Architects and urbanists regularly perform data analysis to quantify space. Environmental factors, such as solar radiation and shadow casting, the tectonics of massing, and floor area optimization are just a few examples of the ways that computation informs the design of buildings and cities.
KPFui’s place-based analytics extend data’s traditional role in design, illuminating the more complex, qualitative aspects of place.
The urban experience, especially in a metropolis the size and density of New York City, may be simplified into two types of perspective: “here” and “there.” Here may be considered the relatively stationary aspects of a place, what is visible and felt, the activities partaken in the immediate moment. It consists of a place’s physical characteristics, program, density and aesthetics. There acknowledges that connectivity is the mainstay of any city: movement between places is not only inevitable, but constant and integral to the lives of the urban population. To be effective, place-based analytics must consider the here and there concept both individually and as a binary construct.
KPFui is developing the “City Mile” tool to gain insight into the conditions and character of the urban here. In the context of a one-mile diameter swath of territory, the built environment is organized into concentric rings. Each ring represents the formation of individual buildings that can be experienced as a person moves away from the center point in one minute increments. Program is illustrated by color coding and the thickness of the ring depicts built density, swelling or thinning as the amount of constructed area fluctuates. A neighborhood’s architectural tapestry, including sizes and proliferation of structures, use, and density, is brought together in an effort to effectively visualize the experience of place.
City Mile Across the Five Boroughs
Comparing City Mile visualizations from each of the city’s boroughs highlights the incredible range of built density in New York. Midtown’s overall built form lies in sharp contrast to the largely residential and mostly suburban quality of Todt Hill on Staten Island. Downtown Brooklyn’s diverse programming is fairly evenly distributed, reflecting the thriving and lively atmosphere the neighborhood is known for.
Downtown Brooklyn in Detail
A closer look provides more detail, revealing the complexity of Downtown Brooklyn’s built environment. Rings closest to the center display large scale developments, including commercial, retail and residential programs, while outer rings show the mixed-use, smaller scale periphery that is typically associated with the neighborhood.
Through analysis and visualization, KPFui is challenging common assumptions regarding neighborhood character and augmenting the design process by introducing layers of information and a deeper understanding of site. A side by side comparison of two vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods – Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and St. George on Staten Island – quickly illustrates their similarities and differences. Both considered lower density, the ambiguous definition of "low rise" quickly becomes apparent.
Animating the Streets
Larger conditions can be composited with City Mile, providing insight into the characteristics of thoroughfares, entire city squares, and even neighborhood adaptations over time.
The center point of this City Mile animation moves along 42nd Street in Midtown from the Hudson River to the East. While the increasing density and prevalence of office programming is to be expected, the relaxation seen at the edges showcases the kinds of development opportunities that underlie projects like Hudson Yards and Waterline Square.
Along 125th Street in Harlem, the overall density remains relatively consistent, especially in comparison to the monumental shifts in Midtown. In Harlem, however, the trend in building size is reversed, revealing a remarkably tight clustering of smaller structures toward the center of Manhattan with larger, and mostly residential, buildings further east.
Detailed images from our borough-by-borough analysis can be seen below.