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Reimagining Rochester’s Underground

August 31st, 2014

Kenneth Martin chose to focus on Rochester's abandoned subway tunnel for his Master of Architecture Thesis. This is his concept for breathing new life into the space. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
The abandoned subway tunnel beneath Rochester’s Broad Street has become one of the most popular sites for students of architecture and design to test their creative chops. You may remember the ROC Low Line; an underground park designed by a team of RIT students. Soon after that we reviewed a more serious plan to install an underground shopping mall and entertainment venue called Broad Street Underground.

Yet another thought-provoking concept and set of renderings have been shared with us. This one elaborates on the idea of using the interior space as a nightclub, with various (wet and wild) public spaces…

Rochester's aqueduct bridge has been a popular site for architecture and design students to reimagine. Its reuse could provide an economic lift for this downtown neighborhood. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
Kenneth Martin external link chose to focus on the Broad Street site external link for his Master of Architecture Thesis at Norwich University because, as he points out, this section of downtown Rochester has a “severe lack of post five o’clock activity.”

He points to numerous abandoned lots and spaces in the vicinity. And he suggests not only do these abandoned spaces not help downtown, they actually serve to perpetuate the problem. As Martin sees it, one of our biggest missed opportunities is the old subway tunnel. So he took a crack at reimagining it.

A look at the project site from above. Broad Street has been completely removed between South Ave. and Exchange Street, replaced with a water feature and walking path. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
First, here’s a look at the project site from above. From this vantage point we see that Broad Street has been completely removed between South Ave. and Exchange Street. In its place a prominent water feature and pedestrian pathway connect the east and west sides of the river. The use of water recalls earlier proposals external link for the site, but here Martin places the water up at street level instead of in the subway/canal bed, preserving the underground space.

Martin chooses to create a more reflective space for pedestrians. The zig zagging pathway intentionally disrupts the strong linear flow of the aqueduct. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
While other plans have looked to keep a few of the car lanes at street level, Martin chooses to create a more reflective space for pedestrians. The zig zagging pathway intentionally disrupts the strong linear flow of the aqueduct.

At the east end of the aqueduct, the intersection at Broad and South Ave would be opened up and a staircase and ramp built to allow pedestrians to move between levels. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
At the east end of the aqueduct, the intersection at Broad and South Ave would be opened up and a staircase and ramp built to allow pedestrians to move between levels.

Steps allow the public to access the water. Go ahead, take off your shoes and splash around. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
The water of course is a symbolic reference to its history as a canal. You won’t see any boats in this plan. Instead, steps allow the public to access the water. Go ahead, take off your shoes and splash around.

The tunnel is broken up into smaller spaces for socializing, dancing, dining, drinking, etc. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
As you make your way underground, you’ll notice the tunnel is broken up into smaller spaces for socializing, dancing, dining, drinking, etc. Queue the electronica…

Kenneth Martin chose to focus on Rochester's abandoned subway tunnel for his Master of Architecture Thesis. This is his concept for breathing new life into the space. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Kenneth Martin chose to focus on Rochester's abandoned subway tunnel for his Master of Architecture Thesis. This is his concept for breathing new life into the space. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Martin envisions a concert hall venue beneath Rundel Library. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
Martin envisions a concert hall venue beneath Rundel Library.

Rochester's subway tunnel has become accustomed to graffiti, and the public has come to appreciate it. Martin makes use of the art as one of the unifying elements inside and out. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
Rochester’s subway tunnel has become accustomed to graffiti, and the public has come to appreciate it. Martin makes use of the art as one of the unifying elements inside and out.

Another entrance on the west side of the aqueduct from the river promenade at Blue Cross Arena. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
Another entrance on the west side of the aqueduct from the river promenade at Blue Cross Arena.

Other sections could be used as a sports bar, restaurant, or perhaps a jazz club. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
Other sections could be used as a sports bar, restaurant, or perhaps a jazz club.

It almost doesn't matter the use. A site with this much character, and what I know are amazing views of the river, I want so badly to hang out in this place. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]
It almost doesn’t matter the use. A site with this much character, and what I know are amazing views of the river, I want so badly to hang out in this place.

Each time I post one of these “underground” concepts I cross my fingers and hope it will help to jumpstart a real project to happen. But until then, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing whatever innovative ideas you guys come up with next.

• • •

Additional Views

Cross-section views. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Substructure. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Elevation view. North side of aqueduct bridge. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Elevation view. South side of aqueduct bridge. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

Plan view. [IMAGE: Kenneth Martin]

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2014 at 6:58 pm and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester News, Rochester Subway, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “Reimagining Rochester’s Underground”

  1. Tim McDonough says:

    Anywhere else in the world that bridge would have been something a long time ago. Those beautiful arched openings, windows of a fine restaurant..perhaps multiple restaurants and shops. I believe the concept works…as in Ponte Vecchio and Rialto. My grandfather and father moved to Rochester to build the subway, I would love to see it survive in some way.

  2. Steve Campbell says:

    Great job Ken – Looks great. Thanks to Rochester Subway for posting!

  3. JAKS says:

    Wow. The inside/ underground parts look awesome. The outside though, seems to negate all coolness about it. Honestly, what are the odds of just eliminating Broad St? And let’s face it. I’ve seen the Genesee and I don’t want to walk through an overflow area on top with the way it’s water looks. The inside looks quite spectacular though, I just wonder about the actual feasibility of fitting a concert venue under the library. It seems much better suited for the end that is currently in total darkness, more near Nick Tahoe’s and such, than under a library..

  4. Urban Explorer says:

    Innovative ideas and well done renderings. Like so many other ideas, waiting for the market to respond…

    Couple things:

    – The historic status of the bridge itself would likely prevent (or at least complicate), for better or worse, some of the more radical ideas portrayed here (glassed in openings, removal of the eastern end, etc).

    – “The zig zagging pathway intentionally disrupts the strong linear flow of the aqueduct.”

    This kind of archi-speak (and design) drives me absolutely batty. The aqueduct is not an abstract sculpture; it serves as a functional piece of transportation infrastructure. People who walk to actually transport themselves from one place to another want the most direct path possible, not a forced zig-zag across the river. That zig zag may look uber hip in computer generated renderings from a perspective hovering 500 feet above the aqueduct (a vantage point that the average pedestrian will never experience), but it’s much less appealing when envisioning a walk down Broad Street from Clinton to Exchange on a blustery January afternoon (something that many people might actually do). Frankly, what is wrong with a “strong linear flow” and why does it have to be “disrupted”?

  5. Alex says:

    Well said Urban Explorer. The balance of form and function is important. Functional design can be attractive. We don’t need to zigzag our way across the river in winter. Leave the ridiculous angles to Daniel Liebeskind. He seems to have made a name for himself with them

  6. Scott says:

    I hope this idea or others might actually inspire some investment in some of the natural resources and natural beauty of Rochester’s river front.

    Numerous other cities have capitalized on these resources breathing “new life” into previously abandoned and forgotten urban areas. San Antonio, TX and Chattanooga, TN come to mind immediately. While we will never have the adavantage of year round decent weather such as these other locations, I would gladly walk the additional 100 ft, even in the winter, if you could add ANY kind of visual appeal to the area.

    When we close our minds to innovative concepts, that’s one of the main reasons sites like this one remain unused and abandoned. I say bring on the ideas and keep them coming. Great job Ken! I hope someone in a position of influence takes notice and more importantly action for Rochester’s sake.

  7. Jory says:

    While I love some of the ideas here, the main character of the abandoned subway–the street art/graffiti–would potentially be threatened with development under the bridge. It’s a constantly growing, changing canvas that I’d say perhaps has some unwritten street rules to organize it, perhaps.

    Would we be able to preserve the character of the graffiti with any development? Is there any precedent for maintaining street art after a place has become developed? I’m curious as to whether an other cities or developments has done this.

  8. Timbo Louer says:

    These images are tremendous! The design concepts presented here would be an extraordinary opportunity for the city of Rochester, I could really see people traveling from all around New York State and Canada to come grab a cocktail here or enjoy a concert!

  9. Peter says:

    ” Instead, steps allow the public to access the water. Go ahead, take off your shoes and splash around.”

    You go ahead, I swear I’m right behind you.

    Seriously, this is a cool idea but isn’t the water usually roaring past this location? Will this include a net to catch anyone who gets swept away?

  10. Martin Edic says:

    It’s easy to be swayed by pretty renderings but there are numerous things to take issue with here. First and foremost, closing a major gateway between the east and west sides of downtown would exacerbate the already lopsided development map. Also, in spite of his contention that there is nothing over there, he leaves out the Convention Center (badly underutilized public waterfront space), the Blue Cross Arena which brings thousands downtown every week, the Dinosaur and the proposed Morgan development with a lot of retail space.
    As for a club, that is an environment that serves a very limited cross-section of the city, mainly upscale millennials.
    As another commenter points out, this space has been creating itself as a street art gallery with many major pieces. Go down there on any weekend and it is full of people in spite of not being easily accessible for many. I’d like to see, possibly as an interim solution, a slight formalizing of this gallery model so more people could get down there and see the edges of art in Rochester- which has emerged as a major global center of street art (Thx Wall Therapy!). We need to leverage that asset in this location.

  11. Martin Edic says:

    Slight formalizing of art space:
    Raised walkways to view art.
    Better access into the space.
    Glass across openings for some weather protection (I don’t believe there is an historic designation banning this).
    Coffee cart/cafe with tables.
    Of course the City attorneys would find a million reasons why this can’t happen.

  12. Just to clear up any confusion about the wading pool… according to the concept plan, this would be on top of the structure where the road deck is today, and not connected to the Genesee River below.

  13. Irene says:

    Nightclub is a great idea! I think that a Budapest style “ruin pub” would be more compatible with the street art and funky vibe http://visitbudapest.travel/articles/ruin-pubs-a-budapest-specialty/

    I realize this was an architecture thesis, so obviously he needed to show slick renderings – and they do look great. Maybe some of the organic shaped panels would work in a ruin pub.

    I’m not keen on the above ground portion, for reasons other commenters have stated.

  14. daggar says:

    The surface-level plan has a randomly angled walkway and otherwise useless space. This looks way too much like Crossroads Park And Abandoned Dystopia.

    Give more thought to the actual use of the space and not how cute the model looks.

  15. Neal Rudin says:

    Wonderful imgaes…. What is missing from this design are the rest of the community. Not everyone will want to go to night clubs and high end bars.There are only so many times you will go here because it doesn’t fulfill all the needs of the city. This must act as the very heart and center of our area. Check out… Broad Street Underground. It should be our constant world’s fair. The vortex and catalyst of our future.


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