Infill Housing in Hell's KitchenWallpaper's hypothetical assignment delivers to us theopportunity to argue that the notion of an in-fill housingbuilding has a significantly different urban function and meaningin a city like New York than in most other cities. The infill ofurban gaps with low-rise structures in most sections of Manhattanwould be not only out of character with its surroundings, butwould also amount to an unconscionable waste of limitedresources.New York City is an island and once its land is fully occupied,the only possible direction for expansion is up. Gaps in thefabric of the city are not filled-in to erase a discontinuity ormend an unseemly disharmony on a block's facade, since the cityis pretty much made up of all kinds of disjunctivejuxtapositions; gaps are filled simply to multiply the value ofthe land. The initially unintended byproduct of such a state ofaffairs is what is responsible for creating New York's uniqueexcitement and vibrancy, its singular kind of urban poetry of thetall and the uneven.In "Hell's Kitchen" on the west side of Manhattan, between Ninthand Tenth Avenues and between 43rd and 45th streets, there existsliterally a gap in the fabric of the city. Inside this twentyfoot-deep gap run the north-south Amtrak trains entering in andexiting out of Penn Station. Our project proposes not so much tofill the gap but rather to bridge it, thus occupying it withouterasing it.Virtual Square SkylineThe project contemplates three buildings bridging the Amtrak gapwhere it is crossed by east-west streets. Each of them is 14stories high or 190 feet tall. This height is the same as thehorizontal length of gap, a correspondence which ties togetherthe new and the existing, creating an implied virtual square inthe skyline. The building has an average width of only 20 feet,with two apartments per floor and each apartment featuringcontinuous exterior frontage to both north and south. This allowsfor excellent natural ventilation and illumination and theconsequent preservation of electrical energy. To the south, thebuilding is outfitted with continuous steel louvers, allowing sunexposure in the interior during the winter and shade during thesummer. The building's construction is cast-in-place concrete andall interior partitions are etched glass. Each apartment is 100m2in size.Twisted TowerTo the south the building presents to the street a public spacethat could be occupied by a community use or a business (SteinwayOBRA ARCHITECTS 315 CHURCH ST 4 FL NY NY 10013 T 212 625 3868 F 212 625 3874 www.OBRAARCHITECTS.COMpiano store shown). This space is developed as a semi-detachedstructure that breaks down the scale of the tower, mediating tothe human-scale experience of pedestrians on the street. The roofof the piano store/community space is developed as a moundplayground for the children in the building. The entry to thebuilding is topped by a cubical structure containing a coop boardmeeting room and symbolically representing a gatehouse (since inNew York coop boards are notorious for keeping worthy people inneed of housing out of the buildings they oversee unless they areemployed by a Wall Street investment bank).To the north, the tower presides over the train tracks, and allapartments are exposed to the kinetic panorama of high-speedtrains running in and out of the building's base. The building'sform twists towards the sky as if resonating with railroadvertigo.