Sept. 20, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A group of architecture students have put forward a number of ideas as to how to develop the sprawling Sunnyside Yard with a focus on sustainability and keeping the area—eyed for development—cool.
Graduate students at the New York Institute of Technology were tasked with developing plans for the 180-acre site as part of a course that focuses on urban climate. The site, which several city officials want developed, is in the midst of an 18-month master planning process launched by the city that potentially signals formal plans to develop the area.
But devising a large-scale development here, as in other areas, poses issues with keeping the large site cool. Urban heat stress, brought on by increasing temperatures and all that constructing buildings bring, like more asphalt and concrete, made Sunnyside Yard the ideal place to architecture students to study.
“This intersection between urban design, sustainability and resilience has shaped my practice, research and teaching for many years,” said Jeffrey Raven, the professor who led the course.
All of the projects, presented last month to a panel of scientists and experts from the International Association for Urban Climate, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies/Columbia University Earth Institute, and more, focused on how the yard could be built with the least amount of urban heat stress.
“We talked about challenges and opportunities of planning for that great scale,” said Wenshuo Liu, a student in the course.
Instead of devising a plan driven by “market-based decisions”, Liu and others implemented designs using best practices with four climate factors in mind—efficiency of urban systems, form and layout, heat resistant construction materials, and vegetative coverage.
Blueprints, for example, show the bulk of the yard’s tall buildings would be in the southern tip and would make for a new office district. In the middle, the yard would hold urban farms, with food grown using solar panels, and would also be home to cultural institutions. Residential and commercial buildings would make up the site’s northern tip, and features buildings with court yards in the center, and a green streetscape that focuses on walking and biking.
While the designs were made in the confines of a college course, Juan Pedro Liotta, a student in the class, said thinking about Sunnyside Yard with urban climate in mind is especially useful today.
“I think this project will open new doors,” Liotta said. “Working on such a large-scale project has changed the way I will approach a design. The time has come for us to create a strong relationship between climate factors and urban design.”
The Sunnyside Yard master planning process, to wrap up some time at the end of 2019, is expected to detail the site’s layout down to building density and uses, affordability, schools, parkland, and more. Developments phases, along with a potential timeline for the project, are also expected to be announced at the end of the master planning process.
The city, along with Amtrak, first announced their intention to produce a master plan for the site in May, just over a year after the Sunnyside Yard Feasibility Study was released.
The study said over 80 percent of the yard could potentially be decked over and developed with up to 24,000 residential units, 19 schools and 52 acres of public parks.
The yard has long been eyed for development, with Amtrak approaching the city in 2014 to discuss the possibility of a large-scale development above the yards.