Unité d'Habitation Brooklyn

single channel video, 2'40", 2004


I named Unité d'Habitation Brooklyn after Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation Marseille, the epitome of modern architecture and middle class urban living, the mega block, the autonomous monolithic parallelogram floating on a green field, the prototype of the modernist tabula rasa approach to city planning, whose de-generations would become ubiquitous worldwide and specially in social housing policies in New York during the Robert Moses era. Unité d'Habitation Brooklyn is based on documentation of the construction process of the Southside Homes: a government-sponsored-private-venture housing program built during 2001 in the Southside section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This program was designed to accommodate middle-income families and consists of 72 three-story buildings built in all the available empty lots of an 11 blocks area: a strategic infiltration within the gaps of the existing urban fabric, as opposed to the modernist tabula rasa approach, a prefabricated system of housing units that are transported to the site and that are quickly stacked up and finally, the hiding of this process by covering these prefabricated objects with a skin of brick and making it look old style to blend-in with the existing environment. The finished object is emblematic of the postmodern, a hybrid between an old row house and a suburban house, where a brick facade conceals a sheet-rock heart, where the old stoop becomes a manicured gated front lawn.