas of Renewal: Housing Policy and the Resurgence of Gentrification, in: Housing Policy Debate. vol. 10, 1999 Smith, Neil: Gentrification and uneven development, in Economic Geography, 1982 Smith, Neil: Gentrification of the City, Winchester 1986.