“Build a Better Burb”, a design and planning competition sponsored by the Long Island Index with the Rauch Foundation, has named the team of PARK and NetLab as one of five winners. Will Prince of the architecture and planning studio PARK and Kazys Varnelis, the founder of NetLab, collaborated on the winning proposal “Long Division,” a regional strategy that promotes both responsible growth and planned contraction. More images, a video on the project, and complete press release after the break.
The competition was developed in response to the publication of new interactive maps of Long Island that revealed over 8,300 acres of vacant parcels and parking lots in the small downtowns areas of Long Island suburbs. The brief asked respondents for bold design proposals to retrofit underutilized asphalted areas in suburban downtowns, re-purposing them for innovative—maybe even unexpected—new uses. The PARK-NetLab “Long Division” proposal divides Long Island into two zones, East and West, based on infrastructural and ecological factors. “Many people don’t know that Long Island sits on one of the most productive aquifers in the country,” says Will Prince. “In the East Zone, we propose protecting this resource through selected no-growth areas in the east and north, where the aquifer is deepest and the potential for recharge is the highest. Over time, these areas will evolve back into villages surrounded by sustainable farming and nature preserves.”
In contrast, Western Long Island is already relatively dense and integrated into the Metropolitan area by rail. Here we propose to further densify city centers, deploying a set of new hybrid building types based on demographic needs and interests. We drew inspiration for these large structures from architect Victor Gruen’s development of the shopping mall, a product of the suburbs and perhaps the last genuinely new building type but incorporated a variety of uses for varied populations. To intensify the density in these city centers, we introduced new parkland in less dense residential areas through strategic voiding of less desirable properties so as to allow these overbuilt suburbs to have breathing room.
The PARK-NetLab proposal drew praise from the competition jury. “Long Division emphasizes the dire need to conserve freshwater resources, provocatively suggesting that only some downtowns should grow into dense and diverse centers, while others might shrink over time,” said June Williamson, a juror and faculty member of the architecture department at the City University of New York. Team Members: Leigha Dennis, Kyle Hovenkotter, Momo Araki, Alexis Burson