East Harlem: The Bank

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Project Team

Authors: Natalia Enriquez Goyes, Clara Ziada

Institution: University of Toronto

Instructor: Sam Dufaux

Studio Coordinator: Sam Dufaux

Studio: Net Zero Activism; Graduate Architecture; Spring 2021

Project Description

Through a continuous circular flow of materials, the material bank connects donors to builders, users, and consumers. Following material networks of supply and demand where social interactions of lending and borrowing these materials are created, The Bank becomes invested in the neighborhood and connects it to the larger market as a whole. In this way, it not only becomes a bank of materials, but also a bank information. Its role as an educational facility provides its users with studio spaces, tools and machinery to learn the skills to, in turn, have agency and autonomy over their own spaces. The center acts as a physical and social infrastructure mediating between people and materials. It provides a space of education, information sharing and material distribution. Besides serving as a storage facility, The Bank inventories incoming construction material, catalogues upcoming demolitions, and tests/educates the public on new assemblies. It lends the community a toolkit for building and constructing change.

Challenging the canon of linear economy, The Bank highlights the lost potential of material “waste.” We treat the building as a new home for materials within a continuous recovery and reutilization process. This narrative lends itself to a focus on embodied energy where the material choices, their life cycle considerations, and design for (dis)assembly become main strategies. Its role as an urban mine makes it an interface in which materials can be stored, regulated, and transformed. The project stands as an intermediary between multiple iterations of disassembly and new assembly.


Additional Links

Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

The Studio explores both the conceptual and technical dimensions of post-carbon thinking at the building scale. It asked the students to re-think and reimagine the social and material dimensions of buildings to create a Net Zero Center for Activism in East Harlem. The Center for Activism is a global hub for the activist movement to work together and share ideas and also an institution that functions as a local community center. It is a framework to re-think how buildings should be built/un-built and programmed for the future given we have 9 years left to decarbonize our industry. The project takes place in New York City. The city’s urban structure, density, culture and endless transformations is the ultimate triumph of capitalism. At the same time, and perhaps as a result, it is a city of extreme climate vulnerability and social inequities. The site, along Lexington Avenue and between 119th and 120th Street materialises this condition where social and environmental vulnerabilities overlap. As a starting point, the students articulated ideas in a “Net Zero Manifesto” to consider how the interaction of program, systems, site and space can create a new ground for both decarbonization and social justice. At the technical level, the studio applied a methodology that asked students to reconsider design working methods to integrate and represent the quantifiable yet relatively invisible forces such as embodied energy, supply chains and thermodynamics to deliver a Net Zero building.