Authors: Zak Jacobi, Evan Webber
Institution: University of Toronto
Instructor: Sam Dufaux
Studio Coordinator: Sam Dufaux
Studio: Net Zero Activism; Graduate Architecture; Spring 2021
The project, located in the New York neighbourhood of East Harlem engages with the community’s rich heritage tied to celebration. The bringing together of people in support of a common cause is a distinct type of activism that unites the community and allows for the sharing of ideas and the generation of support networks. Celebration plays an active role in encouraging social gathering and empowering community members through the sharing of experiences, stories, and talents. The project looks to create spaces of celebration through diverse and dynamic programs which overlap and blend into one another augmented and emphasized by floods of color prompting both formal and informal interactions between community members.
This is done in consideration of the sites connection with environmental and ecological systems crucial to the operation of the site and community and how this enhances and engages with acts of celebration. The project considers its impact not just on the site but within the larger cycles on the community and city, acting as a space for rainwater storage for the community in times of intense rainfall, an anaerobic digestor reducing waste produced on site and providing natural gas to cities grid, and an urban forest fostering biodiversity and alleviating heat island effect.
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.