During the 1800s the Industrial Revolution spread rapidly throughout Europe, Asia and North America, specifically the cities of Britain, than Tokyo, Pittsburgh and New York. Even though Britain being to experience the effects of a massive industrial boom, the use of steam powered machines everywhere led to the increase in the number of factories, particularly textile factories. With the number of factories exponentially increasing, people from the countryside migrated to towns within a closer proximity for better paying work. The wages of a farm worker were very low in comparison to a textile worker, and were also scarce during this changing period. As the factories increased production, the need for an influx of workers was imminent. Cities soon began to overflow and people crowded into rooms rented to several families at once. However, the transition from manual labor and animal based economy towards machine manufacturing erupted textile industries, the development of iron making techniques and the increased use of refined coal further enhanced production quantities. Trade expansion was specialized with the introduction of canals, and improved roads and railways.
Historically in US, Pittsburgh represents one of the major precedents related to heavy industry and post industrial economic struggle. The war of 1812 was the turning point in Pittsburgh’s self sufficiency due to the cutoff of British goods. This stimulated American manufacturers, so by 1815 Pittsburgh became a large producer in America’s metal industry such as iron, brass, tin, along with an assortment of glass products. Production of steel began in 1875 and by 1911 Pittsburgh was producing half of the nation’s steel. By the 1970s foreign competition and the outsourcing of industry and service led to the collapse of the steel industry, and by 1980 many of the major corporate headquarters had relocated overseas. By the 1970s foreign competition such as Germany and Japan pressured the United States steel industry. By the 1980s the coke and iron deposits were now depleted, raising material costs. The larger mills faced heavy completion from large non union “mini-mills” with lower labor costs, completely diminishing the local market. As the steel production decreased the amount of jobs did as well along with the population. The shrinking city caused a ripple effect throughout the region. With the loss of manufacturing jobs, trade weakened with linked industries such as railroads, mines, and other related factories across the territory.
In 1898, the modern City of New York as “Metropolis” was formed with the consolidation of the independent City of Brooklyn, joined to Manhattan by the Brooklyn Bridge. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industrial production. Rapid Transit began operating in 1904, and the railroads operating out of Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station thrived. For a while, New York City became the most populous city in the world, starting in 1925 and overtaking London, which had reigned for a century. Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the 1930s saw the building of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, including numerous Art Deco masterpieces that are still part of the city’s skyline today. Both before and especially after World War II, vast areas of the city were also reshaped by the construction of bridges, parks and parkways coordinated by Moses, the proponent of automobile centered modernist urbanism in America. The introduction of steam power fuelled primarily by coal, wider utilization of water wheels and powered machinery primarily in textile manufacturing underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world, a process that continued as industrialization. The impact of this change on society was enormous but we see later on the decline in these industries due to globalization and the negative effect it took on the environment at the urban scale.
“For any ecological community to survive, no single member can support a destructive role. Man’s role historically has been destructive; today or tomorrow it can be totally, and for all life existent, irrevocably destructive.” – Ian Mcharg
The following explores how cities are dealing with the decline in manufacturing and the subsequent aftermath of years in industrial pollution. The consequences of the industrial revolution plagued the NY region especially hard in the Red hook area of Brooklyn. The initial downfall began with cities inadequate amount of space required to maintain production at the larger scale. Later the development of an interstate highway system contributed to the movement of manufacturing, wholesale trade, trucking, and warehousing outside of the city, in turn relocating existing jobs miles away. Over time, global trade increased and headquarters were moved over sees. Manufacturing accounted for 1 million jobs in 1950, 0.9 million in 1960, 0.8 million in 1970, half a million in 1980, and 387,000 in 1987. The decline in manufacturing in the country, and the overall movement of production was the cause of over half a million jobs lost.
At the center of Manhattan’s trading industry is Red Hook, a waterfront neighborhood first cultivated by the Dutch Settlers in the early 1700s. The initial appeal for this land was based on its isolation from the rest of South Brooklyn, caused by its natural wetlands and creeks. Once the Dutch settled and began to populate Red Hook, these creeks were drained and nurtured as farmland use during the 18th and 19th centuries which were also the busiest years of the areas industrial development era. This era is what formed the current built landscape. Before consolidation with New York in 1898, Brooklyn was the 4th largest city in the country, providing thousands of industrial jobs in waterfront factories and storehouses. Red Hook took a dramatic fall at the turn of the century with the loss of grain terminals, due to a major decrease in the shipping and trade of grain caused by an inland rail transportation. This decrease in trade took an economic toll on Red Hooks waterfront. During the decade after WWII containerization had an enormous detrimental impact on Red Hook’s shipping industry. Today we know of Red hook as an abandoned memory of what used to be. Not only does this neighborhood remind us of the once industrial legacy New York represented but it also sports the stigma of being one of the most contaminated sites in the boroughs. This reputation derives mainly from Red hook encompassing the Gowanus Canal, the former boat terminal for trafficking goods. The Gowanus is listed as a superfund site and an overwhelming hazard to the health and esthetics of the community. Poor moderation of waste dumping into the canal during the industrial era led to this high level of pollution. Currently there have been many proposals circulating on how to remediate the Gowanus, particularly interesting was the the rising currents exhibition at the MOMA which featured Red hook as Zone 4.
This proposal merges existing contexts and sustainable integration for the transformation process of the city. In order to accommodate the needs of a post industrial area, the now idle elements will have to adapt to a new process, sequentially serving a new function while revitalizing the existing structures and environment. This design intervention will keep intact a layer of history that once defined the culture of a place while reestablishing an economically stable neighborhood.
Red Hooks industrial fabric defines the architectural feel of the place. These old warehouses form the very culture in which Red Hooks appeal derives. There are three typologies related to a typical warehouse structure which Red Hook consists of. The grain warehouse, typical construction being a flat roof, 4-6 stories in height, 150′-200′ long, 50′-80′ wide, 3-5 bays of arched windows on the short sides facing the water, with timber framed longitudinal arrays of square columns 15′-18′ apart. Examples of this type of warehouse are Pier 41, Beard St Stores, and the Browne St stores. The second typology is Red Hooks manufacturing facilities, which were constructed with solid floor systems to withstand the weight and vibration of machinery. It is organized in an open floor plan so that the maximum area could be seen by a single foreman. Large windows provided light to workers. Red hook was a center for ship repair, in fact many foundries manufactured iron components and machinery for ships. Manufacturing facilities include Lingerwood Manufacturing and Rapid up loaders. Lastly, the reinforced concrete structures of the 1900s where many of Red Hooks manufactures had been organized around a central court. The emergence of reinforced concrete changed the shape of manufacturing facilities with the ability to have large open floor spans as well as large windows to provide daylight. Buildings of this type were also massed around a central core that enclosed the water tank. Advantages for this type of structure were lower fire insurance, larger floor area and quick to build. Current warehouses that exemplify this type of construction is Red Hooks New York Dock Company. It was important for me to specify the types of warehouses present within the urban landscape of Red hook in order to carry out the architecture of my proposal.
Moving on from the architectural relics of Red hook, I now present the environmental and infrastructural site conditions effecting the neighborhood and my proposal for alleviating some of these issues. Red Hook’s land forms a natural valley directly into the Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus is a major collector of storm water runoff during heavy rains and hurricane induced sea level rise. Gowanus’ current infrastructure does not support storm surges of intense volumes, leaving the sewer system overflowing with raw sewage directly into the canal. The additional sewage does not help with the canals existing post industrial waste build up. The first step in solving Red Hooks overwhelming volume of excess water and contaminated water has to deal with the water acquired from rainfall. Bioswales are implemented at streets along the valley lines sloping east west cleansing grey water before it enters the southern end of canal. Storm water runoff that flows to the northern portion of the canal is collected and stored in ponds of “industrial finger facilities”. This grey water undergoes a light cleaning process and is then recycled within each individual program. In addition to storm water collection, an existing historical spring is brought back to its original function creating a constant supply of fresh water produced at this location. The excess fresh water will be released into the canal at the southern end where the incoming salt water tide makes its way north. This concept envisions a full reestablishment of a fully functioning estuary “Little Estuary”. At the northern end of the canal we have another condition. In the event of heavy rainfall CSO R-034 is the cause of 121 million gallons of untreated sewage water annually. In addition to the re route of R-034 to a new retention facility. It is this projects intent to envision the idea of treating this water and using it for industrial production purposes.
Red Hooks legacy was that of an industrial driven city. This foundation is no longer present to the magnitude it once was during the turn of the century revolution. My vision is to reestablish a system of 2 new sustainable industries that will bring Red hook back to its prime. These industries will focus on reprogramming existing warehouses, some abandoned and some disheveled from time, as well as establishing an economic base for which a city of this scale can thrive. The first industry I envision is a new form of textile manufacturing. Currently there are 2 locations within New York and Brooklyn that collect plastic waste. These companies store the plastic until it is ready to be compressed into bales. Once plastic is compressed into bales, they are shipped by boat to Asia. Asian companies particularly in China and Japan, crush these bales into chips and carry out a lengthy process turning our plastic waste into a profitable fabric. This fabric is then sold back to the U.S. My proposal suggests rerouting the journey of the plastic bale into the new industrial city of Red Hook, where old warehouses are reprogrammed to perform the same industrial processes to make fabric as done by the Asian companies. This logic not only saves money but also revitalizes businesses at both the large and small scale for a decaying community.
My second industry is thought of on the local scale. Currently the journey of our agriculture lasts anywhere from 2-3 weeks in travel time, this means that by the time our fruits and vegetables reach our supermarkets they have already been frozen for quite some time. Red Hook has already adopted a local sharing farm for its neighbors. This farm is treated as a community garden where residents come and plant their own vegetables and buy from others. Using this idea of a local garden and introducing it as an addition to an existing program expands on one existing idea and forms another. Previously I reviewed the typical construction for warehouses located within Red Hook. All of the three typologies demonstrate long span roofing construction. As a second industry I propose repurposing these warehouse roofs into green house hydroponic farms. Now currently there is a company which buys space on top of supermarkets for example, harvests fruits and vegetables year round and sells them to the supermarket below. The travel time for our produce is now cut from 3 weeks to the distance of one floor.
The overall concept of this proposal is to revitalize a post industrial city by means of industry through sustainable approaches. This approach creates economic growth and tries to reestablish a harmed ecological system through light interventions. With the implementation of 2 new industries and a thriving ecological habitat, it is this projects belief that the community of Red Hook can be fully restored to its original status of an industrial power minus the negatives associated with industry.