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Death and Life of the Buffer Zone

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New York City, NY, USA



Storefront for Art and Architecture

Project Team:
Neeraj Bhatia, Rafael Berges, Jared Clifton, Cesar Lopez


If sharing requires a common collective realm, it also necessitates difference in that each person or constituency offers a unique resource to be shared. At the core of sharing, we find Hannah Arendt’s definition of human plurality as a dialectical condition between our collective and individual desires. Nowhere else is this relationship so clearly depicted as in the grid of Manhattan—which provides a collective armature that enables unique expression. While this difference is typically situated in the interior of the block, the avenue of Broadway inserts difference into the grid itself. By not assimilating into the grid, Broadway instead creates a series of public spaces from the anomalous parcels it forms as it crosses the grid. Similarly, in the far northern reaches of Manhattan, Inwood is one of the few neighbourhoods that have not assimilated into the collective grid. With few access points, it sits in isolation. Curiously, its urban grid ascribes to Broadway’s trajectory, eliminating difference, and therefore the production of parcels that resist commodification.

Topography and infrastructure have subdivided Inwood into three islands: Inwood Hill Park; a series of consistent housing blocks; and a parking/maintenance train yard for the New York City Subway. Within this compressed swatch, we see three distinct and critical pieces of Manhattan: its relationship with and romanticisation of nature, its typological development of domestic space, and its lifeblood, the subway.