Harvard Graduate School of Design
Manhattan, New York City, US
NYCHA, Amsterdam Houses
STU 1509:Future Proof Neighborhoods
Professor Dirk Van Gameren
In the heart of the New York Upper West Side, a tale of resilience and racial struggles unfolds. At its core, the last remaining brick fortification, the Amsterdam Houses, proudly stands amidst its magnificent trees, surrounded by towering high-rises. However, these buildings hold a deeper significance—scarred by racism and wounded by the frustrating fight for equality. They evoke echoes of the poignant “West Side Story.” In the upper west side, Seneca Village, a haven for black souls, once thrived but has since been erased by Central Park’s splendor. This history repeats itself when San Juan Hill, a vibrant community that birthed jazz and celebrated the boundless gifts of black culture, was also wiped from history. Yet, urban renewal projects and the rise of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts shattered this harmony, scattering its dwellers and erasing its vibrant existence. Amidst the fragmented memories, Amsterdam Houses endure a resilient remnant of the past, gracefully preserving the indomitable spirit that resonates throughout.
West Side Story proposes an ambitious endeavor: a vision of an urban corridor, an eco-connector that stretches from Central Park to the Hudson River, passing through Amsterdam Housing. The primary objective of this corridor is to unite the diverse voices of the neighborhood, transcending the traditional pathways that have perpetuated inequality.
In this reimagined space, Amsterdam Houses can rise as a beacon of representation and celebration. It’s an opportunity to showcase black art, music, and poetry, forging connections with Lincoln Center and breathing life into a once marginalized community. Through this initiative, a vibrant cultural exchange can thrive, challenging the narratives that have been silenced and excluded.
The axis of this proposed corridor, perpendicular to Manhattan’s main grid, symbolizes a departure from the norm. By connecting fragmented green open spaces, it challenges historical divisions and inequalities caused by the grid’s orientation. This corridor offers a new pathway that defies the limitations imposed by the embedded racism in the structure of the city.
In the spirit of West Side Story, where love and conflict collide, this endeavor calls for unity and understanding. It invites us to confront the painful truths of the past and reimagine a future where every voice is heard, and every person is valued.
West Side Story stands as a testament to the resilience and strength of a community that refuses to be erased. With this vision of an urban corridor, we can bridge the divide, embrace diversity, and create a legacy of inclusivity for generations to come.