One Manhattan Square is the massive glass tower that now looms over the Manhattan Bridge. Beyond the building’s imposing presence, which fundamentally changes the built fabric of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, One Manhattan Square is a sharp symbol of the power that wealth and private property have to redefine the city. While the construction of new housing is urgently needed to increase the supply of affordable housing in New York City, current housing production is undertaken exclusively by private developers who ensure that new residential buildings always secure profit and conform to a traditional domestic model. One Manhattan Square is an archetypal example of the homogenous growth of the housing stock. Clearly marketed to wealthy individuals, the residential unit gives way to a financial instrument.
The Latin term in rem means “against a thing” and is used specifically in reference to legal action toward property. In the 1970’s, the government significantly increased the stock of publicly owned affordable housing by using in in rem jurisdiction to claim privately owned abandoned properties. Form in rem, an exhibition organized by Citygroup, calls for the production of architectural form that challenges the parcelization of land for individual ownership and profit accumulation. The task for participants in this investigation is to re-draw or deconstruct the floor plan of One Manhattan Square in a manner that augments affordability, asserts use over exchange value, and/or serves constituents beyond the single-family. In rem action will therefore reclaim One Manhattan Square as housing that serves diverse subjectivities and income levels.
- Michael Robinson Cohen and Violette de La Selle, Form in rem Exhibition Organizers, Citygroup