Tectonic Traces: Memory and Erasure
New York City constantly witnesses the transformation of its urban fabric. Older buildings are torn down and new ones erected, erasing the traces of the city’s history. This constantly resets the memory of the city and obscures the “continuity of time,” or the traces of an old building in a new one. Tectonic Traces introduce the idea of trace into the design process as an equally important factor among other conventional site constraints. It tries to reveal the layers of time on a new building program through a design process that utilizes ephemeral traces in the next life cycle.
In order to explore a design process that utilizes traces in this way, I have experimented sequentially with two discrete programs. Both tie back to the historic identity of the site, which is located at the intersection of 12th Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan. Experiment #1 is a bookstore, which references the site's history as a printing press, while Experiment #2 is a hostel, which refers back to East Village’s early 20th century tenement housing. As a starting point, traces of an existing building wall left after demolition provide the traces upon which the program of a bookstore is designed, which then provides the new trace upon which the hostel is designed. By changing the scale of program throughout the design iterations, my thesis questions to what extent a trace can influence a design, and catalogs a variety of design decisions that either reveal, reproduce or reinvent the existing trace.