The New Semi-Public Realm

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Ran (Bonnie) Li & Chuan He
Rethinking the role of public space and using the rooftops as a new form of public realm. Our project will demonstrate how urban life and activity can flourish in a new privately-owned public roofscape that is accessible by the local community. This starts from thinking about how future open spaces would be like in response to social and climate issues, such as pandemics, densification, and flooding. By harvesting and recycling water and hosting workshops and exhibits about sustainable building practices, our project contributes to the city’s social-ecological program.
In dense urban cities that are vulnerable to climate change and social concerns, it is imperative that we activate rooftops and terraces to create interesting open spaces. Our proposed building is a community-oriented not-for-profit that includes office space, training, workshop and recreational facilities. The rooftop is reimagined as a new form of public space that nurtures community and responds to pandemic and climate crisis challenges. We broke the massing to create a series of connected poche spaces that accommodate the Climatourium’s diverse functions. Ramps and bridges create a walkable system around and through the building, providing access from the sidewalk and a neighboring school.
Our site is located in lower Manhattan, New York, one of the most populated areas in North America with a population of almost 1.6 million people. The land is very valuable, making land available for public space limited. The existing rooftops are mainly covered with solar panels and mechanical systems. Only a few rooftops are functional for an everyday use program. In contrast to traditional buildings, our project moves all mechanical systems underground. This allows us to make full use of the roof as a new public space. Adding a canopy ensures that space can be used year-round. During cold months, the canopy and glazing act as a greenhouse. The sunlight heats the semi-conditioned space, and in the summer, shading will block excessive sunlight.
Urban living with a conscious and visible connection to water will help residents appreciate that they live within natural systems and cycles. Public spaces are so important in our life which provide the social needs of humans, inspire people to interact with each other, and create community. However, this neighborhood lacks valid public space. People need more public space and children need more playgrounds. This project is a catalyst for the whole neighborhood, for rethinking the role of public space and using the rooftops as a new form of public space. Thus, nurturing community building and influencing the fabric of our social culture and addressing a series of pandemic and climate change challenges.

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