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PLURB

- with COA members Jake LaChapelle and Newt Kershner
The plurb is a new layer of infrastructure that insinuates itself into existing infrastructure. It reacts to existing urban nodes and field conditions to modify and occupy the terrain of the city simultaneously at multiple scales. The plurb can be deployed in any location and can respond to any existing topology.

Our initial test of the plurb takes place along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, NY. In this project, we see the Concourse less as an urban artifact than as piece of infrastructure which could better serve the neighborhoods through which it passes. We increase its level of service by reconfiguring its relationship to other existing infrastructure via the plurb.

By co-opting existing parkland, subway entrances and even highway on-ramps, the plurb allows for the surround neighborhoods to reconnect with this boulevard in a qualitatively new way. The scale of the plurbs varies from the smallest socket for umbrella stands and water fountains to larger vending machines, kiosks, subway entrances and bleacher seating.

Infrastructure has an intimate relationship with geometry. We reinscribe this relationship when we speak of power grids, highway networks and supply chains. Each layer of infrastructure has its own attendant geometry enabling a specific set of desired effects. The geometry of the plurb is no less specific.

The plurb is a network. Because it is highly interconnected and cyclical, the plurb can insert itself into, over and through existing layers of infrastructure. Its structure allows the plurb to reveal new adjacencies and dependencies from within these latent conditions.

The plurb is cellular. Its structure is self-similar across multiple scales and recombinant. Plurb effects function independently at specifi c scales, but they also aggregate over time into larger constellations.

The cell-structure of the plurb is directed and highly mutable. As the plurb is situated into existing urban conditions, its topology morphs and mashes. Transformations at the largest scale have repercussions across the entire system; this results in new localized conditions throughout the network.

In the case of the Grand Concourse, city-scale manipulations of the plurb have resulted in a series of new micro-neighborhoods. These micro neighborhoods are provided with new services and amenities as a result of this operation.

From the interstate highway system to water distribution within a building, infrastructure exists at many scales to provide a variety of services to end users. As a term, “infrastructure” should not be understood to mean any single service; rather it is a network of independent networks, a complex topography of connectivity under the jurisdiction of many separate agencies and actors. The plurb is simply another network which weaves itself into existing infrastructure.

At every scale, the plurb colonizes infrastructure in order to capitalize on adjacencies in existing, autonomous networks creating new connectivity and enhancing local urban conditions. In some cases, the plurb redirects services to new locations. In other cases new networks are spawned within existing grids to provide qualitatively new services.

Through its operation, the plurb provides new points-of-access to existing services. At the smallest scale this access takes the form of a socket. Sockets host small-scale tactical interventions in the urban fabric such as fountains, beach umbrellas, data ports and electrical receptacles. At the urban scale, the plurb provides access to existing transportation networks such as subways and highways.

In our initial case study, we examined the intersection of the Cross-Bronx Expressway and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The deep section of the site allowed the plurb to excavate, expose, and insinuate itself into many layers of the city.

All cities provide infrastructure for delivering services like water, electricity and telecommunications. These unseen networks directly affect the lives of each inhabitant. As the plurb infi ltrates local infrastructure it begins to reconfi gure the urban environment. Because the plurb belongs to no single agency or jurisdiction it can mediate among existing conditions to create new programmatic synergies.

Dependent on pre-existing local infrastructural variations, the effect of the plurb on program is location-specific and highly tactical. In this way, the plurb is not a “solution” or a “strategy” to be imposed from above. It is a framework for transforming the existing conditions into public amenities.

At the intersection of 170th Street and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, we plurb perpendicular to the main corridor and through the boulevard cutting into the terrain to open access to the subway station below. Parking islands have been augmented with pedestrian plazas that pass below street level. A previously existing ball field has been reconnected to this newly activated surface. The adjacent park is now interconnected with these other activities to create a collective simultaneity of diverse and varying experiences.

The future of the plurb is everywhere. By specifying a site to be plurbed, we point not to its failure, but rather to its inherent potential. Having plurbed the Bronx, we propose now to turn our attention to Staten Island. From the vantage point of Manhattan, Staten Island is the most remote borough. It has its own infrastructure which is related to, but physically separated from, the rest of New York City. The Staten Island Rapid Transit, for example, is a separate but parallel system to the MTA serving the rest of the city.

Similarly, it has its own particular political machinery and culture. In 1993 Staten Island played host to a strong secessionist movement and played a considerable role in the election of the fi rst Republican mayor since 1965. That same mayor was a major factor in getting the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island closed. This former cornerstone of the city’s waste removal network is now migrating into its parks system. This incredible transformation leads us to ask how else Staten Island could be reconnected to the larger city. What other opportunities lay dormant on this strange island waiting to be plurbed?