COMMUNITY Arts + Food Center

Long Branch, NJ


In collaboration with DCAP


This adaptive re-use project transforms a vacant 14,500 s.f. warehouse complex into a new community arts center located in coastal New Jersey.  Amidst ongoing efforts to “rebuild” the Jersey Shore in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, the project offers an alternative to this context’s post-crisis approach to redevelopment and resilience which reckons with existential questions of adaptation to a “new normal” future in short-sighted ways.  As such, the project asks, what if we considered demolition - a building subtraction, a construction in reverse - as a productive activity, rather than a destructive one?   Located in Long Branch, New Jersey, one block from the Atlantic Ocean, within both a local urban redevelopment zone and a FEMA flood zone overlay, the project takes on the challenge of delivering economic growth in an environmentally at-risk location.  It is conceived as a catalyst for change within a no-man’s-land located between an abandoned downtown core and an active waterfront.  This new center offers a flexible mix of community, arts, and entertainment uses.  The adaptive reuse strategy proposes a phased design intervention involving major demolition, disassembly, and salvage, along with minor repairs and alterations.  The existing buildings are reconfigured as a series of new spatial and material figures that include the integration of existing, partially deconstructed, and new structures, the extensive reuse of salvaged materials, and creation of an elevated, public space network.  The reduction of the existing building’s footprint produces a material surplus - 68,166 bricks, and 243 heavy timber beams - which is recycled and redistributed into a new patchworked whole.  This radical adaptation trades in the binary conceptual framework of “old” and “new” for an expanded repertoire of creative resourcefulness in which the act of unbuilding is used to reimagine architecture’s role in the processes of urban growth and change.