Month: February 2014

High Line Promenade

Upper Hi Line 1

(View of the Upper High Line, Looking toward the Coach Tower construction)

The landscape on the North End of the High Line is dramatically changing, by the day it seems. Whole blocks which once contained seedy auto stores and thumping clubs have been swallowed up by the forces of development in this stretch of the West 30’s. There are numerous decry’s that the “soul” of New York is being lost to change, but as all New Yorker’s know, it is these precise forces which make this city unique unto itself. It resists stasis.

The new architecture being built is adding quite an impact to the Upper Bend of the refurbished High Line. Concrete columns, raw in their half-built nature, jut into the sky; workers dangling from the wood form like Lego men. Passers by are treated to pure Construction Porn:

Construction Porn

(Construction worker on the new Coach Tower)

The soon to be fashionable “Coach Tower” (pictured here and below), with its robust legs straddling the High Line spur, is joining in the fray and will dazzle on the skyline with its striking mass. This corporate tower will undoubtedly become an emblem of the West Side’s success in reinvention.

Upper Hi Line 2

 

These creations will define a new civic “recollection” of this place, in the decades, perhaps centuries to come. Once derelict blocks and empty railyards, containing nothing in particular, are becoming destinations unto themselves.

Rising skyscrapers are a form of urban poetry; transformational acts cut across a rewritten Urban Silhouette.

Images of the construction, future renderings and other links of relatable note can be found here:

http://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com

http://www.thehighline.org/blog/2013/11/11/new-design-concept-for-the-high-line-at-the-rail-yards

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/11/12/here_now_the_giant_verdant_bowl_in_the_next_high_line_phase.php

Urban Totem

photo

Urban Totem: Vertical thrust into the skyline. Identifiable marker of the City. Object of civic and emotional attachment. Signifier of one’s position in space within the greater fabric of the whole.

Totem projects the hope of a people always striving for more, for something different, for something better. Standing steadfast amidst the bustle and hurried people, an emblem of collective consciousness.

Totem collects dreams like a massive vessel, containing them over the course of time, then releasing them, spilling out onto the streets below, imbuing the Memory of The City.

High Line Projections on Manhattan’s West Side

photo 1

(The Standard Hotel, New York. February, 2014)

Traveling through the lower portion of the High Line, in the Meatpacking District, one is struck by these animal-like constructs. Products of the present & former decade, they proclaim their status on this promenade, projecting a sense of confidence to the world. This used to be a rough and tumble part of town. As documented in countless memoirs of New York’s bygone era, prostitutes and drag queens frequented the streets, hawking their wares. Now, it appears we have a new gang, masquerading along the West Side’s catwalk.

These intriguing buildings symbolize a shift in the attitude of the city. A “look at me” exclamation, vying for attention in an otherwise crowded place…not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone loves to look at beautiful things. These new confections profess their exuberance, with a rationale and seriousness that is purely New York.

One only needs to turn their head to the unabashedly confident Standard hotel (above). A big creature with legs spanning the promenade. It’s prow looking steadily out across the City skyline. This particular type of form is not necessarily novel in shape, the novelty is found in the execution of “how” shape is manipulated, bent and twisted to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of Urban Planning. It’s material (concrete) referential to the grit of the neighborhoods past.

photo 2

(“Rotating Cube” : Under Construction, New York. February, 2014)

Yet another friend on the block is the Rotating Cube by Morris Adjmi; adjacent, and deferential to the Standard. A little brother sitting in its shadow, it’s design proportioned to meet the lower Meatpacking buildings. The construct sits on a base that blends with the old brick fronts, with an upper portion that pops and rotates at its corners, simultaneously kissing and pulling away from the marching parade. The beauty in this particular form lies in its simplicity of shape, exquisitelly tailored to fit.

photo 3

(Whitney Museum : Under Construction, New York. February, 2014)

Perhaps the most confounding of this triad is the brand new Whitney Museum by Renzo Piano. It’s form hearkens back to the large ships, forging their way through the Hudson. It is attractive in the way that it anchors the termination of the Southernmost portion of the High Line, like a rock, or an adorned ships hull, portals and all. It begs to ask, what is beauty in the Urban Form? What types of urban mass connote confidence and musculature?

These are projections of Grace and Style, deep in the developing West Side.

 

Links of Relatable Note:

http://www.thehighline.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meatpacking_District,_Manhattan

http://whitney.org

Lower East Side Monoliths

Post Pic 4 SPURA_2

Good Morning Lower East Side! This post is deferential to the monolithic megaprojects of the neighborhood, and the one(s) coming down the pike. This particular corner of the neighborhood has been torn down and built back up (more-so in the postwar redevelopment of many blocks and waterfront areas) so much, that it is hard to tell anything existed once before. This image (at Essex and Delancey) is taken across vast empty blocks which will soon become the newest megaproject in town: SPURA. The area was once occupied by the scourges of drug dealing and mayhem into the latter part of last century; A symbol that remains of failed Urban Renewal programs enacted by the city.

The new development plans can be found at the NYCEDC based website, including future images of a re-vamped Broome Street corridor:

http://www.nycedc.com/project/seward-park-mixed-use-development-project

The towers of Seward Park, East River Houses and the Amalgamated Dwellings (past megaprojects), imbue a mass of human habitation. Derivatives of the “Tower in the City” form popular in the mid 1900’s, these structures somehow managed to stay intact (many haven’t in America) and have not succumbed to the wrecking ball. More on the concept of Coop Village and the embodiment of its concept will be the subject of an upcoming post.

This future development (SPURA) is the next generation of the megaproject proposal. It is not too beautiful, or memorable (at least from the renderings) but it does suggest a density and vitality which is essential for this part of the city….a mix match of life, incomes, and activities of the everyday. The Essex Street market, moving a few blocks, is part of a larger program shift, like urban Checkers. The heights of the new towers are determined by a game of zoning Tetris. A city, its neighborhood and the people, shifting with the next big wave of development.

Gulick Park Playground, A Tale of Urban Decay

Post Pic 3 Gulick

Walking by this park almost everyday, I am a bit transfixed by its state, and curiosity sets in. I wonder how this place became a remnant overlooked, a piece of the older Manhattan gone by. The land was converted into a new park in the early 1930’s, as the depression was starting to set in. Nonetheless, it became a lung for the Lower East Side, beneath the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. Over time, through the mid-to-end of last century, the community suffered through Urban decline, and the parks’ locus of activities shifted to the shady side. A bit on its history can be found here:

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/luthergulickplayground/history

Its current state is tattered and frayed. Tall, mature trees, complimented by broken pavement and cracked asphalt. A glimpse can be found on the prior (Broome St. LES) post. After a very small amount of research, a discovery was made, and alas, the park will rejuvenate itself thanks to the diligence of the community and funding from the city. It’s plan can be found here:

http://gulickpark.org

A realization, once again, that the forces of change are happening all around. One just needs to scratch the surface.

For some reason I pictured this place never-changing. It looks, smells and feels like a piece of the Lower East Side I will always want to remember.

Broome St. LES, Part One (Winter)

Post Pic 2 Broome

 

It’s not as glamorous as the West Side, perhaps because the original fabric was decimated in the middle of the last Century. A clean slate for Urban Renewal. There is a sediment to the place that is tangible, of the tenements that once stood facing this Street, creating a wall of containment. Now it looks like a back alley of immigrant history washed away…but who would really know?

The sense of place, in this place, is not revealed in the buildings. It is revealed in the people. Friendly exchanges on the Streets acknowledge understandings rooted in generations. The people, once upon a time, washed up here in droves, forging pathways to better lives. This Street, once a bustle of commerce and exchange, is now cut in half, a back alley path, but still beautiful nonetheless, deep in the Lower East Side.