Eight master’s degree candidates from Pratt Institute’s Graduate Architecture program will present proposals and work as part of the exhibition, “Upstate New York: Experimental Urbanism for a Re-Energized Society” during Pratt’s Green Week from March 26 to 30, 2012 at the Lobby Gallery in Higgins Hall at 61 Saint James Place in Brooklyn. These proposals will focus on the future of post-industrial towns in Upstate New York, and will include the presentation of a prototype “pioneer district” in a quarry located in Poughkeepsie. A press preview and reception will be held on Friday, February 3 from 3 to 6 PM, and both are free and open to the public.
Meta Brunzema, adjunct associate professor, Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design, and coordinator, Graduate Architecture and Urban Design program, served as lead faculty advisor to these graduate students, who developed innovative planning and design proposals based on cutting-edge economic, urban, and architectural research. Participating students include Anjali Aiyappa, Jeffrey Autore, Zachary Johnson, Joselia Mendiolea, Masha Pekurovsky, Josue Sanchez, Christian Strom, and Hsing-Chung (Mike) Su.
“It is urgent to rethink the evolutionary capacity of historic Hudson River and Erie Canal towns like Hudson, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Rome, and Lockport, each of which has been losing population and economic vitality for the last 40 years,” said Brunzema. “Many post-industrial towns in Upstate New York struggle to maintain essential services, and efforts to adapt these towns to 21st-century innovation and low-carbon economies have been severely constrained. As a result, a great deal of energy, creativity and resourcefulness of local citizens and businesses remains untapped.”
The work of the students is a component of a larger regional plan called “Building Exhibition Hudson Valley/Erie Canal 2014 – 2024” that is currently being developed by Brunzema. Designed to retain and attract creative talent, business, and tourism, this plan seeks to create hundreds of projects through creative competition between towns, businesses, or civic groups in partnership with the public sector over a 10-year period. It also develops a network of polycentric regional towns–rather than suburbs and town centers–to increase their global competitiveness.
The prototype “pioneer district” in Poughkeepsie was developed by the students during a semester in Brunzema’s Transition Studio course. This experimental urban area, located in a large quarry, was designed to become an economic engine that provides space and opportunities to create significant industrial, commercial, and affordable housing growth. Designed by the Pratt team as a site of institutional, spatial, and economic innovation, this new “pioneer district” seeks to reenergize Poughkeepsie and to transform it into a polycentric community with regional and global reach.
The sustainable future of the American city is a very timely topic, and will soon be addressed from a different perspective in The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,” which runs from February 15 through July 30, 2012. Describing the Pratt studio’s work, Brunzema states “at a time of limited financial and environmental resources, the city must engage the pioneering spirit of a reenergized society by offering dense urban spaces designed for interactivity and collaborative experimentation.”
At the press preview and reception, a 16-foot-long architectural model of the prototype “pioneer district” in Poughkeepsie will be on display and discussed in depth by Brunzema and participating graduate students. Highlights from the student proposals follow below:
Jeffrey Autore’s proposal includes a dense mixed-use business district with interconnected offices, lofts, schools, and public spaces. This area was specifically designed to stimulate the economy with new types of spaces for the generation, recombination, and exchange of ideas.
Zachary Johnson developed an industrial production and innovation complex optimized for regional and global connectivity by water, road, rail, and air. Johnson’s commercial and industrial spaces are designed to adapt to the highly dynamic business needs of the 21st century.
Christian Strom developed an experimental cooperative housing project with spatially complex building clusters designed to catalyze social interactions, creative collaborations, and new ways of living and working.
Josue Sanchez’s proposal focused on prefabricated housing designed for gradual densification with do-it-yourself expansions (rooms, home-offices, solariums, etc.). His goal was to achieve affordability for a more diverse and mobile population.
Masha Pekurovsky designed an interactive facility termed the “transit materials lab,” where municipal waste is transformed into new soil and products for the “pioneer district.” This facility also includes a “circulating storage” that allows people to temporarily rent out underutilized items such as canoes, couches, etc.
Mike Su designed a dense mixed-use building with lush garden terraces that capture the exuberance of nature and blur boundaries between indoors and outdoors. Garden apartments, a cooking school, and a food distribution hub are connected by multi-level public spaces.
Anjali Aiyappa’s proposal includes an “economic gardening hub and cultivator”–which is a hybrid between an economic development support office for high-growth companies–a skills exchange, an incubator, and a greenhouse/cafeteria.
Joselia Mendiolea developed large event spaces that accommodate open-air opera and concerts, fairs, and markets with carefully modified landscape interventions and subtle features that measure geological and man-made forces. Some of the spaces will be used for large experimental art exhibitions and super-sized industrial prototypes.
Pratt Institute’s Graduate Architecture program contributes to the progressive design environment for advanced architectural research located in New York City. The programs propose speculative debate and experimental architectural production based on a relational construct among theoretical inquiry, computational research, digital design, and technological investigation.
Meta Brunzema, a graduate of Columbia University, founded the award-winning architecture and urban design practice Meta Brunzema Architect P.C. in New York City in 1998. Her firm specializes in cutting-edge sustainable design that engages contemporary spatial, environmental and socio-economic issues. Brunzema recently authored a chapter in Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture (Ashgate Publishing, Limited, 2011) on her work on La Marqueta Mile in Harlem.

Renderings by Pratt Institute graduate architecture students, clockwise from upper left: Mixed-use business and cultural district by Jeffrey Autore; dynamic landscapes and event spaces, including towers and a solar airplane by Joselia Mendiolea; “transit materials lab” interactive facility by Masha Pekurovsky; housing which blurs boundaries between indoors and outdoors by Hsing-Chung (Mike) Su.
Kate Unver at 718-230-6847 or kunver@pratt.edu