Ruin Nation

New York City   Mike House | Victor Orriola

Conditions of urban decay and abandonment are beginning to spread through New York City at a rate not seen since the 1970s. 2008 was the first year on record that the DOB kept records of stalled construction sites and high foreclosure rates began to affect the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. As a result 15,000 renters who never engaged in irresponsible mortgage financing have come to account for at least half of the cities foreclosure victims. Simultaneously the NYC Dept. of Homeless Services together with the NYC Housing Authority have been advocating for an approach which stresses permanent housing over the typical transitional shelter model as a long term remedy for transitional housing.

We perceive the NYCHA’s call for a new type of transitional housing model as an indication that city agencies are now willing to be more progressive in the way that transitional populations are handled and understood. With that in mind we thought it appropriate to investigate some illicit practices which tend to thrive off of the decay and dysfunction of the city’s built environment. Specifically the work done by metal scrappers and squatters has become a model for our re-invigoration of abandoned sites. Through mapping we have identified how seemingly disparate sites are actually part of a sophisticated and highly interconnected underground network with it’s own rules for economy, occupation, growth and decay. While doing so we have been able to formalize some seemingly mundane qualities that such practices might use to evaluate any given vacant site and adopt these practices into a formal housing and community infrastructure.

Beyond simply a housing intervention, we propose various degrees of enclosure which create concrete benefits for mainstream real estate speculators as well as social service providers. These disparate entities rarely engage productively with one another as their fundamental operations tend to be opposed. In Ruin Nation gentrified and frontier populations will support each other through an engagement with various local architectural operations.

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