PROGRAM: Housing Infill

SITE: Park Avenue, Manhattan

CONTEXT: New York City, USA

Infrastructural Infill is a reaction to the increasing realization that the city cannot continue to sprawl for the reasons that the quality, specificity, and contrast of the city would be sacrificed in favor of a market-driven, limitless, and homogeneous territory. Capturing population growth in a dense

urban environment is essential for the long-term global competitiveness of the city as a built ecology of living, working, creation, socializing, transport, and culture. This research was conducted in hopes that there are alternative models for meeting and exceeding the projected demands of the future city.

Looking specifically at New York City as a

case study of a global city in which the creation, affordability, and diversity of new housing is key to its long-term prosperity, the proposed architecture is a strategy born from an investigation of the DNA of the city fabric instead of being an applied model.

Unlike existing proposals for multiple new satellite centers scattered across all of New York’s five boroughs, Infrastructural Infill discovers unused and over-looked space in the heart of Manhattan that can match the largest of these satellite projects, while also providing new affordable forms of housing, working, and transportation.

Seeing Park Avenue as an oversized and underutilized zone that connects four vibrant neighborhoods from 42nd Street to 144th Street, Infrastructural Infill is a study testing the potential to locate a combination of mixed-use housing and transportation in the residual spaces caused by urban infrastructure. This discovered insertion can support one of the highest new densities in the city.

For every increase in the area consumed by transportation networks, the city loses valuable buildable area that could be housing. These systems, whose footprints were generally decided generations ago, dictated the widths of roads and even the character and desirability of neighborhoods. Now, forever necessary, these integral and prolific spaces are observably underutilized in comparison to the increasing density of the city fabric around them. The latent potential in their leftover sectional voids are opportunities for infill housing and possibly for a new urban typology.

As an alternative model intent on increasing the diversity of affordable housing throughout Manhattan, Infrastructural Infill inserts itself into the void space of Park Avenue as a proactive strategy that calls for the 
reevaluation of the residual spaces of the city. 

Operating as a counterpoint to recent trends toward luxury towers, the proposed functions at the scale of existing neighborhoods and transforms to meet New York’s shifting needs. The creation of a flexible framework that supports and combines living, working, transportation, and recreation is a holistic approach to meeting the demands of the future. Architectural form is a tool to question and shape the forces directing the city.

The landmark New York City 1916 Zoning Resolution was a initiative designed to stop massive buildings from preventing adequate light and air from reaching the pedestrian streets below. Included in regulations were setbacks, lot coverage, and limitations to the height and massing ratio. The resulting forms created an original architectural language unique to New York.

Within the zoning code, an important distinction is made between Wide Streets, which are greater than 75 feet in width, and Narrow Streets. In this context, the constructed width of Park Avenue, at 140 feet, reveals an oversized and underutilized void forced by the dimensions of the infrastructure it incorporated. As a basis for the infill, the extra width of Park Avenue is redefined into two narrow street conditions which would allow for a slender building to be permitted within New York City zoning. The possibility of an inserted sectional space is in keeping with the intent of zoning and the city fabric.


Culminating with connections to Grand Central Station, the Midtown section is the most varied programmatically. The central median is transformed into a porous ground floor with small scale shops and galleries. Above, the new Park Avenue line connects

the ground with a public third floor. This floor is dedicated to new offices and a reintroduction of the park. Single-loaded housing duplexes stack on top.

Midtown has the highest residential zoning classification, R-10, and thus the prime concern is maximizing usable area within

the envelop created by the sky exposure planes. The base remains 45’ wide to keep the dimension of the median and to allow a

similar traffic flow. The ground floor remains open so that there is a sense of porousness through Park Avenue, just as it has always been.


The Upper East Side is redefined as a transitional zone that blends tunnel edge at 97th Street up to 111th Street. This evolution of the border is achieved through the introduction of ground level public programs that cover the railway viaduct and connect across the boulevard. Instead of a zone defined by a barrier, the neighborhood is met with an expansive public space that mitigates the topographic changes. The scale of the housing steps down with the zoning.

The zoning drops to R-9 from the previous R-10 Midtown zoning code. The neighborhood has some historic properties and older walkup buildings, so the drop in scale is in reference to the existing housing stock. Regardless of intervention, the Upper East Side remains successful, but the insertion would add more park space and

connections across the community.


East Harlem, known as Spanish Harlem or ‘El Barrio,’ is comprised mostly of Latino communities and has the second highest percentage of public house in America. The Harlem infill is set above the existing elevated railway and maintains a lower profile to remain consistent with the scale of the adjacent 
neighborhood. Here, the housing consists of familysized units and a high percentage of landscape to soften the harsh stereotyping of the public housing.

The Harlem section attempts to mix the
 past, current, and 
future typologies of the district. R-7 walk-ups are typical in older 
communities, while low-income housing towers are an iconic form nearby. Meanwhile, development of R-8 to R-10 is moving in along 125th Street. Using the R-8 tower code, an extension is proposed that would break the sky exposure plane, but is allowed based on

the footprint.


The northern most destination, the proposed infill finishes with a station at 144th Street in the Bronx. The neighborhood, discovered after crossing the Harlem River, is projected to see a residential boom as many of the waterfront factories will be replaced with housing towers. This bending portion matches the zoning density of the future while filling the residual spaces surrounding the old railway with public parks that will serve the new community. Because the railway incorporates additional tracks in

this location, the housing bars split into two separate bars with a shared courtyard between.

The South Concourse in the Bronx is poised to see a boom in development as towers are being planned along the waterfront. Assuming an upgrade to an R-9 or R-10 regulation, the district would see a sharp contrast between high density and low walk-ups. Because the site is between contexts and on two sets of railways, the two housing bars adapt and blend each zoning classification.

The discussion surrounding the affordable

housing shortage, now and in the future, is a

subject of extreme tension and is obviously not without conflicting interests from all parties involved. The positions taken and presented here, through Infrastructural Infill, have shown only some of the many possibilities and conclusions that can be found in alternative forms of urban housing.