The partnership of AIA Newark and Suburban and the Young Architects Forum invited international designers to find innovative, visionary and compelling proposals for container constructed multi-family mixed-use project. The idea was to reuse the thousand of unwanted shipping containers clogging ports -and the land around them- as the primary unit of an urban multi-family mixed use project. The competition was called Live The Box.
The selected site is adjacent to a major train station and walking distance to the downtown major cultural centers of Newark, New Jersey. Standard height shipping containers 8′-6″ exterior height, in either 20′-0″ or 40′-0″ nominal lengths were the units to be used as the main building block of the structure.
This competition was won by Felix Heidgen and Thomas Nagy, associates at RMJM in Princeton, with their entry NewPark Station described here:
NewPark Station represents a new type of community planning that aims to bring together diverse neighborhoods of Newark, New Jersey. Currently, five major wards of Newark stand disconnected, separated by highways and railroad tracks. This separation has allowed each ward to develop its own distinct character, evident in the building density and volumetric presence of architectural types. NewPark Station’s site, adjacent to one such boundary, offers a unique opportunity to address this urban condition. The complex is designed as a microcosm of the architectural landscape of Newark to support the coexistence of diverse occupant types on one site.
Nine buildings consisting of three volumetric typologies are organized on the site without an apparent hierarchy. These volumetric typologies represent the array of developments found within Newark. Based on analysis and sampling, we’ve decided to use high-rise, medium-rise, and low-rise structures as architectural manifestations of cultural diversity and the Newark skyline. In order to attract a wide range of occupants, each building type is equipped with various unit layouts and amenities. Units include efficiencies for university students, one bedroom for urban professionals, and market rate two- and three-bedroom apartments for first time home buyers.
Plan – Section
The challenge associated with organizing various housing typologies onto one site lies in connecting the buildings, parking, green space and the city, within the given site constraints. As diagram 1) illustrates, the conventional housing development is planned horizontally, building volume sharing a ground plane with parking, green space and city streets. We propose to turn this horizontal organization into a vertical one by creating green space on the rooftop, embracing city streets on the ground level, and siting parking in the basement. This design strategy enables close proximity of the three typologies, physically connected by bridges, forming pedestrian pathways through buildings and onto rooftop gardens.
NewPark Station – melting pot of diversity
The volumes of stacked containers are elevated on pilotis and the ground level is kept open as a stage for social and commercial interaction for the residents and the city at large. Like an urban park, furniture and infrastructure are mapped across the site, reflecting the anticipated demand of the different occupant types. Vegetables grown on the rooftop garden could be sold in a sheltered communal farmers market. An office worker can buy a cup of coffee on her way to the office, while children play basketball. The programs planned here are as diverse as the residents of the complex and will undergo constant change and adjustment over time. The ground level urban park, combined with the rooftop garden serve as a melting pot for residents of the complex and the city.
Recycling the ISO container as an urban dwelling unit is the first in a series of environmentally conscious features NewPark Station offers. The buildings are naturally ventilated and allow for air to flow from underneath the building and up through light wells. The original doors of the shipping containers are used as shading devices to reduce solar heat gain in the summer months and control views for privacy. The green rooftops serve as storm water retention and recycling systems. Rooftops are also utilized for physical recreation featuring running tracks, containers as lap pools, nature retreats, and urban farming plots. A Community Supported Agriculture program allows for residents to save on grocery costs by joining the co-op and contributing time to a communal kitchen and/or farmers’ market right within their development.