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Columbia GSAPP Studio 2019: Art House / Nature

In Fall 2019, vPPR is teaching an advanced studio called ‘Art House’ at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture (GSAPP), which explores the recent trend of artists moving from New York City to upstate New York, in particular along the Hudson Valley, for more affordable accommodation, more space or more nature, amongst other reasons.

 

Artists are known as one of the driving forces behind New York City’s success as a global cultural capital. Their presence has brought the city a special allure and edginess that most places can only dream of. From Louise Bourgeois to Andy Warhol, the city has been home to some of the greatest known western artists and has acted as a bedrock for production and creativity. This was made possible because in the twentieth century artists were able to occupy cheap and spacious studios which more often than not doubled up as their home and a hub to for the artist community to gather.

 

However artists’ success at occupying New York City can also be viewed as their downfall – they have created a city that is no longer affordable to their occupation. It is a city where the consumption of art has now overtaken its production, where gentrification is already encroaching on even the outermost suburbs. This year, the studio will look at the ongoing phenomena of the exodus of artists from New York City to upstate New York, in particular along the Hudson Valley.  Referred to as the new Brooklyn or Williamsburg, towns such as Hudson and Beacon have for a number of years already been home to artists and creatives who can’t afford to remain in the city or who may be seeking other opportunities such as more space or a change in pace of lifestyle, amongst other factors. We will focus on the relatively untouched and historical village of Coxsackie, located on the Hudson river, just 8 miles north of the town of Hudson.

Process

The Hudson valley has the advantage of remaining in close proximity and easy access via train to New York City, where the international art scene is firmly rooted, and yet offering significantly more space for substantially less rent. While the benefits to artists relocating here are abundant, they face new challenges: how to learn the lessons of New York City, resist fast-paced gentrification, and instead cultivate a new strong creative community – a counterpoint to NYC – that respects and integrates with the existing community, bringing a creative spirit that can be shared by all. In order to thrive, the new maker community requires a certain critical mass and level of operational activity that allows it to have an independent presence. In some instances, this happens in an adhoc, informal way; in this studio, we will propose a more structured approach and create an intentional community of artists with a coordinated masterplan on the edge of Coxsackie, consisting of a series of architectural mixed use proposals combining long term affordable housing, studios, display spaces and communal facilities shared by both the artists and local community. Through our designs, we will constantly negotiate between existing and new communities, and seek to create an architectural language that maximizes opportunities for collaboration. At an urban level, the projects will form part of a family of interventions that respond not only to the natural context of the site itself but also are in dialogue with each other.

Perhaps more than any other typology, artist housing experiments with the boundaries of living and working. While artist housing always contains residential spaces, it usually also integrates studio space and other related communal spaces. Artist housing is a fascinating typology for its layers of innovations: programmatic flexibility, expanding concepts of collective living beyond domestic space including overlapping zones for living, working, and exhibiting; formal innovation challenging building typologies with experimental configurations of double height spaces and the use of artistic material palettes; and infrastructural innovation, such as alternative financial models and new tenancy systems with civic engagement, new planning policies and designations, and cooperatives. We will be inventing new live-work typologies that explore variations of degrees of shared space versus private space, ranging from sharing only an external space to sharing every space in the proposal. The design will have an impact on the temporality of the residents, whether they live here for several years or decades. We will investigate how increasing degrees of shared space can tether communities together as well as how generous public facilities can strengthen the relationship of the new community to existing one. The unit will investigate new live work typologies at the scale of a single wall, a housing block and a masterplan.