Emergent City | Intersection_Connectivity_Influence in Rochester

Primary advisor | Robin Dripps

Secondary advisor | Jorg Sieweke

Transportation infrastructures of declining post-industrial cities have the potential to inform and create emergent systems for urban regeneration.  The focus of my study will be threefold: transit connectivity, their intersections, and these systems’ influence on the city.   These components present to cities such as Rochester an opportunity to shift their course of development so that catalytic initiatives and interventions could be implemented through the participation of the city’s residents.  The dynamic nature of this study would use parametric technology to help visualize the fluid and connective qualities of urban interactions in the investigation’s three components.  The potential of such methods to reveal unforeseen opportunities and iterative patterns is crucial to this project’s investigation.

Rochester is an ideal site to study because of its rich history of urban growth and decline and its fluctuating infrastructural uses.  Today, it is in a state of depression with a 10% vacancy rate while its median household income, $29,975, is about half of New York State’s.  However, there are some positive signs of renewal.  Forbes recently named the city the fourth most affordable place to live in the US.  Rochester also announced plans for two new transit centers: a bus terminal in downtown and a new rail station to replace the current Amtrak station.   Since the turn of the 20th century, Rochester has undergone major shifts of infrastructural systems, going from the Erie Canal to rail and finally to trucks for longer distance transportation, and from trolley to subway or inter-urbans to buses to cars for more localized transportation.  Each of these major transit changes tends to overlap with the next iteration by re-using previous infrastructure, as seen in the city’s reuse of the Erie Canal bed for the subway and then parts of the highway.  From the 1960s on, the city’s commuter infrastructure has not changed much due to Rochester’s economic decline.  This development lull may actually be fortunate for the city because it now provides an opportunity to rethink the entire organization of the city’s evolution as a more emergent process.

I propose to explore a new idea of a city by using emergence to explain and help engage processes that are more self-generating for Rochester and other post-industrial cities.  The exploration will comprise of three components.  The first is to investigate the current rail, bus and bike systems of Rochester, their connective relationships to each other, and possibly propose alternate routes.  I also intend to use my findings to evaluate the city’s current decision to build two new transit stations at their proposed locations.  The second is to design interventions at the intersections of these connective systems.  These intersections could become a combination of complex transit interchanges with a range of sub-stations that vary typologically.  While efficiency in moving people in and out of the city is crucial to this project, it is also important to consider how initiatives could alter the image of the downtown and begin to encourage temporary or permanent inhabitation.  Thirdly, and at a larger scale, the study will examine the interventions’ influence on the urban patterns of the city.

The phenomenon of shrinking city populations is prevalent across the country and offers significant potential and opportunities to rethink the way cities fluctuate and reuse urban infrastructure.  This restructuring is especially critical at a time of environmental and economic downturn, where more traditional means of top-down master-planning are no longer viable for the current state of decline.  I hope to initiate a new type of dialogue through this series of iterative experimentations.