Lingering in the Airport City: an interview with K. Brandt Knapp
K. Brandt Knapp is a lecturer and studio critic in the architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. She also teaches at Barnard College, Columbia’s GSAPP, Pratt, and NJIT. She has a design practice, BRANDT : HAFERD, with her design partner, Jerome Haferd. We spoke to her about her recent student research studio at Newburgh, which aimed to evaluate connectivity between the airport and the city.
AERIAL FUTURES: Could you talk a little about the aims of the studio and the research outcomes?
K. BRANDT KNAPP: The studio looked to the changing landscape and proposed an infrastructural architecture with an aim to connect the rural, the suburban, and the urban. Our relationships to cities, to mobility, to food, and to leisure are changing, so in this studio, M.Arch students from the UPenn Weitzman School were asked to evaluate current cultural shifts as they relate to transit, food production, and work, and site-specifically develop an architecture to connect the airport, Newburgh, and the Hudson Valley.
AER: How do you think the airport will change Newburgh?
KBK: Right now the airport is undergoing a lot of growth. One major reason is the budget airline Norwegian has flights coming from Europe for significantly less than tickets to LaGuardia, JFK, or Newark. Just after landing, the passengers are bussed into the city. I hope that the airport, Newburgh, and the larger region influence one another. In the studio, we thought of the airport and our site, the current Shortline (bus) Transportation Center just a few minutes drive from the airport, as the gateway to New York and the Hudson Valley. Newburgh is, currently undergoing change and growth in its own right, as many artists and small business entrepreneurs are setting up shop. They could gain from and also provide amenities for such a gateway.
AER: How have the students engaged with the airport and with AERIAL FUTURES?
KBK: This is their fourth studio in the M.Arch sequence. It’s what we call an ‘integrated studio,’ which in many ways is the most ‘real world’ type of project, as the students need to design to a level of detail technically at various scales. The studio is big-idea-oriented and speculative in nature. As an integrated studio, they work with consultants during the semester, all the while with the knowledge that the studio would culminate with a presentation at an AERIAL FUTURES think tank, where key stakeholders would learn about the work. For a speculative studio and for students about to enter their final year of grad school, this was unbeatable.
AER: How can architecture encourage out-of-towners to linger in a place, rather than — once landed, say — moving immediately onto their final destination?
KBK: Some of this is an urban design problem, which is why we have focused so much on the greater region and on transit. It was important for us to think about the connection between the airport and Newburgh, which is why the studio proposed that a shuttle run between the airport, our bus terminal site, and the city of Newburgh. Architecture has incredible ‘visioning’ power — the students’ work not only visualized their projects, but also researched what types of program would be included on the site, what types of farming would take place, what types of architectural infrastructure would facilitate a ‘gateway to New York and the Hudson Valley.’ I like the term ‘linger’ — we did a lot of thinking about the question of work and leisure today. All of the students had a proposal that included some form of ‘co-working’ and they all had a visitor center or market. How do we linger in and around Newburgh? How do we become invested in our agricultural production, in our old industrial cities? As work changes and we can be remote, how can we be mobile sustainably ... or linger?