East Harlem,the last frontier by Camille Sherrod

East Harlem,the last frontier

​By Camille Sherrod



Standing at the intersection of East 92nd Street there are 2 new high-rise construction buildings underway where, as I imagine, the average price will either be complexly or more than completely above my budget. This doesn’t include the 2 2-story buildings which formerly housed my gym and my grocery store which have both been closed suddenly within the past 6 months. I already know what is soon to come.

East Harlem New York is undergoing massive change. New zoning restrictions have given way to massive supertall developments on the island of Manhattan and in one of the last surviving human scale neighborhoods, this is signaling a potential disaster.

Existing Character – A Social Responsibility

With the extension of the 2nd Avenue transit line, the increased interest in neighborhoods like East Harlem has skyrocketed.  The problem with the new high rises include:

- lack human scale
- distortion of the street-level experience
- disruption of local character
The main issue to address is not just to one of building taller, but how we can build taller responsibly for in a market and population which is being wiped out. By adding additional floors on existing 2-5 story buildings, we can build tall, responsibly, while not massively altering the existing character of the neighborhood where the majority of existing structures are under 5 stories tall. The allows for a great opportunity to increase density while improving the way we live through the introduction to much needed public space.

Building Proposal

Harlem is one of the most rapidly developing neighborhoods in New York City which provides for a unique opportunity to improve a unique part of Upper Manhattan. The amount of both public spaces and amenities in low rises cannot compete with those provided by new high rise construction. A new trend within the rental housing market is co-living. Smaller units with shared public spaces which allow for a huge opportunity for collective and community interaction. My proposal is to build up to a maximum of 8 stories on existing 2-5 story masonry buildings which currently dominate East Harlem in order to maintain the scale and character of the existing neighborhood. The existing floors are readapted to become common shared spaces. These include spaces for shared activities including laundry, exercise rooms, lounges, and private work spaces. The existing structure of the existing buildings is maintained while the additional floors allow for new, more efficient studio apartments supported by the common spaces below.

The proportions of the human scale are maintained while responsibly introducing density to the native population and as an alternative density model of which characterizes Lower Manhattan. The abundance of adjacent buildings which are owned by singular owners allows for an additional opportunity for additions across multiple buildings.

Affordable market rate housing properties are in short supply. And the problem is getting worse. The intention of my proposal is to maintain an affordable market for East Harlem. The scheme gives a proposal to build taller, while providing an alternative to the super tall structures currently proposed.  

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

Explore the designs