The centerpiece of the installation are large district models of Chelsea and East Harlem, which illustrate the contrasting building types and dramatically different site-planning strategies of private-market and public and publicly-assisted housing in two Manhattan neighborhoods. The projects analyzed are painted white, while the gray blocks of low- or medium-rise buildings show the surviving context of mostly tenements, row houses, commercial, or industrial structures that once covered the area.
The models emphasize built density – that is, the percentage of the lot covered by buildings – versus open space. The public- and publicly-assisted projects are extremely low density – in general, around 20 percent buildings and 80 percent open area. Superblocks that close some city streets further exaggerate the open space. By contrast, in Chelsea, the private-market developments of London Terrace and the High Line apartments cover 68 percent of their lots.
Open space affects average density, as does the number of stories per building and the number of units. London Terrace averages 931 people per acre and the Tate (2002) and 555 W 23 (2005), frame a block west of Tenth Avenue have densities of 775 and 800 pp/acre, respectively. In East Harlem, projects following the “tower in the park” model have much lower densities and lot coverages. Taft Houses (1962), for instance, has a density of 251 pp/acre and a lot coverage of 19 percent, and Jefferson Houses (1959) has only 191 pp/acre with a coverage of 20 percent.