A competition aimed at revamping a vacant marine transfer station on 135th Street selected its winning entries, and if any of them get built, the Hudson River could become the site of a vertical farm, a movie and entertainment venue, or a culinary center.
Linearscape Architecture, a New York- and Shanghai-based firm, was awarded $5,000 for its entry “Sym’bio’pia.”
Sym’bio’pia’s dominant features are five centrally located towers to accommodate hydroponic farming—a growing trend in dense urban landscapes, where it is difficult to farm in soil. It includes plans for a culinary learning center, a bike rental and repair shop, and a farmer’s market.
Venesa Alicea, a co-chair of the Emerging New York Architects Committee, which runs the annual competition, stressed that the competition is “purely design,” but is hoping that Community Board 9 will work to implement one of the winning entries.
The projects would need tremendous financial support to begin structural work before any building could occur, said Alicea, who lives in Harlem. But a redesigned marine transfer station would be both an economic boon and a recreational destination for Harlemites.
“This was an international competition to spotlight this site that the Board has wanted developed for 10 years,” Savona Bailey-McClain, co-chair of CB9’s economic development committee, wrote in an email. “The Board has wanted aquafarming, hydroponics, mulching and seeding to take place at the site. This might help the effort.”
The site of the old station is only accessible from a remote part of 12th Avenue, underneath the Riverside Drive viaduct and away from the hustle and bustle of Broadway.
“We wanted to ask, ‘What will bring people back?’” Alicea said. “One interesting proposal created a dynamic performance space, and there’s no performance space like that in that area of West Harlem.”
According to Linearscape Architecture’s website, Sym’bio’pia “is a prototype for dense urban environments where food can be locally grown year round in controlled symbiotic environments and distributed through existing networks of farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and community supported agricultural pick-up areas.”
The competition, which began accepting proposals in October from architecture students and licensed professional architects with 10 or more years of experience, generated 98 entries from 16 countries.
While ENYA officials said that many teams originated from the New York metropolitan area, the competition also attracted entries from Iran, Italy, and Australia.
At an ENYA meeting on Thursday night, Alicea said that the jury—which included building and landscape architects, an urban planner, and a microbiologist—was looking for proposals that were both innovative and feasible.
“We didn’t want all the entries to be about vertical farms, because that’s not a solution,” Alicea said. “We wanted a question—something that creates enough openness that you can pick and choose what it is.”