432 Park: No Vacancy
Critic: Andrés Jaque
With: Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt and Michelle Kleinman
The Census Bureau estimates that 30 percent of all apartments in the quadrant from 9th to 70th streets between Fifth and Park Avenue in Manhattan are vacant at least 10 months a year. 432 Park Avenue is just one of a new breed of super-tall, super-luxury buildings within this quadrant. 432 Park is a home to no one. It must be understood within the larger socio-economic framework that renders it a commodity: a thing to own rather than a place where stories of everyday life play out.
This project attempts to understand the ways in which 432 Park Avenue can and should be considered a vacant, vacated, and unoccupied space in the city. We are concerned with the relative emptiness of the site and how it can be appropriated and occupied for new uses.
Throughout the semester we looked at the long tradition of squatting and activist spaces in New York City. However, we are not squatting the Lower East Side, we are squatting the most expensive building in New York. So while the method and manner of our operations is similar, the aesthetics and goals must be different. What does it mean to subversively occupy and squat a luxury building?
“If there is one unifying theme to be found among the ever-changing multitude of people, ideas, activities that theme would be: that space should be defined by those who directly use it in the business of living rather than by those who manipulate blocks of space in the interest of profit.”
– “Artifacts,” ABC No Rio
No Vacancy proposes strategies for the subversive reappropriation of space within the existing tower to enable its occupation by a self sustaining community tucked within its walls. These strategies play upon perception of space suggesting subtle interventions within the units that slowly, almost imperceptibly consume the spaces of the apartment for the squatter occupation. Walls thicken, ceilings drop, and the service elevator and fire stairs are commandeered for the clandestine production and the reproduction of squatter spaces within the building.
To squat is an argument for the right to housing but it is just as much about the social infrastructures and spaces that form and support a community. To squat is no longer simply about having a place to sleep, but about the access to a place to cook, debate, listen, produce, smoke, isolate, communicate, bathe, watch, and perform.
The squatter spaces employ a series of devices and technologies that enable an infrastructure that supports all the daily functions of life and the vast array of other programs to take place, expanding and contracting responding to need. The system does not require an entire apartment to be vacant but rather one that operates on the vacancy of a single room.
Project Selected for 2014-2015 GSAPP Abstract
Original renderings are from DBOX.