Queensbridge Houses New York, NY (US)

W.F.R. Ballard, Henry S. Churchill, Frederick G. Frost & Burnett Turner


  • Pierijn van der Putt TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


Driving east from the southernmost tip of Central Park in New York City, you reach the Queensborough Bridge after about 2.5 km: it connects Manhattan and the borough of Queens. At the foot of the bridge lies New York’s largest social housing project, Queensbridge Houses, built in 1939 and still in use today.

The Y-shaped floor plan of the residential towers and their location in a park-like setting demonstrate how much the accommodation of poor city dwellers improved over the course of one and a half centuries. For a long time New York, like other big cities, was the scene of the most horrendous housing conditions imaginable. Though slum clearance legislation was adopted as early as 1800 – entitling the city to buy and break down buildings that covered an entire plot (and thus had no garden or courtyard) – the hesitant regulations proved no match for the combination of explosive population growth, prohibitive rents and opportunistic speculative development. Between 1800 and 1850, many parts of the city housed dozens of families crammed into buildings on plots measuring 8 x 32 m, with four housing units per floor, no running water or toilets, and bedrooms without any access to ventilation or light: the so-called ‘railroad tenements’ (because of the similarity to the floorplan of a railway carriage).

Author Biography

Pierijn van der Putt, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Pierijn van der Putt (Eindhoven, 1973) studied Architecture at Delft University of Technology, the University of Illinois in Chicago and Drexel University in Philadelphia. He worked as an editor for Dutch architectural magazine de Architect for seven years before returning to Delft. There, in addition to being an editor for DASH (Delft Architectural Studies on Housing), he teaches academic research and architectural design for the group of Architecture and Dwelling. His particular interest lies in creative writing and in improving academic writing skills.