Bronx Spirale

One of the exhibits currently on view at AIA New York's Center for Architecture is Powerhouse, the New Housing New York Legacy Project won last year by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. This winning project, located in the South Bronx and comprised of affordable housing with a co-op and medical center, will be built under Mayor Bloomberg's 10-year New Housing Marketplace initiative.


The project was part of a conference this morning called Fit City 2: Promoting Physical Activity Through Design. As can be seen from the rendering above, the project is emblematic of attempts at incorporating physical activity via a series of stepped roof gardens and a central courtyard. The project also features a fitness center (as part of the medical component) to give residents the opportunities they might not otherwise have in affordable housing.

While the merits of the projects are clear, and it is deserving of first place in the competition, it seems very familiar to me. That's because it reminds me of a building I posted about earlier this year: Hundertwasser's Waldspirale in Darmstadt, Germany (show inset below with the Dattner/Grimshaw model on display at the Center).


Each project spirals about a central courtyard, ascending as it turns clockwise; each project buries parking underground; and each project uses a green roof as a common space. Of course the biggest difference between the two is the way Dattner/Grimshaw's project -- arising from a Modernist vocabulary of orthogonal planes, most clearly shown in the model -- steps at the green roof, unlike the gradual climb of the Waldspirale. While adjacent roofs will be accessible via stairs, this vertical separation seems like a missed opportunity (though perhaps intentionally so if they were inspired by the German development and didn't want to repeat it too closely), especially when one notices how the green patterns in the model continue from one step to another. This stepping is also indicative of Modernist planning, that separates uses, in this case the community garden at the bottom of the model (colored boxes), the "party terrace" at the top of the tower, and recreational green in between.

The architect from Dattner's office admitted at the conference that while the competition asked for the project to be a template of sorts, the winning design is highly site-specific (like Waldspirale) and therefore cannot be directly exported to other locations. But certain principles and elements can be exported, including the green roof as communal space, a good idea that will need a great deal of resident involvement over time to be successful as Hundertwasser's project is today.


  1. Hey, John, I was wondering... it's just a question, not really hundertwasser-related (even though I find him very interesting). Of all those sites in the column to the right, which ones are the ones you visit frequently?

  2. That's strange. I hadn't read the "blog survey" post before asking the question... but I agree with G. Yours is the only architecture blog on my bookmarks toolbar, John.

  3. Wow!!!The building looks great and it is just a symbol of majestic...I want to build home like this,Oh!Ambani already start building his 27 floor house in India...
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  4. Victor - I wrote a long reply to your question yesterday and posted it, but somehow it's gone. Anyways, a shorter answer is that I use Bloglines to look at sites, and tend to read (rather than just skim) pages that post less frequently than this page, for example, but have more in-depth coverage and presentation of ideas, like Brand Avenue, one of the sites on the Architect Online survey. And given that I've turned into a feed-reader rather than a web-surfer, how the feed is presented (full vs. truncated) helps determine if I just read it there or have to visit the site to finish it, in the last case meaning the writer(s) has to "pull me in" in the first few lines, or even the headline, or I'll just keep scrolling...not that that's apparent to most people writing blogs. Check out my Bloglines Feeds (also found in the sidebar under My Other Stuff) to understand what I mean.


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