EAST NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA, 1994
The genesis of Shrooms is in the idea of an “all-sided” loft building in a particular New York neighborhood - East New York - characterized by extensive abandonment and vacant land, much of it city-owned. Looking at the empty lots not as blight but as a community resource, we hoped that a growing garland of Shrooms might have a ripple effect in greening the neighborhood. In addition, we thought of the loft-type as a crucial proto-public space. Not a space with a fixed or predetermined set of uses but a kind of resource out of which innumerable private possibilities might be drawn. This is important: we too much think of public and private as an absolute division rather than as a mutually reinforcing gradient. Rejecting the modernist notion (via Marx) of public space as disembodied and universal, Shrooms is an investigation of the reciprocities of public and private rather than an essay in their disjunction. As an urban proposition, Shrooms seeks to establish a new pattern of movement through the neighborhood, a greenway which operates not as a replacement for the street grid but as a supplement to it. Flowing through the middle of the large blocks, it occupies the spaces of abandonment as they are found. These public greenways lead to the “green-rooms” at the core of each structure. These green rooms extend the tendrils of circulation of the greenways, blossoms which act as distributors for the loft spaces which surround them, and which provide appropriable areas for various collective and semi-private uses. The system of green and publically aggrandizable spaces emerges on the roofs of the Shrooms as a linked system of gardens, a vertical displacement of the ground plane, a return to collective use.
Credits: Michael Sorkin, Andrei Vovk