Kristin Akin-Zimmerman / The City Adrift
New York City is fast and efficient: the city’s pulse feeds on caffeine, phones, and stories from that one obscure place in that one neighborhood with that one woman you never want to see again. These destinations define our leisure, work, and errands, but except for cases like the High-Line, shopping avenues, or walking parks, it is rare to wander without a destination. Although destination spaces and events are valued for their uniqueness, the uniqueness of the in-between is often ignored.
Jane Jacobs spoke of the sidewalk is a place of vibrancy and event, but its limited by gridded street paths, uninvited facades, and inactivated public space. The slowness of walking is rendered obsolete by the implementation of transportation systems: busses, metros, cars, trains. These modulated places are fast and uninviting — a detached experience. Some are underground, furthering the disconnect between event and movement. Transportation systems epitomize efficiency, detachment from current space, and modulated experience.
This thesis contests this form of movement through the city. It is not intended to discount the need for efficient movement, nor is it intended to replace it. Rather, its goal is to provide a richer alternative—one in which experience, engagement, and awareness of the idiosyncratic life of the city is prioritized over efficient movement through it. It focuses on the journey between events known or (hopefully) unknown. It stitches public space into the urban fabric by connecting elevated spaces, left-over lots, ignored voids, and unwanted real estate. It is a real-life, real-time Stumbleupon for unexplored oddities sought after.
The network is an informal system based on the needs, funds, and stubbornness of locals. It aspires to be continuous, but will probably (hopefully) be intermittent because of funding and diverse user interests. All the better though, now people must get out to discover the area around dead-end stations. These stations do not respect their physical context much; their care goes towards housing happenings. They are hyperactive community centers for their local users: a packing room for girl scout cookies, a practice room for a new band, and a pop-up beer garden, all on a Wednesday. A station in the Upper East Side is much different than one in the Business District or Chinatown. Though subconsciously “owned” by adjacent users, interaction and temporary ownership is attained by the wondering tram user, excited by the prospects of playing racquetball or learning lion dancing.