White building model with a rock hovering above

by Erik Fichter (MArch I AP ’22)

“downlifting” addresses urban densification, instantiating the relationship between existing and new. The project serves the structural integrity of the existing and its resulting perception: two actors tangle their gravitational ambition, which results in the dissolution of their hierarchy.

First, a new compression structure is situated in the atrium of the existing building, occasioning minimal structural conflicts with the existing structure. Second, a tension structure wraps the extension around the existing to reinforce the small footprint of the central structure. “downlifting” is an attempt to link pragmatism with surrealism.

animated gif showing tethered rock floating above a building
Click the image to view animated gif.

The design proposes an extension building for New York University on top of the existing Bobst Library in Manhattan. The extension comprises a design school with public amenities, private design studios, faculty and fabrication spaces; a total of 280,000 sf. This one consists of heavy blocks that contain the required amenities and are wrapped by a curtain facade. The spaces in between the blocks are imagined to be open to experimentation to all students, just like the roof-space between the old and new building is intended to be a public park for students and exhibitions. Both heavy and light materialities together with the tensile structure enable readings of counterbalancing program blocks. Equally the existing library in relation to the addition enhances an ambiguous reading of “downlifting.”