• The City and its Double

    Justin HATTENDORF & Gillian SHAFFER, "The City and its Double." Rendering, urban prairie.
    brooklyn NEW YORK

    Pratt Institute
    critics: Evan TRIBUS & Dragana ZORIC.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Justin HATTENDORF & Gillian SHAFFER: This thesis looks to intensify local ecologies and biodiversity of post-industrial American cities. . . .

    While natural and artificial have often been viewed as dichotomous, a mutation of the botanical garden typology (representative of the view of nature and the city from the 17th to early 20th centuries) looks to synthesize what has once been regarded as natural and artificial in architecture. This thesis sees Detroit as an opportunity to re-colonize nature through the production of synthetic environments in form a new micro-urbanism.

    The self-destruction of Detroit is symptom to the adverse secondary effects of Fordism, common for many post-industrial American cities. Given the scope of its shrinkage, bankruptcy and decay, the exoskeleton of Detroit’s auto industry permeates through the city. Much of the city’s land is now deemed valueless while architectural relics have been left abandoned, facing urban blight, metal scrapping, and erasure of the single family home.

    Abandoned properties in Detroit reveal a series of “hotspots” in which abandonment is at its highest. These neighborhoods are isolated by urban envelope- typically the result of a stark shift in zoning from large industrial zoning to residential.

    The selected site proposes the interrogation of interstitial space between the idealized, invisible jurisdictional boundary and those that exist real on-ground.

    A meandering through the urban prairies in this neighborhood, adjacent to both downtown and the Packard plant, reveals lot connectivity beyond the lot scale, re-territorializing an entire neighborhood with little resistance from the remaining occupied properties. This new territory traverses the neighborhood via local adjacencies, claiming larger territories where possible. Water infrastructure for the garden plugs into the pre-existing domestic water lateral within lot matrix of the Jeffersonian grid.

    Nature reclaims spaces in expansion of sprawling urban prairies, ground shift in an originally marshy area, emergence of vegetation in situational or architectural conditions, and the envelopment of architecture entirely. Landscape strategies provide an alterable substrate to induce marshlands rich in their local ecologies.

    The Wetlands Conservatory exemplifies a hyper-specific relationship between the interior and exterior. The extreme difference in control and climate from the inside to the outside requires the architecture to promote a stable environment for the cultivation of plant species that would not typically grow in Detroit.

    The direct reciprocity between city and landscape is a demonstration of the city’s pressure onto the landscape, and vice-versa—the tension created by the landscape onto the resilient citizens reluctant to leave the frontier of Detroit’s urban jungle.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    JH & GS: Baroque and Renaissance gardens; Artaud’s The Theatre and its Double; urban decay; Detroit techno; Underground Resistance; Youngstown, Ohio; photographs by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre; and the Heidelberg Project.

    Subnatures: “[F]orms of nature that are envisioned as threatening to inhabitants, or to the material formations and ideas that constitute architecture” (David Gissen). Rather than our human perception and appreciation of idyllic nature, differentiation of weed or non-weed species is the product of social construct in the distaste for insect species.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    JH & GS: Reading: Georgia Daskalakis, Charles Waldheim, and Jason Young, Stalking Detroit; David Gissen, Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments; Sylvia Lavin, “Sacrifice and the Garden: Watelet’s ‘Essai sur les Jardins’ and the Space of the Picturesque”; Mike Kelley, Educational Complex Onwards; Felicity Scott, Architecture or Techno-utopia; Bruno Latour, The Politics of Nature; John Gallagher, Reimagining Detroit; Rafael Moneo, “On Typology”; Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; and Adolfo Bioy Casares The Invention of Morel.
    JH: Listening to: L.I.E.S. Records, Drexciya, Omar S., Ryoji Ikeda. Watching: Eraserhead; Upstream Color, Re-Animator; and The Fly.
    GS: Watching: Suspiria; Possession; Only Lovers Left Alive; and Under the Skin.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    JH & GS: Adam Fure, Softkill Design / Gilles Retsin, and SPAN.

    Additional credits and links:
    Special thanks to HTC writing advisor Antonio Furgiuele as well as advisors Gia Wolff and Robert Brackett. Additional thanks to chair and assistant chair at Pratt UG School of Architecture Erika Hinrichs and Jason Lee, faculty Abigail Coover Hume, and Robert Richardson of the School of Visual and Critical Studies.

    Evan Tribus and Dragana Zoric, Studio, proto[type]scapes


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