501 w 17th st, the high line, new york city



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501 W 17th ST, THE HIGH LINE, NEW YORK CITY
We were interested in how the submarine floats above the water despite its massive weight. We imagined the impossible, the colossus rising from the water, floating into the city, like a spaceship exploring a fallen Atlantis. The nuclear submarine is transformed into a museum with unique recreational facilities; a feared, silent warship morphing into a friendly, bustling social hub.
The architectural re-use is shaped by three design strategies: a social mission to contribute to the city, the Typhoon class’ unique characteristics as well as its new site conditions.
By levitating the submarine into the air, the design minimizes its footprint on the ground, maximizing views and creating new public platforms. The submarine is conceived as a horizontal skyscraper, a radical addition to the public arena. The submarine floats above unused car park space, allowing performances and festivals to be held underneath it. The tall steel columns allow light to enter the street level despite the submarine’s massive form. An infinity pool wraps around the submarine, allowing the public to enjoy the surreal experience of swimming alongside a submarine. Similarly, the flat top of the submarine is accessible to the general public via an elevator from the High Line. This flexible open space allows the public to picnic in summer and to skate in winter, 47 meters above the ground, with a stunning view of the Hudson River.
The Typhoon class submarine has a unique multi-hull design, with 5 spaces within each of its two pressure hulls, lying parallel to each other. We interpreted these two hulls as the two countries, the US and the former USSR. We then plotted a timeline, listing 5 events that shaped US-USSR relations during the cold war. These turning points in history were transformed into instances where the circulation literally turned and twisted. The weaving circulation reflects the back and forth exchange of rhetoric between the two nations. Major and minor exhibition spaces are then carved from the void. Besides its hull design, the Typhoon class’ uniquely gargantuan scale helped to clarify its location.
We decided to situate the submarine in New York City because of the city’s immense scale. The submarine’s colossal size becomes more relatable when surrounded by the vertical skyscrapers. The big city is not just selected for its sheer scale, but also for its proximity and its long history with water, as well as acting as a kind of political reconciliation. The early Europeans, sea traders and waves of immigrants arrived at America through New York City given its strategic location as a natural harbor. By locating it in the US, the submarine becomes a means of warming relations with Russia 25 years after the end of the Cold War. The nuclear reactors that provide steam power to the submarine are also repurposed. By connecting themselves to the Manhattan’s Con Edison steam distribution system, the vessel of war is transformed into an energy resource for the city.
Within NYC, we were drawn to the High Line for a few reasons. Firstly, the High Line hovers above the bustling streets similar to how the submarine floats above water. Secondly, it remains one of the most successful examples of adaptive re-use in the city and possibly in the world. In the year 1980, the trains ran the High Line for the last time while the submarine joined the Russian fleet. They are both historic marvels of engineering, long floating steel monoliths from a bygone age.


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