Onondaga Creek

Spring, 2010

This transdisciplinary project proposes that Geographic Information Systems can be converted into a productive tool for architecture and urban design by developing innovative urban modeling techniques using commonly available census and municipal data. Now ubiquitous in urban planning and real-estate development, GIS most commonly uses spatio-demographic data to validate or reify conventional planning practices. This project exploits the ubiquity of GIS by converting data-sets with discrete categories and boundaries into pliable and fluid relational topologies. These manipulations of spatial data explore the proposition that models for describing and understanding web-based virtual communities are also useful for describing the potential organization of communities in actual, urban space.  We propose that when these topologies are superimposed on conventional plans or maps they suggest new kinds of densities, intensities, gaps, territories, and latent communities in cities – deeply implicating design strategies for repurposing or modifying existing infrastructure and incentivizing the development of properties.

The Onondaga Creek Project identifies latent communities and underutilized properties that exist in proximity to a neglected but important element of infrastructure and landscape in a typical shrinking city. GIS is used to correlate the spatial organization of latent communities and dormant properties that might anchor these communities, and to propose design strategies focused on sustainable development through land banking, environmental remediation, and the linking of educational and recreational facilities.  Ultimately, the aim is to propose unprecedented forms of urbanism that might emerge in cities of declining density and increasing diversity.

1. First Generation TINs and Line Graph

1a. The profile of Onondaga Creek is selected and offset at 500’ intervals into the city of Syracuse. For each offset, a TIN (triangular interpolated network) model is projected across the resultant valley, based on the land values per square foot along the offset lines. Hence, networks of unusually high property value are projected across the Creek, implicating the Creek’s participation in the system imaged. TIN models are usually used in GIS to create topographies. This project uses TINs to image spatio-statistical relationships that make visible latent sustainable urbanisms.

1b. Line graphs are creating charting the values of the TIN models from 1a as they cross Onondaga Creek. The peak values in these graphs are isolated. These peaks represent potential high land value vectors across the Creek that may be leveraged or articulated in future development.

2. Peak Value Vectors

2a. The peak property values vectors isolated in 1b are grafted back on to the city fabric.

2b. The Peak Value Vectors are saturated with the demographic data pertaining to the land parcels that they intersect.

3. Second Generation TINs

3a-3f. A series of second-generation TIN models are interpolated that image a series of spatio-statistical values as they intersect the Peak Value Vectors from 2. The values used for these TINs fall under three statistical categories: Economic, Recreational and Educational.

4. High Slope Areas in Second Generation TINs

4a-4f. The Second-Generation TINs created in 3 are analyzed, and the faces of the models with the highest slope values are isolated. These high-slope zones are understood to be the most volatile areas in relation to the spatio-statistical values used in their creation. They contain the most latent potential for development relative to the values they image

5. Hybrid Voids

The land parcels of the city that are either Vacant, seriously Tax Delinquent, or of very Low Land Value (<$4,000) are isolated. Where these parcels are adjacent to one another they are joined into one large parcel. Finally, all combined parcels of greater that 40,000 square feet are isolated. These parcels are of sufficient size to host large public or private development that might catalyze future urbanisms.

6. Intersect Voids and Slopes

The High Slope areas isolated in 4 are layered  and overlaid with the Hybrid Voids isolated in 5. Where the layered High Slope areas fill the Hybrid Voids, potentially sustainable urban programs and development strategies are suggested.

7. Zoned for New Sustainable Urbanisms

The city is re-zoned to encourage development that will concretized the latent communities implicated in the GIS analysis. Zoned urban developments enroll both private and public interests, and include both top-down regulations and bottoms-up emergent urbanisms.