Mark Rakatansky Studio

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Urbia

Urbia

How do you like your urbia? Sub- or Super-?

Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY
2001

How do you like your urbia? Sub- or Super-? In- or Ex-?

Is it: good village, bad towers? Or is it: good towers, bad village? What if the seemingly cheap, light, veneered brick and wood surfaces of the local village bungalows and the seemingly massive, heavy (but still veneered) brick and concrete surfaces of the local social housing towers both were being used to act out a similar set of roles: prop up (support), fill in (infill), cover up (veneer volume), extend from (extension), designate as (unit designator), divide among (unit divider), go to from (circulation). What I wanted in this project was find a cast of characters that were already there, at the site, characters that could rehearse and perform versions, variations, of this story. Or you could also say: some structural and lyrical tectonics to sample and scratch. Concrete, wood, glass, wrought iron, landscaping. Some characters in search of some units, some units in search of character.

How do you like your urbia? Sub- or Super-? In- or Ex-?

Our portion of the Columbia University team project (Michael Bell Architecture, Marble Fairbanks Architects, Mark Rakatansky Studio) for the exhibit, Arverne: Housing on the Edge, seeks to develop a multitude of housing scales and organizations through reorganizing and recombining familiar typologies in Far Rockaway.

Is it: good village, bad towers? Or is it: good towers, bad village? What if the seemingly cheap, light, veneered brick and wood surfaces of the local village bungalows and the seemingly massive, heavy (but still veneered) brick and concrete surfaces of the local social housing towers both were being used to act out a similar set of roles: prop up (support), fill in (infill), cover up (veneer volume), extend from (extension), designate as (unit designator), divide among (unit divider), go to from (circulation).

What I wanted was not to have to adjudicate in advance between the tower and the village. I wanted to be able to look first and then act and react and enact some of that struggle - that struggle between the rules and the roles and the exceptions within the rules and the roles, that desire as the 2-dimensional tectonic unit struggles to make and become and act as 3-dimensional space. That desire and doubt. As Lawrence Weiner stated: “Bits & pieces put together to present a semblance of the whole.” That's what a bungalow is, what a tower is, what a village is, after all.

In many ways I think they are the same: village and tower. They are units, after all. Units upon units, units next to units, units between units. Units coming together, units coming apart. The scenes, the versions and variations, that are beginning to be played out here in this project are those of different and differential unitization —units coming together, units coming apart, as these material characters act and react to draw forth their urban and suburban and ex-urban relations: detached suburban lots becoming perimeter urban blocks, infill becoming outfill, single unit becoming duplex becoming triplex becoming multiplex, roadside retail becoming market becoming near home-office tower, motel becoming hotel, boardwalk becoming beachside retail, sidewalk and front lawn and driveway becoming back patios and community landscape, character fragments becoming playground and park.

What I wanted in this project was find a cast of characters that were already there, at the site, characters that could rehearse and perform versions, variations, of this story. Or you could also say: some structural and lyrical tectonics to sample and scratch. Concrete, wood, glass, wrought iron, landscaping. Some characters in search of some units, some units in search of character.

Design: LeClair Lucas