(West Side Beast, AVA High Line, West 29th St, New York. April, 2014)
The Urban Critic: There is a type of development taking place in The City which is having an irreversible and destructive effect on the form, and the future form of our urban core. These developments are the immense and bland superblock buildings which are appearing on Manhattan’s West Side. Their land plots are cobbled together over years of deal making and lot assembly; then the developer strikes when the iron is hot, hires the most cost efficient architect who will sacrifice their imagination, and proceeds to plunk down these monsters of mediocrity.
Beasts of the West Side unravel the Core Tenet of Jane Jacobs’ philosophy about urban density and variety, which she so famously wrote about in “The Death And Life of Great American Cities” (Random House, 1961). Variety, she professed, is a central driver of a City’s economic and social success with the intermingling of classes and a vibrant street life. In direct opposition to her philosophies, these massive structures divorce society from any true pedestrian scale and day-to-day interaction. Banal, uniform, and unforgiving; These building exteriors create wind swept streets of nothingness.
(The “Anti-Jane Jacobs” perspective of Urbanism, Streets of Nothingness)
In all due respect, development is good when it is thoughtful and has an intention to fulfill a purpose for greater Mankind. This attitude of optimism is seen at Hudson Yards, where, although the scale is still very large, the developers are thinking about public space and how people move out and about. This thoughtfulness is lacking in the Monolithic Beasts of The West Side. Manhattan deserves, and expects, something much greater than the least common denominator.