Project by Emily Louise Allen and Leandro Couto de Almeida
In the urban context, emptiness is seen as the absence of value. Those with a political or capital stake in urban decisions embrace the articulation of planned, predictable future scenarios. However, because these leftover lands operate outside of the confines of the neoliberal city structure, they harbor social and ecological potential that does not—and cannot—exist elsewhere. This proposal asserts and embraces the hidden value of these spaces and subtracts, scrapes, and excavates from the ground plane as a mechanism for revealing aspects of the site and the violence of urbanization processes.
Urban designs that embraces the potential embedded within abandoned sites must reject the contemporary narrative of “improvement,” relinquish this position of power, and instead aim to establish conditions for a fuller urbanism to reveal itself.1 Cultivating the growth of these latent social and ecological potentials requires the intentional construction of space without an identity, upon which any multitude of interpretations may be projected. The erasure of excess of design, composition, or representation on the production of cities and landscapes offers an opportunity to a more democratic and honest urbanity, without the concerns of formality and completion of architects and designers.2
Urbanism is an inherently violent proposition.3 The rigidity of highly designed, overly controlled urban spaces inhibit individual desires and social spontaneity, and cannot adapt to the messiness of open-ended systems. This disruption of social and ecological possibilities deprives us of discoveries and surprises and impedes novel futures.
Urban development hides its brutality through a shiny, sophisticated veneer—one so far removed from the reality of development processes that any connection between the two is nearly invisible. Through subtraction, excavation, and scraping, the proposed scheme exposes raw earth—the primary ground condition of urban development. These earthmoving methodologies are strategically intermixed within the proposal’s polished surfaces to highlight the tension between urbanism’s two paradigms.
Exploded Systems Axonometric
Detail Sections: Void Ground Treatment Strategies
The three void treatment strategies each reveal different layers of history, unseen value, and new potentials on the site.
Vignettes / Site Perspectives as a moment in time
1. James Corner, “Landscraping,” in Stalking Detroit, ed. Georgia Daskalakis, Charles Waldheim, and Jason Young (Barcelona: Actar, 2001), 124. ↵
2. Ibid., 124-125. ↵
3. From the founding of Rome to contemporary redevelopment, cities are both a product and producer of violence. See Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, ed. Bernard Crick, trans. Leslie J. Walker, S.J. (London: Penguin Classics, 2003), 131-134. ↵
This proposal was developed for the third semester core landscape architecture studio at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, with the instruction of Sergio Lopez-Pineiro.
Emily Louise Allen explores design agency within both physically and socially constructed landscapes. She is currently a Master in Landscape Architecture I Candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Emily graduated cum laude from New York University Gallatin, where she concentrated in Sustainable Urban Design and Planning. Emily’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Greenpoint Gazette, Ink!, NYU Alumni Magazine, and on ABC News.
Leandro Couto de Almeida completed a Bachelor of Architecture at Fluminense Federal University, Brazil. His work has been exhibited at the São Paulo International Architecture Biennale, the South American Landscape Seminar, and the Companhia Brasileira de Trens Urbanos. Currently, he is a Master in Landscape Architecture candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.