Constructing Coexistence

Course: LARP 601 | Green Stimuli | Fall 2014 | University of Pennsylvania

Critic: Kira Appelhans

Project: Green Stimuli: Complex Site Design

“We are Newark — Brick City, tough, strong, enduring

and when we come together, there is nothing we cannot create or overcome.” 

-US Senator and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker

For decades, the industrial area adjacent to the Ironbound in Newark has developed with little regard for ecology and human occupants. What has resulted is a landscape characterized by:

  • A large number of contaminated sites on fill that, in addition to complicating development, contribute contamination to Newark Bay.
  • A community that has united in forming the robust Ironbound Community Organization, whose response to industry has, understandably, been to zone industry out, and to wall itself in.
  • Severely degraded ecology and crumbling infrastructure throughout residential and industrial areas of the Ironbound.

These issues have all come to a head with the listing of Pierson’s Creek as a Federal Superfund Site in September of 2014. One of two remaining creeks that once flowed through the marshland that historically composed this area, Pierson’s Creek has been a part of Newark’s stormwater system for over over 100 years and once ran from the Ironbound to Newark Bay, but has incrementally been covered up and only a small portion — contaminated with mercury and PCBs — remains daylit prior to passing beneath Newark Airport and releasing into Port Newark Channel.

conceptConstructing Coexistence seeks to leverage the Pierson’s Creek cleanup as a way to establish a trend reversal —  prioritizing ecology and the public realm within the industrial landscape — and to ground the Ironbound’s activism in the physical landscape, allowing the community to take an active role in reshaping its relationship with adjacent industry.

The incremental daylighting of Pierson’s Creek and establishment of public nodes through guerrilla occupation mitigates existing infrastructural barriers, depleted tree canopy, lack of public space, and unsafe streets. Over time, an ecologically functional riparian zone with stormwater capacity, activated by nodes of public program, can synergize the historically problematic adjacency of industry, public, and environment, serving as an example of how industrial districts can symbiotically coexist with the communities in which they are situated.

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