Page 1








• problem statement • user needs • rationale

•journals & articles • observation • interaction • weekly calisthenics

3 4

• analysis & synthesis

PRECEDENTS •photos & examples •programming prediction

SITE ANALYSIS • site maps & images • forms of transportation • community • places of interest • demographics • surrounding areas • exterior analysis


• synthesis & validation of application

PROGRAMMING • existing sq. ft. • program interior • conclusion & analysis



PROBLEM Areas of high population density are ridden with potential to celebrate cultural diversity and bring those with differing backgrounds together. Unfortunately, Syracuse, N.Y. does not have dynamism connecting its isolated neighborhoods. The lack of cross-neighborhood interaction can be both seen and felt through the ragged fringe of polarized regions and looming interstate highway overpasses. A city as divided as Syracuse exudes a stifled and uninhabited atmosphere due to these divides, which also encourage the perpetual state of poverty that is evident in many areas (Rabin, 1980).

CONTEXT The post-war construction of interstate highways beginning the 1950’s and has cemented urban segregation in a permanent structure. Although an asset for travel, the interstate implementation most commonly led to the destruction of minority neighborhoods due to cheaper land, thus displacing thousands of families (Selman, 2000). Additionally, highways “destroyed more inner city housing than was being built and created more spatially isolated and more intensely segregated urban neighborhoods in cities throughout the country” (Goodwin, 2009). This displacement is a possible explanation for the stark divides drawn through cities such as Syracuse, San Francisco, and Detroit. Although our society has made great strides toward racial equality in the past decades, the scars still remain in the form of isolated neighborhoods that are racially and economically polarized.

OBJECTIVES This project will include a variety of aggressive research methods. Disrupting the interstate highway barriers will require the acquisition of understanding components of urban sociology and how they feed into racial and economic polarization, as well as how interstate highways contribute to urban poverty and isolation. Proposals for ways to unify such divided areas and bring the word “community” back into the lives of cross-neighborhood Syracuse residents will be suggested and eventually implemented. 8

METHODS Questions will be formulated throughout the entire process of research in order to advance the evolution of the topic. Primary research methods will include attending community and neighborhood meetings and becoming familiar with people active in each separate community; interviewing residents of different areas in the city on community dynamics, successes, and issues relating to culture and neighborhood identity; investigation and research on the bridge artwork leading to the Near Westside; and the exploration and study of all areas around the interstate highways by taking photos and studying maps. This topic is heavily community based, so research methods will be very hands-on and immersive in daily life occurring in all parts of the city of Syracuse. Designing the relocation of the interstate highway system in Syracuse would dismantle the barriers that encourage perpetual poverty, therefore igniting positive change within the economically and racially polarized city areas.

OUTCOMES Several projects stemming from similar problem roots have been implemented in cities around the country. One example can be found in New Haven, where photographers plastered the highway underpass walls with photos of every community member. This attempted to bring people together by recognizing faces from the underpass in the surrounding area. New Haven’s project was met with great enthusiasm and participation from both community members and local artists. Another example that started in New York City is the Uni Project, which is a portable reading room in order to promote community interaction and literacy. The design is now a great success, and reading rooms are currently being built and shipped overseas to Kazakhstan. These examples show that there are innumerable possibilities when it comes to designing for neighborhood interaction, although Syracuse’s unique layout and population will call for a much different list of questions to be solved.


USER NEEDS • unification • appealing to a range of cultures • easy to access • promotes interaction between neighborhoods •rerouting of existing highways to perimeter of city •reuse of the existing structures to discourage polarization •health education

QUESTIONS What areas do you spend the most of your time in, and why? How long have you lived here? How long does it take to reach your daily activities, and by what means do you get there? Do you have family and friends in different areas of Syracuse? How do you think the interstate highway system has impacted Syracuse? What are your favorite places within the city? How has transportation effected your life in Syracuse? How did you come to live here you do? 10



Neighborhood polarization is persistently self-reinforcing, which threatens to perpetuate disadvantages which a long history of racial discrimination has been produced.




New urban poverty can be defined as the hourglassshaped social structure with a large amount of rich and poor, and a rapidly diminishing middle class.



Assuming that the interstate highway system has been rerouted around the perimeter of the city...

I intend to disrupt the barriers that encourage racial and economic polarization by repurposing the existing highway structures in a way that will ignite positive change and interaction.



positive attitudes toward the interstate highway plan






highways are considered detrimental to cities

2009 1998 1993

2006 1997





The article “The Building of a Superhighways Future at the New York World’s Fair,” written in 2001 by Paul Mason Fotsch, provides an overview of the hype surrounding the different plans of the interstate highway system starting in 1939. Connecting cities to the surrounding area, also know as the Democracity Program, was “No longer a planless jumble of slums and grime and smoke, but town and country joined for work and play in sunlight and good air” (Fotsch 69).

As with most things new and innovative, this article reflects the air of excitement and positive outlook from many during the beginning stages of interstate highway proposals. New technology was intended to create a brighter, more economically prosperous future, and these highway plans utilized every bit of technology available. What is most fascinating in this article is how much times have changed since 1939; the positive attitude toward massive construction of urban freeways has passed, and in its place has settled polarized and divided cities and suburbs alike.

This article does not reference any specific studies, but instead recounts the goings-on at the 1939 World’s Fair. This event is crucial for complete understanding of my topic because it is the beginning of the beginning; without these ideas stemming from the war, the interstate highway system would not have been put in place.

Although written in 2001, this article gives me the beginning of my timeline in 1939 through its review of the interstate highway design and proposal process. By providing me with key information, such as explanations for how and why this system was thought to be necessary in the first place, I am able to draw conclusions that this plan was never intended to hurt cities in the ways that are evident today. This article also highlights that highways were meant to be in the country, where they could enhance the landscape, rather than “cutting a wide swath right through a town or city and destroying values there. (Fotsch, 69). However, inconsistencies between the plans and the final outcome of the interstate highways are evident, because this is exactly what ended up happening. [1]


“STENT (OR DAGGER?) IN THE HEART OF TOWN: URBAN FREEWAYS IN SYRACUSE” The article “Stent (or Dagger?) in the Heart of Town: Urban Freeways in Syracuse,” by Joseph F.C. DiMento, provides a thorough overview of interstate highway planning and construction from 19441967, as well as more contemporary ideas that attempt to begin to solve the issues that arose from this system. When the planning council first proposed highway development ideas in 1944, the thought was that the city’s economy would flourish due to the lack of downtown congestion and slum areas that would be restored to thriving communities. However, things turned sour as housing, often for low-income families and minorities, was destroyed and thousands were displaced without consultation or participation in the planning process. Furthermore, Syracuse’s local government was not given a say in the preparation and layout of the interstate highway plans, resulting in the system being blasted through poor, and therefore cheap, areas.

Oppositions to the implementation of the interstate highway plan included the reduction of property values, the negation of aesthetic improvements during the 1950’s, and the immense cost of such a large-scale project. In the epilogue of this article, DiMento briefly touches upon the movement to demolish I-81, which contains ideas such as a landscaped boulevard running through center city and the rerouting of interstate traffic around the outskirts.

Once again, this article provides an overview of important parts of history within the planning and implementation of the highway system, rather than any specific methods and studies that were conducted. “Stent (or Dagger?)” is a crucial article that relates directly to my thesis by providing a current overview of the impacts of interstate highways within Syracuse. Beginning in 1944 with the first highway proposals, Dimento reviews the major events within planning and implementation. He concludes with an epilogue concerning the demolition of I-81, which is a major project I am planning to tackle within my thesis. [2]


“HIGHWAYS AS BARRIERS TO EQUAL ACCESS” Rabin’s article focuses on the impact of highway placement specifically on African Americans within the US. Although increased transportation and access to a vast variety of areas was intended to be a positive change, the negative effects of such an implementation can be summarized in the following: “The result is a growing population--racially and economically--which is persistently self-reinforcing, and which threatens to perpetuate the burdens and disadvantages which long history of racial discrimination has been produced” (Rabin 64).

Rabin often refers to “SMSAs,” standing for Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which lost almost two million whites to the suburbs from 1950 to 1973, while the population of blacks in inner cities doubled during the same span. Rabin concludes that in order to solve these issues, “there must be an intervention in the process itself to alter the forces that generate, shape, and sanction racial and economic polarization” (Rabin 75).

Although written on the opposite end of the timeline outlining my thesis research thus far, “Highways as a Barrier to Equal Access,” written by Yale Rabin in 1973, relates to DiMento’s article by discussing the negative impacts of the implementation of the interstate highway system.

The most important thing that I took from this article were the statistics of the African American racial minority. A lot has changed since 1973, but this article unfortunately still pertinent to many cities today. Rabin’s quote about a persistently self-reinforcing society is exactly what is happening today, four decades later, in Syracuse N.Y. This perpetual state of poverty was put in place when the permanent highway structures were constructed back in the 1950’s and 60’s. [3]



“THE LIMITS TO THE IMAGINEERED CITY: SOCIOSPATIAL POLARIZATION IN ORLANDO” Kevin Archer wrote a fascinating article that dissects Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, as well as the surrounding counties influenced by the popular tourists’ mecca. Although engineered to be the “happiest place on earth,” Disney World has negatively impacted an immense portion of Florida by forcing racial and economic polarization. In other words, “metropolitan Orlando has sprawled, then, largely along ethnic and class lines, with blacks confined essentially to the traditional city limits and Hispanics in the outlying areas that have affordable housing” (Archer 326). I find this to be a perfect example of what I began to think of as “inverted polarization.” Instead of racial minorities being confined to the inner city due to low income and lack of transportation options, Orlando has pushed these groups to the outskirts due to the “imagineering” of the happiest place on earth. This article, although not directly related to my thesis topic, provides insight for city dynamics in an entirely engineered setting. The author discusses gated communities and their negative effects on overall city life, which is something that is pertinent in Syracuse, N.Y. However, these communities do not have to be literally gated; instead, as Badcock explains in her article “Restructuring and spatial polarization in cities,” these communities could be sectioned off for entirely psychological reasons. [4]

“THE EVOLVING METROPOLIS: STUDIES OF COMMUNITY, NEIGHBORHOOD, AND STREET FORM AT THE URBAN EDGE” The article “The evolving metropolis: Studies of community, neighborhood, and street form at the urban edge,” by Michael Southworth & Peter Owens, explores previous case studies regarding urban planning and neighborhood design as well as the socio-psychological effects that street layout can have on a neighborhood. This article analyzes contrasting “public street frameworks,” including speculative gridiron, interrupted parallels, and incremental infills. The problem of these separate neighborhood designs is highlighted: “The increasing focus on self-contained subdivision planning has eroded the integrity of the public street framework and severed connections between neighborhoods” (Southworth & Owens 273). The dilemma lies between the desire for streets safe enough for child play, while still providing connection to other neighborhoods. As similarly discussed in Archer’s article on “imagineered” Orlando, the authors of “The Evolving Metropolis” analyze how civil engineering impacts suburban neighborhood. This article sheds light on the fact that neighborhood layouts have a gigantic impact on how residents interact both with each other and their surrounding environment. This topic is pertinent in Syracuse because I am looking into how each separate neighborhood is laid out, as well as the proximity to residential areas to parks and highways. [5] 23

“LEGENDS OF THE SPRAWL” “Legends of the Sprawl,” written in the fall of 1998 by Steven Hayward, takes a more political stance in regard to urban sprawl and racial-economic polarization. Hayward also touches upon Myron Orfield, a respected urban planner from Minnesota, who believes that the “trouble with urban areas is suburban flight…leading to rising crime and poorly performing schools pushing the central cities into free fall” (Hayward 27). The “elastic city hypothesis” discussed in this article refers to the theory that a city will have less concentrated poverty and racial segregation in housing patterns if it has a better sense of regionalism and less sprawl. Sprawl, as said by Neil Pierce, is a “virus eating us from the inside out” and is much less sustainable due to the massive increase on the reliance of automobiles (Hayward 29). A continuing trend that I am noticing throughout all of these articles is the massive impact that the automobile has had on society. Cars have done much more than provide an easier route from point A to point B; they have completely shaped both the social structure and physical landscape of our country. Cars require highways, which then leads to urban sprawl. Sprawl, as discussed in this article, is thought to be cancerous to both society and our cities. This is because people without access to private transportation are stuck in the inner city, which has lost a tremendous amount of business due to people and businesses moving to the suburbs. This ties in directly with the perpetual cycle of poverty that drives my thesis topic. [6]

“HIGHWAYS AND POPULATION CHANGE” Along similar lines, the article “Highways and Population Change,” written by Paul R. Voss and Chi Guangqing in 2006, investigates the relationship between highway expansion and population change. Looking back in history, rivers and railways were the area characteristics that brought the population to that location. In contemporary society, highways give people the power of choice: of where to live, where to work, opportunities for activities and economic development. However, the studies conducted did not show a direct correlation between the construction of highways and population growth. Instead, it was found that “highway investment cannot reverse population decline” and that if often has potential to decrease the population due to displacement of residences where the highway was being built (Voss 56). This article is my first example of actual case studies done regarding interstate highways. The most important piece of knowledge to take away from this study is the direct correlation between decreases in population and the construction of highways. Rather, the population decreased due largely to the fact that people then use these expressways as a means to move out into the suburbs. [7] 24


“RESTRUCTURING AND SPATIAL POLARIZATION IN CITIES” “Restructuring and spatial polarization in cities,” written in 1997 by Blair Badcock, addresses what the author calls the “new urban poverty.” This refers to the current hourglass-shaped social structure, with a large population of rich, a much smaller middle class population, and a large amount of poor at the bottom. These polarized urban areas do an excellent job of keeping the opposite end of the social spectrum out; gated communities are gaining popularity in white suburbs, while poverty-stricken neighborhoods are labeled “no-go’s” by many suburban residents. “New urban poverty” is something that is happening all over the country, and Syracuse N.Y. is no different. Evidence of the growing population of poverty-stricken minorities can be found all over the city, and is the main driving force behind my thesis. Interstate highways have provided people with the means to get out of the city, therefore further polarizing and isolating those without within poor areas of the city. [8]

“Federal Urban Transportation Policy and the Highway Planning Process in Metropolitan Areas” The article, “Federal Urban Transportation Policy and the Highway Planning Process in Metropolitan Areas,” again written by Yale Rabin, is similar to his other article “Highways as a Barrier to Equal Access,” but focuses more closely on the isolation of individuals living in center cities. Rabin suggests a new, comprehensive city plan of concentric rings of expressways with radials connecting to the center, coupled with extra parking for the inner city. Rabin also discusses that public-transit dependent residents are often part of a racial minority, and are unable to reach jobs in the suburbs. This leaves people rather stranded downtown where the job market is dwindling due to decentralization and urban sprawl. Rabin also highlights that due to the fact that tens of millions of acres of land have been converted to urban areas, food and other products are forced to travel even further. I find this proposed highway plan of two concentric rings to be alluring for the interstate highways of Syracuse. This system would allow for easy access around the circumference of the city, while still providing a means to reach downtown as well. This topic specific topic requires more research in order to fully understand the positives and negatives associated with this particular configuration. [9]


“RESTRUCTURING AND DECENTRALIZATION IN A WORLD CITY” “Restructuring and Decentralization in a World City,” by Brian J. Godfrey, primarily outlines the causes of decentralization in large cities such as New York. These reasons include the loss of bluecollar functions and areas such as shipping. “Contemporary locational change now polarizes social space, especially in the central districts, as metropolitan areas become more internally fragmented” (Godfrey 437). Corporations have moved to the outskirts of cities due to the construction of highway systems during the 20th century, and have therefore isolated groups within the city. This article definitely reminds me of Syracuse because of the disappearance of the booming salt industries that once resided here. Evidence of businesses past can be found all over the city, particularly near the border dividing the Near Westside and Downtown. Branching out in research needs to include an investigation on what was here and when. [10]



SOUTHSIDE FRC: Volunteered October-mid November, Friday afternoons. •Basketball is primary sport on the Southside •Goal of the FRC is to promote interaction between children of different neighborhoods (to reduce the amount of young gang violence) •Activities need to be low-cost or free in order for everyone to participate in them PROJECT CONNECTION: Month of November, Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons. •A vast majority of residents have a mix of African American and Native American backgrounds. •People are very proud of their heritages, and are always willing to talk about them •P.E.A.C.E. Inc. always feeds the kids before they go home at 5 pm, because they don’t have food waiting for them at home. 28

Northside TNT Meeting November 28th, 2012 Issues with trash and litter: • discussion of solar-powered trash compressors •creates less pickup, saves money Northside development: • projects encompass both Northside and Southside •Housing Visions: non-profit company that started in 1990 with renovating houses along E. Genessee •goal is to improve the quality of life for low-to-mid- income residents by providing nice affordable housing •”Revitalizing and Improving Lives” Goals for the Northside: •create pride in neighborhood •more neighborhood involvement •a balanced mix of home ownership and rentals •improve the neighborhood one block at a time by rehabilitating and repurposing old, historic buildings The things I took away from this meeting is the need for neighborhood involvement and interaction. The Northside is looking for a fun, exciting place to live, and they believe that starts with promoting positive interaction between residents of different classes. Police officers who attended this meeting also believe that this will significantly reduce crime rates. 29



Week 1 of the calisthenics exercise found me designing a walking and biking “highline” that spanned the entire existing interstate highway system. In my research, I found evidence that most people of low income stay within small sections of their neighborhoods due to issues with transportation. I decided to keep the highways and repurpose them for pedestrians in order to provide a safe, fun, and accessible pathway to get what they need. In order to address in part the “food desert” in Syracuse, I added a farmers market that is located downtown, but still a very reasonable walking distance from any of the bordering neighborhoods. For this design, I used the section of the I-81 highway located above the parking lot next to Almond Street.



This second location for the “consumer” theme was the overpass located near South Campus on East Colvin Street. This is a prime location to explore the divide between the university and the Southside, which is the poorest of the neighborhoods in Syracuse. For this design, I decided to create a large-scale “take a book, leave a book” type of library, inspired by the local project Little Free Libraries. Through volunteering at several Family Resource Centers on the Southside, I learned that illiteracy in children and adults is an ongoing problem being fought in the area.




Week 2 took me in a completely different direction from where I started. To begin, I began thinking about what makes something “hospitable.� I came up with words such as warm, private, friendly, etc. One of the first things that I observed at the start of this semester was how uncomfortable I was walking underneath these highway overpasses. After doing more research on the topic, I discovered that I was not alone. I began pulling words such as threatening, confining, and isolating for associations with underpasses. I decided to focus very specifically on one solution this week. This idea was making underpasses more hospitable through lighting. While walking around Philadelphia that weekend, I came across many underpasses that were lit with bright and colorful LED lights. This was my starting point for designing a bright, interactive, and fun environment with light.




un d


it nd co

natural lighting

dim or yellow lighting


s ion





sense of privacy




lack of visual access

sense of openness

catering to needs

neighborly friendly sociability


exi sti ng

ss pa er

wh at is

? ble a t i sp o h



cold deserted




“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” -James Turrell




The sketch to the right shows a section of the redesigned underpass. I removed the concrete and replaced it with pressuresensitive material. This adds an element of fun by allowing people underneath the overpass to see and feel what is going on above. This is why I chose to put a basketball court directly above the underpass. Passerby can tell what is going on above by the color changes and footprints in the material.




The material that now connects the two underpasses is a pressure-sensitive flooring. Although not intended for outside and unsupported use, this material adds to the concept of lighting by letting in natural light from above. A huge problem with any underpass is the amount of darkness created by the solid and heavy materials. By replacing the concrete with a translucent material, the underpasses become less forboding for people walking under them. The underpasses are now lined with interactive LED walls. This allows a pedestrian to see if anyone else is within the tunnel with them, and also adds an element of fun. This takes away some of the fear people have of walking through underpasses, because it is now impossible to be surprised by another individuals presence.





“‘Life-enhancing’ architecture has to address all of our senses simultaneously and fuses our experience of self with our experience of the world.” -Juhani Pallasmaa







In order to provide fun activities that attract all ages and cultures of the city, I designed a ground level that offered a music venue, a skate park, and basketball courts. All of these activities are extremely popular throughout the neighborhoods of Syracuse. This is a completely open area, because fences have been found to actually encourage illegal behavior. Energy would be generated by circular wind turbines, as shown below.





Level two, located on the old I-81 highway, is the only section of the interstate highway system that has remained throughout the city. I decided to keep this part of the highway in order to offer a pedestrian and bike path that connects all surrounding areas. The structure encasing it is made of steel and glass, and has tracking heat lamps and lights that turn on when they sense movement in order to not waste energy. This will be extremely helpful in encouraging residents of Syracuse to get outside during the winter months.




I designed the levels of this wellness community center by levels of spirituality. The third and highest level, the old 690 route, is the “zen� area. This level has a cafe, a meditation garden, and a yoga studio. The walls are constructed from the same material as the second level, therefore offering views of the entire city from 45 feet in the air. This area is accessed by an elevator that stops on the pedestrian walkway level as well. 41



“Parasitic architecture can be defined as an adaptable, transient and exploitive form of architecture that forces relationships with host buildings in order to complete themselves.”


“A variety of shared facilities, access to nature, and a sense of community are the true wealth that’s worth worrying about.”







After taking another walk around one of my preferred highway locations (the empty I-81 Upstate Medical lot by Townsend Street), I began wondering what the highways would look like if the road was removed. This would leave only the concrete supports, and would no longer have a visual barrier dividing the city. But how could turning these structures into residences address the problem of polarization of neighborhoods? The answer: concrete treehouses, also a play on the term “concrete jungle.� I decided to use the ground level as a community park as before,and then designed various elevated apartments out of shipping crates. My idea was to bring people from all backgrounds together in one harmonious living arrangement.




This plan is an example of what could be made out of a wider highway, such as the part of I-81 that merges. This section is roughly 90’ wide, and offers an abundance of opportunities to build modular apartments that are a bit larger. These could be used as family apartments, whereas the structures that are about 50’ in diameter could be used as single person homes.

The sketches to the right are rough ideas of what the “treehouse” encasing could look like. I wanted to create an environment that was hospitable to plants year round, as well as for people to be able to interact outside their home with the neighbors. The supports for this structure stem from the elevator tunnel and explode outwards, creating an element of interest for anyone who rides the elevator.




Each apartment complex would have its own play space and community garden stemming out from the centrally located elevator. In addition, every resident would have fold-out window gardens in order to grow plants and herbs specific to each individuals tastes. These are shown in the drawing below, located above the greenroof.








In order to begin designing a learning environment while utilizing the highways located above the I-81 parking lot, I began research on the specific backgrounds of Syracuse residents. From my experience of volunteering at Project Connection, I realize that many people have mixed ethnic backgrounds and are very proud of where their families came from. So for week 4, I designed farming pods that grew specific foods pertaining to each culture, with a cafe on the ground floor of each of them. What better way to bring people together over food? 50

I decided to continue with the idea of removing only the highway road level and leaving all the supports. I feel as though this might be a good answer to solving the problem of the huge visual barrier that divides the city.



The top left drawing is a sketch of my attempt to differentiate each cultural cafe by traditional architectural facades. The pod on the left is inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, while the one on the right is inspired by Puerto Rican buildings. To the left is a plan of what one of the cafes could look like. The highway structures all have cutouts in them, so they would allow for circulation around the entire space. The furniture would be small and moveable, because this would be a place to grab a quick bite with a friend. The food prep would happen in the center of the space, while utilizing the fresh food grown in the pod above. 51



NATIVE AMERICAN CUISINE: corn, squash beans, greens, berries, pumpkin, peppermint, spearmint, clover, sage, rosehips PUERTO RICAN CUISINE: pepper,s cilantro, parsley, onions, garlic, oregano, basil, rice, beans ASIAN CUISINE: cloves, cinnamon, tangerine, ginger, lemongrass, thai basil, cumin AFRICAN AMERICAN CUISINE: peanuts, black eyed peas, okra, greens, veggies, spices There are many overlaps, and could provide a great means to integrate the cultures together.

The sketch above is an example of what a section through the entire structure could look like. The elevator is located off to the side and is connected to the farming pod at the top. The first level in the drawing shows the circulation underneath the existing highway supports. The second level is where the farming of each culture-specific menu would take place. The distance between each level of the spiral would have to be at least eight feet, and some sort of ventilation would have to be designed in order for the plants to breathe. This farming pod could be a great place for residents, especially kids, to learn about farming and eating healthy. The best part is that, rather than having to travel outside of the city, these farm pods make fresh food even easier to access by having them located centrally in the city.




East Water

African American


American Hispanic/Latino

Native American

East Washington


RESEARCH ANALYSIS & SYNTHESIS Each week of calisthenic exercises and the subsequent research revealed itself to be invaluable to my final outcome. Designing for different groups and intentions forced me to push myself in completely new directions, therefore expanding and strengthening the depth of my research and experiences within the community. Testing the limits of such an unconventional space allowed me to ignore standard limitations of interior design almost entirely, and allowed me to take a step back, extract elements of these crazy ideas, and apply them in a more realistic way.




Regarding the High Line as a precedent study is a great way to discover more about elevated parkways and the necessary spaces within them, as well as different means of entrance and egress. A variety of seating, activities, and landscape design is implemented in this one project. I chose this as one of my main precedent studies because I have walked the entire length of the High Line, and experienced everything it has to offer. It relates directly to my thesis because of the repurposing of the elevated rail line.


Materials: Concrete Steel & Iron Wood

Dimensions: 17.21 million square feet 30 ft. off ground level 1.5 miles long

Design: Seasonal plantings Concrete planks Repurposed rails Concrete plank seating Water features

Entrances/exits: Gavensvoort Stair 14th Street 23rd Street 30th Street

In order to build on top of the old rail system, the entire top layer of material had to be removed. This was to ensure that everything was structurally sound. Additional waterproofing methods were put in place, as well as a drainage system. Something similar would have to be done with the highways in my project in order to made them fully functioning elevated parkways. Space also needs to be left between the layer of waterproofed concrete and the walkway for drainage and electrical conduit.


The Madrid Rio project had the same goals as mine: to reunite a city by removing an obstacle. The M-30, previously a high-traffic road, was removed in order to allow for more access to the riverbanks in different parts of the city. Seventeen new parkways, as well as several renovated pedestrian bridges, we part of the program in order to reunite the center city with the southeast. FEATURES: •creation of green zones, with the planting of over 25,000 new trees •6-km long tree-lined promenade •cooling shallow pools •fruit trees •30 km of bike lanes •some trails lead to the Sierra de Madrid mountain range •17 children’s playgrounds Madrid Rio also removes the barrier for those with handicaps. This includes physical, mental, or sensory impairments, such as: •accessible bridges and walkways •large amount of handicapped parking places •wider pavements with intersections marked with different colors and textures •universal design applied in all areas


THE PLANTAGON: SWEDEN The geodesic spherical design of the greenhouse has been put aside for a taller, more sleek glass greenhouse tower by Plantagon. Although this sphere has not/is not going to be built, I am using it as inspiration for glass farming domes with a spiral growing pathway. Originally featured on, this urban farming plan will also incorporate the testing of new technologies by scientists. This is a great way to grow local foods while hopefully increasing the interest in farming and eating healthy though its innovative design.


HIGHWAY PARK: CAPE TOWN “Reimagine Cape Town” was part of a design competition to repurpose the city’s unfinished highways. Tsai Design came up with this concept that turned the old structures into a park, a renewable energy generating station, and a Museum of City Planning and Transportation.

The aesthetic of this idea is futuristic in a way with the streamlined, sleek angled overhang at the end. The original intention of the competition was to generate ideas of how to utilize an existing, yet bare, structure, while bringing people together. GROUND LEVEL: • functional roads FIRST LEVEL: • park SECOND LEVEL: • Museum of City Planning and Transportation


UNDER-HIGHWAY SKATE PARKS Definition of Neighborhood Skateparks: Parks that are within 6-10,000 sq. ft. Definition of Regional Skateparks: • 20-25,000 sq. ft. • these parks have “neighborhoods” of design intents • Needs to accommodate high capacities • Usually several dozen simultaneous users REQUIREMENTS: • variety of equipment and uses • restrooms • adequate lighting for night • integrate small green spaces within park • possible concession “SKATEABLE ART” • skateparks that utilize natural materials • dyed or glow-in-the-dark concrete • seating that can double as skate equipment


OBSERVATIONS & ANALYSIS DOWNTOWN: • teenagers and young adults often use the Everson fountain as a skatepark. Kids usually gather in groups of 15-20 on the weekends. Weekdays are not as frequented due to school. • parks are not utilized very much. Firefighter’s Memorial Park is often a place for illegal activity, as well as a place to sleep for the homeless. SKATING AT THE EVERSON PRECEDENT ANALYSIS: By looking at precedent studies that touch upon similar intents as mine, I was able to draw conclusions such as: •Pathways such as the High Line need to have plenty of seating in order to make it an attraction •Building safe and easily accessible pedestrian walkways have the power to get people more active while connecting otherwise isolated areas within a city •Urban farming can take many shapes, although more research needs to be investigated as far as technicalities of farming in unconventional city areas


•Skate parks are a great way to utilize highway underpasses through the construction of half-pipes, etc.





The I-81 parking lot, shown above, is a dilapidated and barren parking lot that is an eyesore within the community. There is a surplus of parking (mostly underneath each of the highways), so repurposing this one in order to unite the community should not be a problem. This site is located between E Water Street and E Washington Street, right along N Townsend Street. Located just one block to the north is the stark highway divide that separates downtown from the Northside of Syracuse.






East Water



~36’0” ~36’0”

East Washington



101,106 sq. ft. 11,040 sq. ft.

[parking lot]

25,100 sq. ft.

8,225 sq. ft.














parking lot



I-81 71






PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION The site location is highlighted in red on the Connective Corridor bus route below. This shows that, although the final design will be accessible through the repurposing of parts of I-81 as a pedestrian/bike path, the location is also extremely accessible by bus. The corridor stops at points that are convenient for residents of all areas to pick up, therefore making the connection between the polarized areas even stronger.



WHY? Disrupting the barrier by relocating the highways around the perimeter of the city would open up endless opportunities for interaction and cultural growth and development. Syracuse, N.Y. is a city of many cultures, as well as many physical and imagined barriers. By repurposing the highways in an innovative and uniting way, the city could be an entirely different place. Highway barriers discourage positive change by keeping precedents, such as impoverished low-income areas, in place through their long lifespan (with the exception of I-81) and the inhabitable environments that surround them. By removing these dead zones and replacing them with areas full of sports, food, relaxation, and learning, this city is given the opportunity to come together over one common goal: health, happiness,















Green space ~15,000 sq. ft.

Seating ~ 3,000 sq. ft.

Basketball courts ~10,000 sq. ft.

Skate Park ~15,000 sq. ft.

Amphitheater ~ 4,000 sq. ft.





PROGRAMMING: FARM PODS EXISTING SPACE: The location would be on top of the existing highway structures located above the I-81 Upstate Medical parking lot. If utilizing the section of I-81 on the west side of the space, the diameter of each circular pod would be about 40 feet. Assuming that the actual road section of the highway could be removed, therefore exposing the structures underneath, there will be two opportunities to build these pods of the same size. Each pod would be located twenty feet off the ground. SPACE REQUIREMENTS: “Elevator lobby” where visitors enter At least 8’ clearance between the farming levels CIRCULATION: Because these pods will be a place for growing food and learning, I will factor circulation in to be 25% of the overall square footage. The square footage of the overall plan of the pods is 1,256 square feet. Although it is not possible to calculate the area of the spiral farming area at exactly at this point, I am estimating this number would be roughly the same as the square footage on the first level. Estimated overall square footage of one pod: 2,512 sq. ft. 30% of overall area for circulation: 628 sq. ft. Available square footage: 1,884 sq. ft. CORE REQUIREMENTS: Elevator/staircase Possible connection between the two pods Access to a water supply Venting for air during the warmer months, as well as shelter from winter elements Lighting Humidity PROJECTIONS FOR GROWTH: The required space would generally stay the same due to the fact that it is serving as a greenhouse/ visiting learning center. CODES TO BE CONSIDERED: Slope for the spiral levels Elevator/handicapped access Water supply and plumbing




PROGRAMMING: PEDESTRIAN/BIKE PATH EXISTING SPACE: The mixed-use elevated path would utilize parts of the old I-81 highway; however, the structure would most likely need to be renovated to a certain extent in order to build the walls.

SPACE REQUIREMENTS: Bike path Pedestrian path Separate lanes for two-way bike traffic Green space

CIRCULATION: Width of the majority of the I-81 highway: ~57’ Each direction: ~28’ wide Minimum bike land widths: ~5’ This leaves each pedestrian walkway to be 23’ wide

CORE REQUIREMENTS: Shelter from the elements Heat in the winter? Lighting--track lighting that senses movement?

PROJECTIONS FOR GROWTH: This elevated pathway would serve as a means of transportation, so there are not any substantial projections for growth. The structure would be the same for any number of users.





fresh food



PROGRAMMING: COMMUNITY FOOD CENTER EXISTING SPACE: The third level of my design would utilize the old I-690 strip that overlaps the I-81 parking lot. An elevator would connect all levels shown in the photo to the left. CIRCULATION: Square footage after circulation: 7,728 sq. ft. Estimated overall square footage: 11,040 sq. ft. 30% of the overall square footage was factored in for circulation. CORE REQUIREMENTS: •Elevator that connects the ground level, the walkway, and the third level all together Natural light & windows to access view of city •Possible physical connection to farm pods? •Food prep space •Serving space •Seating/lounge areas •Indoor gardens to create a more meditative and relaxing environment HOW IT WORKS •This level is a community food center that uses the food and herbs grown in the farm pods to create healthy, culture-specific meals. •Activities need to be either very low-cost or free in order to reach out to people of all areas and economic backgrounds. In order to be able to achieve this, a system would have to be designed that perhaps allows people to work/farm in exchange for a meal. This way, people are being education in healthy eating and locally grown foods, as well as aspects of different cultures. 83

Naturally, what came of all this are more questions. Questions of farming and food desert statistics, of what the most successful food program could be to keep the menu as low cost as possible, and what actually could be done in terms of feasibility and the highways. But if anything, it’s a start. Next steps include analyzing and synthesizing the following: “Greenhouses bring better nutrition to the Himalayas” “Biological indicators of soil quality in organic farming systems” “Energy consumption for different greenhouses’ structures” “Greenhouse heating and cooling using aquifer water” “Greenhouse Tomatoes”


WORKS CITED: [1] Fotsch, Paul Mason. “”The Building of a Superhighways Future at the New York World’s Fair.” Cultural Critique. 48. (2001): 65-97. Web. [2] DiMento, Joseph F.C. “Stent (or Dagger?) in the Heart of Town: Urban Freeways in Syracuse.” Journal of Planning History. 8.2 (May 2009): 133-161. Web. [3] Rabin, Yale. “Highways as a Barrier to Equal Access.”Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 407. (May 1973): 63-77. Web. [4] Archer, Kevin. “The limits to the Imagineered City: Sociospatial Polarization in Orlando.” Economic Geography. 73.3 (JULY 1997): 322-336. Web. [5] Southworth, Michael, and Peter Owens. “The evolving metropolis: Studies of community, neighborhood, and street form at the urban edge.” American Planning Association. 59.3 (1993): n. page. Web. [6] Badcock, Blair. “Restructuring and Spatial Polarization in Cities.” Progress in Human Geography. 21.2 (1997): 251-262. Web. [7] Hayward, Steven. “Legends of the Sprawl.” Policy Review. (September 1998): 26-32. Web. [8] Voss, Paul R. and Chi Guangqing. “Highways and Population Change.” Rural Sociology. 71.1 (Mar 2006): 33-58. Web. [9] Rabin, Yale. “Federal Urban Transportation Policy and the Highway Planning Process in Metropolitan Areas.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 451. (Sept 1980): 21-35. Web. [10] Godfrey, Brian. “Restructuring and Decentralization in a World City.” Geographical Review. 85.4 (Oct 1995): 436-457. Web. WEBSITES & PHOTOS: Syracuse, N.Y. profile; Madrid Rio; Plantagon; Parasitic Greenhouse; Jaramillo-Azuero Architects; Solar Wind Highways; Interstate Zipper; Denmark: Interactive Tunnel


Urban Sociospatial Polarization: Disrupting the Barrier  

Syracuse, N.Y. is currently facing the dilemma of redesigning its highway system due to the decay of I-81. Assuming that the interstate high...