F'14 Studio: Bowen Zhang

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If there's one thing Manhattan has never failed to do is to gain physical height, a single mechanism of air right transfer allows skyscraper condos and hotels to achieve a maximum height regardless of allowed zoning FAR. Certainly, Air right transfer is a catalyst of the real estate development. But it's also a catalyst that exhaust the city by magnifying one dominated value that's quantifiable by view, area and location. My hypothesis is that we can pause the growth of the city by stimulating the growth using a different value. In this case, link air right transfer mechanism with the energy production value to envision a scenario of fast-spread urban development based on mesoscale urban retrofitting process.

Starting by thinking with an analogy between city and nature to reconsider the way city growth, we can see that the trees grow by rule of optimization of resources, the transition of terrestrial sequence is a reflection of different available resources of sunlight, soil and water. And what if we reconsider the air space that we have, the potential value rather than a real estate one. Taking a piece of leftover air right. We see instead of 4 luxurious condo. It could serve more household if it were used for waste water treatment, or solar energy, or food garden.

And then to an urban scale, looking into the two major variables; air right and sunlight that creates a transition of lots.. From a typical high-rise condo with no air rights available to a parking lot with more air right, we see a similar terrestrial sequence which creates the unbalance of resources owned by different lots. And this unbalance also happens vertically, which creates a stratification of energy productive space, like rainforest, in which the emergent layer or canopy layer forms a 3d layer solar energy space, and the bottom layer contains water and nutrients.. And with roof surface in shadows it becomes a water themed productive space..

And by playing with the unbalance , creates the possibility to engage. In contrast with the traditional air right transfer rules, if we allow lots to join air right together and relocate air right based on sunlight accessibility, we creates additional volume with desirable sunlight. And the urban indication behind this is a process in which city grows by the energy productive rule. And by combining property lots together, you create a single energy productive lot in the air, with the potential to connect with other energy productive lot and infrastructure.

When this new air right transfer mechanism operates within multiple lots, two major variables in creating different identities are the total available air right and sunlight accessibility measured by direct sunlight hours. The proportion of the two variables plays a major factor in determine a most optimized development mode for each case.