Month: March 2014

New York’s Next Tallest, Climbing

(Video of 432 Park)

Something new is poking above the skyline in Midtown, and it is growing everyday. New York’s next tallest residential skyscraper is rising along the horizon, and it is starting to make a permanent impression. Designed by Rafael Vinoly, and occupying the site of the former historic Drake Hotel, the tower is extra skinny and slender (90′ X 90′ in plan dimension), with a simple grid punctuating its facade. The structural system, a concrete self-supporting shell, affords wide expansive views of the City from its vantage points.  This construct will eventually top out at a height of 1,396 feet, and when reaching its pinnacle, will eclipse the top floor of One World Trade Center.

432 Park

(432 Park Avenue in Mid-Ascent)

432 Park, motivated and funded by pure capitalism, is poised to be another shrine to the oft mentioned “billionaires club” we hear so much about. It is truly an example of urban form shaped by the sheer desire to impress. These motivations aside, there are actually few “good-to-great” buildings being constructed in Manhattan these days. The proportion of bad buildings far exceed those that are thoughtful or impart some measure of daring. This structure, because of its small footprint with respect to its height (called the “slenderness ratio” in construction terminology) will occupy the thoughts of people in unique ways. A “thoughtful occupation”, grounded in wonderment, on its way to be realized. In the meantime, it is a joy to observe as The Tower climbs its way to the top.

Links of Relatable note can be found here:



The Changing City: An Excerpt from the Lower East Side


(Blocks encompassing the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, New York City)

An interesting read on the changing landscape in the Lower East side today, courtesy of the New York Times. This empty void of land is bordered by many ethnic groups and has been the topic of political factions for decades. It will assume its new identity in the years to come as the redeveloped Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. You can check out more about this development from a prior blog post here.

This dynamic area of New York will be the subject for many posts to come, as we track this landscape in the process of Urban Transformation.

Construction: The Beauty of the Site

NYU Construction

(Construction Site Looking Down at NYU Medical Centre, March 2014)

Added because sometimes the rawness of the process is the most beautiful. It is also still very primitive, as shown by this shot of our next Great American Hospital.  The tools of the jobsite and the imagery of the mechanics make one hard to guess whether it is 1964 or 2014, evidence that even when progress is being made, the techniques of progress are still very rooted in the familiar, tried and true acts of construction.

Urban Shard


(35XV Tower under construction at 15th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues)

A new tower has risen Downtown. This particular building, though not too tall in stature, is making a strong impression on the skyline. It is the City’s newest “shard” building, a shard because it slices and dices its way to the top, like taking a chisel to the clear blue sky. A faceted tower, poking above the lower structures, it’s ability to make a statement relies on the low lying nature of the buildings surrounding.

This particular type of tower is not unique unto the city. It’s shape is usually defined by the various zoning laws in New York which call for certain setbacks to allow for light to reach the streets below. Other shapes are defined by the building’s “cantilevers” over neighboring structures. These cantilevers are allowed by the purchasing of air rights from the neighboring building lots. This phenomenon was recently highlighted in a New York Times  article which detailed the particularities of this construction, and why it has become a viable economic solution for developers.

The fanciness of the condominium aside (and this topic is a very relevant one as more and more of our affordable New York is being pushed to the wayside), the building already acts as a type of urban compass within the dense fabric of The City. It gives the traveller a sense of orientation because of its unique form. The chisel in the sky points North, possibly a nod to the Empire State Building? This is a new urban marker, amongst many, which grounds one’s relationship to their environs and gives a stronger sense of connection amongst the banality of the ever multiplying, and anonymous glass towers rising throughout the metropolis.

Link’s of relatable note:

Windows of the Past at the New York Tenement Museum


(Tenement Street Scene, Early 1900’s)

Viewing the city from afar, as an observer is one experience. Viewing the city through the lens of a building is another, especially one which has seen so many lives pass through its doors. This building of note is the New York Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For those seeking connections to their past, or are curious about their roots, it is quite an attraction to behold. Wooden staircases trodden through the years, peeling wallpaper with the signatures of their prior occupants signify stories of hardship and the immigrant settlement experience. They are layers which can be peeled back like traceries, connecting the dots of one’s own histories.

Orchard St. Block

(The location of the Tenement Museum is 103 and 97 Orchard Street)

Walking down Orchard Street where the Tenement Museum is located, one can see so many windows of the facades looking out at the bustling city passing by. These windows are virtually the same as they were one hundred years ago, viewfinders unto an urban past. It’s fascinating how some buildings and places remain as they once were, while other buildings & places have not met the same fate. Adjoining City blocks are visually empty of the tenements that once stood, a testament to the renewal projects which sought to wipe them clean of their eventual scourge.

The histories of the people who once lived here are contained behind the windows, within the tenement facades. They exist between the rafters and the floorboards, behind the layers of peeling wallpaper. They exist within the imagination of the viewer.

Links of relatable note and information on the Museum can be found here:

“Little Manhattan” as Rendered in Solid Form at The Armory Art Show

Little Manhattan 2

(“Little Manhattan” by Yutaka Sone at The Armory Art Show)

If you are looking for something to do on this chilly, end of Winter weekend, check out The City rendered in solid marble form at the Armory Art Show.

This sculpture, by Yutaka Sone and displayed at the David Zwirner Gallery, is crafted from one chunk of stone, and was one of the clear highlights of the festival. Of particular interest is the city map, detailed down to individual buildings. The map is perched on a “base” which echoes the deep Manhattan bedrock on which it rests. The connecting bridges are also anchored far into the earth.

The sculpture brings into light the city as one pure and monolithic form. As viewed from a distance, is acts as a mass, suggesting that the people, the places and the activities within are all interconnected.

More on the Armory Art Show can be found here:

Construction Pic: Pile Driving in The City (Part 2)

Pile Driving

(Drilling into Manhattan bedrock on Manhattan’s East Side, NYU Medical Center)

This post is dedicated to all of the die-hard construction workers who are building our City every day. Extreme weather, freezing cold and unrelenting heat waves do not deter them from creating the poetry of Construction. Pictured here are massive 80 foot piles being driven vertically down into Manhattan’s bedrock, in order to create a stable foundation for the buildings of our future City. Beauty in the everyday process of Urban change.