Munjer Hashim: Plant 34
is a Bangladeshi designer, illustrator, theorist living in New York. He recently graduated with a Bachelors in Architecture from the Gerald D Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston. His interests lay in the speculation of alternate possibilities and its outcomes as fragments to problem solving. He approaches design as a conversation that triggers emotions and opinions. Munjer has been working collaboratively on the publication and editorial design of the “Genetic City” exhibition to be shown at the AEDES Architectural Forum in Berlin, Germany this June.
// Using typological species to solve future water shortages in Manhattan
“Plant 34” is a project which takes on the real-world scenario of drought and future water shortage that is a current issue in New York State and creates a hybrid program which solves the issues conceptually. The project argues that in the future, an increase in population and yearly droughts will place such a strain on the current water reserves, that the need for other sources of water within Manhattan must be established.
Due to the distance with which water must travel into Manhattan, placing desalination plants near the Hudson provides the opportunity of bringing industrial infrastructures closer to the user source and therefore provide water to the masses when the reserves are strained or aqueducts are compromised.
The idea of bringing back the infrastructure into the city may seem counterproductive at first, however, the notion of creating a space that allows people to respond to such anomalies is an exercise on its own.
This brings about a new typology that questions the relocation of these infrastructures away from the urban fabric and their importance within the city. The low salt content of the Hudson River in this location meant that the amount of energy used to desalinate sea water to fresh water would be less. And with the new developments coming into the site, the amount and demand for water will be high due to an increase in the population of the area.
The desalination plant must be able to provide 50 million gallons of water each day for the occupants of the new Hudson Yards development, its surrounding and the people using the terminal.
Due to the small size of the site, the plantation needed to be redesigned and reconfigured to be able to produce fresh potable water daily. Instead of a horizontal plantation, a vertical one is adopted to save space as well as to use gravity to aid in the desalination process, further reducing energy usage.
The composite typology (Terminals + Observatory tower + Desalination plant)
Throughout the discussion of the terminal as a destination the idea raised that this space could become the existential space for all sorts of transportation modes. Buses, rails, subway, cars and the ferry allows the mixture of different modes of movement to be celebrated and therefore the site becomes a space that can cater to everyone’s needs.
A typical ferry terminal is taken first, one with a large pier for ships to dock and unload, followed by a typical and/ ground based terminal, which comprises of a large volume of space with multiple ‘fingers’ which becomes the routes to different transportation modes.
The method used is to fuse two typos which are well known for people to understand what they are and apply ‘rules’, ‘moves’ to them that bring about changes to the typo in both spatial and formal manners.
The typological mix between the terminal and a tower/skyscraper is rather an old form of spatial mixture especially in NY where space is limited and to increase the RFP, the higher you go the better the value of the property. To change the perspective of how a tower is used, it was decided to take the observation or observatory as a specific type of tower which will be fused with the terminal. The thought process being, that the terminal users being from all over NY and the potential of large numbers of tourists, the tower could be conceived as both a destination (landmark) as well as a place of departure (telescopic guide).
This allows the tower to become a beacon through which Hudson Yards gets a new identity. Although the new development is getting plenty of high rises, this tower would be a mega structure, flanking its observatory with other secondary programs such as schools, libraries, retail, office spaces etc. The tower would become the bustling self-sufficient city that NY is striving to be. And its observatory becoming the eye through which its residents can learn from the city and therefore create the opportunity for further development of this neighborhood.
The desalination plant component has characteristics from the tower typology as it is a vertical plant. The towers resemble silos which appear monolithic in nature, however, when functioning, the monoliths transform as ‘flaps’ open to reveal the machine aspect of the project. Through these ‘flaps’ steam jets out to inform the public domain of its function. Providing a performance art aspect to the site through the suspended operable ETFE skin. This skin allows the terminal space to be both enclosed or open air depending on the climatic context.
The desalination plant + transportation hub is perceived as an infrastructure that is well known by the people of NY, they are aware of the process by which the water is produced and therefore over time with daily contact with the plant through the terminal space, the project becomes normal to people, part of their everyday. An unknown specie becomes familiarized and a critical part of an urban ecosystem