Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Willet Point Video

This video captures the area and the perspective of three tradesmen in The Iron Triangle.  One I believe is the only resident within Willets Point.  
Willets Point: The Iron Triangle from Nicholas Weissman on Vimeo.

Willets Point, NYC

At the moment on top of our design and audit work based in London on the A10 we are prepping for essays trying to get my head around the complexity of the research, where to take my research and the broad areas that need to be researched to refine my writing and thoughts.

One of the essays is a comparison study of Willets Points a proposed development site in the Queens area of New York and the near completed Olympic site in London.  Having recently, we a month ago now visited New York on a study trip we explored Willets point.  Sitting next to the Mets ‘City Field’ baseball stadium this ramshackle looking piece of land is a vibrant village of mechanic.  A place where the city comes to get its vehicles repaired at lower costs than the branded car dealers a thriving primarily Hispanic community makes their living.

Warned by the white Americans to not venture through the central muddy strip we decided to anyway. To understand the place and the people you have to take risks.  We were careful with our photography and only one woman shouted at us we walked through.  A sense that perception and actual experience of a place are always very different, many of the workers were gesturing poses, perhaps we were less threatening because we looked like students and we felt less threatened because we were in a group.  I suppose the main resent to be mindful of this mechanics island and our intrusion upon it is because it is on the edge of being disperse, irradiated by a tsunami of “redevelopment”.  The unwinnable force of the big developer meets small time trader.  The state using its power of Eminent domain, supposedly there to take land over for public need, instead has been used as a way of handing land over to the multi million pound development.  The value of the small local trader has been missed, lost amongst dollar signs.. How can these businesses be relocated successfully, they are a community routed in the urban landscape, self employed and independent traders employing their families and local tradesmen, servicing the wider community.  Their offer to the city may seam small to the big developer but their value in a non-monetary perspective is great.

Back to the World of Study

 Booths Poverty Map of London Booths Poverty Map of London

The last few months have been crazy.  I received my unconditional offer to continue studying Architecture at London Metropolitan university but instead of taking the normal route of a Part 2 Professional diploma in Architecture I decided to combine it with the Masters in Spatial Planning and Urban Design.  I have really found my interest in wanting to really understand the wider context of the landscape Urban or Rural and the impacts of development upon an area and want to dig deeper into the complex nature of the planning system and its continual development and historical context behind development plans set by central and local government.

I guess I am hoping that this more specific element of the course will enable me to bridge that gap between architect and designer.  Perhaps leading me into a new career direction, although architecture is my love this process of researching and understanding the need for more propositional design within the city is opening my eyes to what architecture is, I suppose I already understood its impact upon the local and wider context but I am finding I am able to explain and evaluate situations to others with more confidence.  Perhaps the media has a role to play in people’s perceptions of what architecture is/or isn’t.  The validity and need for good design/a good architect is so often disregarded in favour of cost cutting.  Design is not how pretty something looks in plan, we do not view and experience our world in this way.  Perhaps my future role will be the intermediary between the platforms of design, the developer, the planner/planning system and the architect.  If the Localism bill works could I perhaps work within local communities on a consulting level acting as a voice for their concerns and desires for their community and working independent of but with the developer. 

Change has to take place within the built environment, pressure on land for housing need and community facilities in conjunction with expansion of our towns and cities prevented by Greenbelt land means higher density/ more efficient use of our existing brownfield sites is inevitable.  Nibyism is an inevitable barrier that has to be addressed because development is always going to take place near somebodies back yard if we are to make use of viable and valuable sites within the built environment.