Sprint 2 at Cornell Tech: Design, Develop, Build

Its time for Sprint 2 at Cornell Tech in which we will finally get to kick-start our experiments with our respective teams! Product Studio sprints are 24-Hour period each month during which there are no other classes, so teams can focus their energy on product and business development work for their challenges.

For the second sprint we were given two main tasks. The first was to develop a full de-risking plan. These would be a sequence of experiments that we will run between the second and third sprint. The plan would also allow us to come up with a schedule for running the experiments and the sequence in which will run them. The expectation is that the sequence of experiments will involve building significant components of our product and will lead to something that resembles our desired final product.

The second was to think through all the details of experiment design for all experiments (prototypes, pilots, equivalent experiments etc.). We were all encouraged to be creative and innovative in designing our experiments. The experiments were meant to be rigorous, low-cost and low effort. For each of the experiments we went through a process of defining its objective, the sample size, the metrics as well as the threshold of success. We went through a six—question quality check to help us iterate the experiment as necessary to answer yes to all the questions. Some of the questions included; “Is the sample well-defined?,” “Are the incentives properly aligned?,” and “Do I have at least two treatments?”

Shruti Shah (B.Arch ’20) working together with her teammates, Adrian Turcato (MBA), Danielle Kutner (CS) and Thomas Shanahan (CS) to design an experiment to detect utility access points such as fire hydrants and man-hole covers.

And finally, once we have completed these two main steps, we will build! Many teams started building their ideas during the sprint and it was interesting to see the outcome of the experiments. The success and failures of the experiments enabled many of us to see where the wins and losses were and where changes and modifications needed to be made. As a result, depending on the outcome experiments need to be redone. The iterative process of working makes it easier to manage risk since risky pieces are identified and handled during its iteration, encourages flexibility and generates working software quickly and early during the software life-cycle. For instance, some of the experiments included testing hardware accuracy, user experience, scalability and data accuracy amongst others.

As the second design sprint comes to an end, we look forward to seeing where all of the teams might go with their ideas, leading to an exciting series of innovative and ground-breaking products by the end of the semester.

Stuyvesant Park: A Platform for an Analysis of Emerging Skills in Urban Design

The urban design studio took Saturday morning to do a walking tour of parks in lower Manhattan. We began at the Union Square farmer’s market and continued to Stuyvesant Square Park, Gramercy Park and Madison Square park. Following are observations and impressions of Stuyvesant park in addition to an analysis of related skillsets relevant to the current practice of urban design.

Stuyvesant park exists within a typology of urban green space which relies heavily on planting plan and vegetation. Variety, vertical structure and color palette contribute heavily to how the space feels. Ground cover, tree canopy and diversity of plant typologies both in height and texture work to create a sense of enclosure within the park. At the same time the plants work in congruence with site lines, lighting needs, and seating, allowing  the urban and the natural to exist in the same space. The comparatively small scale urban park (more of a neighborhood sanctuary than a place for public gathering) facilitates the analysis of an increasing need for environmental expertise.

Whether it is a trend spurred by recent activist responses to climate change, a movement in ecological justice, or a realization of the tangible impacts of living in and around nature, there is an increasing demand in our culture for urban resilience. Sea level rise and flooding are key topics when speaking about resiliency, however plants cannot be left out of the picture. The knowledge of biotic processes allows us to create a vegetation infrastructure which, like lighting, seating, view points, and connectivity, shapes and creates the programs, uses and ambiance of space. This will undoubtedly necessitate both the capacity and technical expertise to work and design with plants. Fluency of environmental conditions both at the regional and biome scale, as well as the urban scale, will become more and more a precursor and determining factor in successful design. Plant hardiness, compatibility and lifecycle in addition to soil conditions, permeability, drainage and other hydrological conditions is becoming an increasingly relevant component in urban design discussions. The re-naturation of the built environment, especially dense urban spaces is long overdue, and the demand for resiliency is making biotic driven design more relevant. Though Stuyvesant Park is aged and may not be in line with current trends in planting with natives, the park provides and excellent case study for the creation or urban ecosystems which are shaping New York City’s emerging infrastructure.

Community Engagement Day @ Brownsville

Brownsville studio professors, AAP B.Arch. alumni, Peter Robinson and Ifeoma Ebo, open the “formal review” portion of the Community day by explaining the BlackSpace Manifesto and purpose of the studio. Photo/ Joyce Jin

Its finally time for the long-awaited Community Engagement Day at Brownsville, Brooklyn. The Community Engagement Day was part of our midterm review and was held at the Brownsville Community Justice Center. It was an exciting day as the film, model and drawing teams got to share their work with the community and participate in the process of co-creation. The goal was to create conversations the neighborhoods and the stories of those that live there.

Inculcating community engagement as part of our design process has been groundbreaking in that the intersection of design and community engagement has provided us with new opportunities to interact with people who will be the users of the designs. We began to realize that our ability to empathize with the users of our design is an essential skill to have. By seeing our physical environment through the lens of others we can create innovative designs that can meet users’ needs. The key word today was transformation and not demolition – how can we give the community what they need without destroying what is present?

Jenny Yi (B.Arch ’21) and Cornellius Tulloch (B.Arch ’21) (from left) of the model team speak with the community members as they identify areas of comfort, joy and safety in the neighborhood. Photo/ Daisy Dai.
Community members and residents share their visions and aspirations for the Brownsville neighborhood by drawing on the model. Jenny Yi (B.Arch ’21, left) guides them through the process. Photo/ Joyce Jin.

As we enter the space at the Community Justice Center, we first see the large drawing made by the drawing team. The drawing really stood out and helped to define the space at the review. The drawing seeks to draw out four different narratives and/or timelines of the neighborhood. The drawing begins by chronicling the history of the neighborhood over a period of 60 years from 1940 till today. The drawing then engages the community to chart their aspirations of the neighborhood – what they wish to have and what they like about it at the present. The drawing then wishes to draw out the stories of the residents going deeper into understanding who they are. The last part of the drawing gives the residents an opportunity to map out their day. All these different narratives intersect to create a collective reading of the neighborhood.

The model team followed a similar strategy in which they created a space for the residents to share their stories, memories and more. We wanted to know what Brownsville was to them, what makes it theirs, and what do they see as the future of Brownsville. Some of the key questions that emerged were “What were the spaces that amplified black joy?,” “What spaces made you feel most connected to the community?”,What spaces made you feel safe or unsafe?” and “What were the spaces that promoted a sustainable future of drawing?” The model acted as a tabula rasa for people to engage and connect with as well as share their thoughts and ideas.

Community members engage with the drawing by drawing their stories and aspirations for the neighborhood. Photo/ Daisy Dai

As we engaged with the community in the drawing and model we realized that we did not know more than the people who lived in the community and that it was important for us to make the residents feel comfortable and safe as they expressed and shared their thoughts and feelings. As the residents played with the model and drawing the conversations increasingly became about integration, breaking labels to create unified spaces for all, creating tactical interventions that can proliferate as well as dealing with ageing development. The three key words during the whole process was; redefine, reoccupy and reuse.

Peter Robinson (center) watches the film by the film team titled “Conversations on Brownsville” alongside community members. Photo/ Joyce Jin

The film team showcased the voices of those in the community. It featured interviews of four different residents juxtaposed with the jarring images of the reality of the situation in Brownsville. Some of the conversations that emerged from the discussion about the film related to the power of journalism and how it shapes the perceptions of people. It made us question, “how can we create newsworthy experiences to transform the experience of space?” As consumers of mass media, we must be aware and critical of the reality that is presented to us. And as producers of a film, we must be aware of the lens that we are putting out there. The film overall brought together the good, the bad and the ugly to create something beautiful.

One key take-away from the whole session was that an important part of the process is to constantly check in with the community on whether what we presented is correct and accurate and what needs to be changed and revised. “Did we present and represent the voices well?”, “Is what we choose to represent what is?” and “What sort of impact does what we present have?” We ended the day by each one of us presenting our own ideas and proposals for the community. The ideas ranged from creating improved public space, rehabilitation of existing buildings as well as adding to the existing façade amongst others.

As we move forward during the semester, we hope to synthesize all the information gleaned from community input to create new opportunities and interventions for community to happen within Brownsville. We hope to be able to create designs that meet the vision of the community leaders, balance the wishes of the diverse voices and user groups and honor the history and heritage of the neighborhood. We left with the feeling that we were doing important work for the community by building consensus, understanding others’ needs and respecting the ideas of others. Our relationship with the community will continue as we create a sense of civic responsibility, engage stakeholders and create a sense of place for people.

Chi Yamakawa (B.Arch’21) presenting her  individual proposition for the project on creating a public path. Photo/ Joyce Jin
Grace Chen (B.Arch ’21) presenting her project. On her left is Brandon Nolasco (B.Arch ’20). Photo/ Joyce Jin

Architects responding to Wright’s Guggenheim

On the special occasion of the Guggenheim’s 60th Anniversary, many of us had the opportunity to attend the Archtober Panel – Responding to Wright: Architects Design for the Guggenheim. On the panel were Lise Anne Couture, Hani Rashid and our Gale and Ira Drukier Dean, J. Meejin Yoon. We excited to hear their bold and site-specific exhibition design interventions that amplified the singularity of Wright’s architectural icon, the Guggenheim.

Gale and Ira Drukier Dean, J. Meejin Yoon (second to right) presents for the Archtober Panel discussion at the Guggenheim – Responding to Wright: Architects Design for the Guggenheim. Next to her (from left) are Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture of Asymptote Architecture. Photo/ Maria Ford

Designing for the Guggenheim is a complex challenge for most architects and curators since everything is at an angle. The geometry of the building must be taken into consideration when making curatorial decisions. Plus, it is challenging to ensure pieces stay in place and must be carefully corrected for any angle. AAP Dean Meejin Yoon’s 2004 project at the Guggenheim comprised of a singular linear surface that undulates around the spiral to create surplus surface area and display within its folds. The effect is a continuous and smooth non-uniform display system that organizes the different artifacts. The surface was generated using a simple algorithm that sorted the different artifacts. Some of the surprises of using felt as a material was that it absorbed sound and moisture culminating into an amazing learning experience that changed the museum experience. After the panel discussion, we had the  opportunity to attend the 60th anniversary party and visit the current exhibition at the Guggenheim, Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, which  brings together both well-known and rarely seen works from the turn of the century to 1980.

Cornelius Tulloch (B. Arch ’21) in the Guggenheim’s rotunda, overlooking the Anniversary Party and live jazz music. Photo/ Joyce Jin

Even until today, Wright’s vision for the Guggenheim challenged, changed and continues to transform the relation relationship between art and architecture and the way architects design spaces for viewing art.

Resilient Shorelines: Hunter’s Point South

Resiliency is becoming increasingly important along coastal cities, rising temperatures aggravate sea level rise, the occurence and impact of extreme weather events. Landscape architects are responding with parks which adapt to the climactic and geographic changes.

Hunter’s Point South was phased in 2 pieces and was built between 1996 and 2002. The large scale waterfront plan is designed to be wet, to survive current, velocity and energy. There are multiple strategies the designers used to create a shoreline park which aims to respond to the shoreline. The park used multiple adaptation strategies, each having their own set of costs and benefits.

Revetment: The revetment dissipates wave energy, reducing coastal erosion. Revetments are often made with rock rip rap.
Breakwaters: breakwaters can be used to reduce wave force and shoreline erosion though they are best used in shallow waters as they can be expensive to install in deeper waters. In addition the breakwaters can create habitats for coastal life.
Living Shoreline: Living shorelines reduce shoreline erosions and storm surge along the coastline in addition to protecting coastal ecosystems.
Floodable Plain: The floodable plain can catch stormwater and control flooding during storm surge, protecting the built environment from water damage.
Seawall: Seawalls, often multipurpose, acts as a flood barrier. The wall at Hunters point south elevates the park forming a hard edge against the water.