Zahid Ajam: Redrawing East Harlem

Zahid Nawaz Ajam

I am from Islamabad, Pakistan. I completed my B.ARCH from NUST(Pakistan) and my MS.AAD from Columbia GSAPP. I am currently working at Amale Andraos and Dan Wood's New York based practice, WORKac.

Title: Redrawing East Harlem - Creating an inclusive community within NYCHA
Name: Zahid Nawaz Ajam
School: Columbia GSAPP
Critic: Hilary Sample, MOS Architects
Studio: Redrawing East Harlem, Spring 2017 Advanced Studio.

Instagram Username: @zahid

Brief Description:

Initiated as a part of Hilary Sample’s advanced studio “Re-drawing east Harlem” at Columbia GSAPP, the project attempts to take on the alienating NYCHA blocks and the flawed housing model of the tower in a park. By creating an infill and inclusive community within and around the blocks, the project poses the question; could we increase the use of public space by decreasing its size?

Over the decades, East Harlem has been a victim of negligence since policies and planning was initiated but never followed through. As a result the quality of life within deteriorated. 

Through analyzing the urban fabric, a block of NYCHA properties seemed to divide East Harlem into two halves. These NYCHA developments follow the model of the tower in the park where the park was intended to become a public social space. Over time it was considered an unsuccessful model since attempting to become everyone’s space, the park became no man’s land as no one took ownership of it. Eventually the space became known as an unsafe area and a space for illicit activities. Outsiders dared not enter. 

The proposal attempts to soften relationship by creating an infill community in the park below the NYCHA, combining the garden building relationship of a low-rise with the density and social ideals of a tower block. The infill community divides the park space into smaller more manageable segments which allow residents to be part of the collective yet retain a sense of privacy and individuality in the neighborhood.  The new settlement includes not just short and long term residences but learning spaces, cultural centers and trade schools to promote an idea of cultural celebration and inclusion through art and education. 

Thus instead of alienating the NYCHA blocks, they are included within this community which reaches out not just within the block but to its neighbors as well creating a social ecosystem.

Maria Flores