Alec Spangler
landscape architecture
Willets Point
Harvard Graduate School of Design MLA 4th Semester Core Studio
Studio Coordinator Chris Reed, Instructor David Mah
The final Core Studio for MLA and MLA AP candidates was a series of intense design and research exercises based on the integration of ecological functions with urban fabric. The semester culminated with a high-level design proposal for the Willet's Point neighborhood in Queens, NY, which is notable for its location at a major inlet of the East River tidal channel that used to reach into the today's Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Students were encouraged to use this ecological condition, as well as the area's infrastructural deficiency, as an opportunity to completely re-imagine what an urban residential neighborhood can be.
My final proposal was to turn the site into a depository for a portion of the dredge fill constantly extracted from New York's harbors and channels, creating a phased land-filling program that would raise new neighborhoods out of flood range and create necessary depth for a comprehensive stormwater system. Intersecting mounds result in a modulated surface to serve as a framework for streets, residential blocks, common space, and infiltration basins. A scalable building typology, in turn, responds to landform composition and adapts to future population growth. Finally, this new topography allows the Northern Boulevard connection to the Van Wyck Expressway, which currently dominates the northwest shore of the peninsula, to become a massive sub-grade retaining structure and the foundation of public promenade modeled after the BQE in Brooklyn Heights. Instead of the Manhattan skyline, promenaders view an expanding salt marsh protected by new breakwaters and nourished by surplus dredge fill.