Inwood's relationship with water is a complex narrative. Perched at Manhattan's apex, this slender landform is embraced by water on three sides, a geographical embrace by the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, and the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Once, Inwood was a nexus of water, both a vital life source—with the purest springs and wells in Manhattan—and a cultural enrichment, a proximity that defined its identity.
My initial mapping was an exploration of water's accessibility, a stark investigation rendered in dramatic black. The neighborhood's disconnection from water emerged as a glaring issue, a social infrastructure deficit. Water-side lots, now occupied by sanitation facilities, car parks, or isolated big-box buildings, severed from the community's fabric. Talks of a new boardwalk linger in the air, yet remain unrealized.
The infrastructure's vulnerability to natural hazards, floods, and storms is evident in FEMA's mapping. Proximity to water and elevation delineates risk zones. The area I focused on, a superblock near 215th Stairs, encapsulates Inwood's topographical dichotomy: elevation as a metaphor for quality of life, a determinant of rent, a shaper of urban fabric. Broadway's auto repair shops contrast with the upper neighborhood's culinary and communal gardens.
Inwood's duality is bridged by stairs, not merely a functional connection but an urban rendezvous, a silent enclave for conversation, celebration, life.
Amidst car shops and hidden infrastructure, I sensed a need for social cohesion, a gathering point to unify the neighborhood's disparate sides, an urban catalyst for engagement.
My project, inspired by these observations, seeks to restore Inwood's forgotten water legacy through urban swimming pools, a social condenser. These pools, more than recreational spaces, are social equalizers, especially in a city where swimming is a lost skill. They are a common ground, a democratic space.
The architecture of the pools echoes the 215th stairs, extending this accidental social infrastructure. An orthogonal grid aligns with the staircase, defining pools as action spaces, supported by a secondary grid that creates interstitial spaces for relaxation, reading, dining.
Constructed from concrete and marble, the pools are a deliberate intervention, a refined earth that melds with the topography. Where pools meet rock, a rocky surface emerges; where elevation drops, sandy beaches form. Pools align with stair levels, creating multi-planar interaction spaces, while enclosed areas house locker rooms, showers, hot baths—a communal sanctuary.