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East Harlem Music Academy

Part 1 Project 2009
Ben Hayes
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), UK
East Harlem Music Academy.
Harlem, New York

Responding to themes of transient landforms, layering, exposure and cultural flux, this project seeks to generate an architecture that is responsive, dynamic and new: immovable man-made interventions against the backdrop of fluid environmental and social change. As far as built environments go, New York still stands as one of the ultimate examples of the advances of urban, technological and cultural thought, a realised utopia. Countless events and histories have shaped our image of New York as a ‘city of the future’. The project engages with the city’s current state of evolution and proposes an imaginative, unexpected, perhaps strange, but diverse avenue for the city to follow.

The Academy is an extension of the overland Harlem Metro train station; the connection point between Harlem, central Manhattan and Northwards into the Bronx and beyond. The programme responds to the current rezoning proposal of 125th Street to regenerate and convert the area into the premier arts, culture and entertainment destination of New York. The proposition is to create a network of structures extending out from East Harlem Station that form a musical community in the heart of Harlem. It is carefully designed and constructed to specifically isolate certain frequencies and wavelengths emitted from music during performances, as well as pedestrian movement and the activity of the Metro, using visual pulsations and oscillations, to reveal a communicative, educational and an interactive extension to East Harlem Station.

The Music academy consists of a dense layer of living spaces and recording studios, teaching spaces, market stalls and performance spaces that interconnect as an orchestra, creating a relationship between the music and the people of Harlem. As a response to the current proposals in this area, this building expresses a style that is more connected to the area’s history. Its form and arrangement follows the language of existing infrastructure and architecture such as the Apollo Theatre, market spaces and the spine of the overland metro rail that cuts through Manhattan.

Ben Hayes

Ben’s inventive and hands-on experimentation in vibrations and resonance at the heart of the city, drew upon a continued and progressive investigation, which culminated in a mature and ambitious project for a school of music, embedded in the centre of Harlem, New York. His project is designed as a response to the current regeneration plans for 125th street, which his building faces onto, and offers an alternative future to the one currently being pursued by the local authorities. The proposal raises important questions about how global cities like New York could be allowed to evolve in a natural and organic manner, without losing its 'soul'.

Rigourous technical investigations, based on physical test rigs and projected visualisations, became interwoven with perceptive
observations upon the various social and physical layers of the urban environment. This enabled Ben to couple his aspirations for a dynamic ephemeral space with well-grounded consideration for realising his ideas, developed in his exemplary technical dissertation.

His project presents an imaginative and unusual, but yet highly appropriate urban space where the everyday life of the occupants of Harlem is acknowledged and celebrated. Music, at the core of Harlem culture, was observed to draw upon the underlying rhythm of commuter traffic, seismic activity and the hum of everyday New York living, and mixed into a built environment that responds to the city beat through a sequence of delightful spatial and aural experiences.

Mr Johan Berglund
Mr Rhys Cannon
• Page Hits: 14646         • Entry Date: 14 September 2009         • Last Update: 29 November 2009