Month: January 2015

Chopping Block : The Provident Loan Building (Updated)


(The Provident Loan Building, as it may be in the future, Houston and Essex Streets, New York)

Note: This is an updated commentary to our prior post in early 2015: The Provident Loan Building, whose demise was rumored to be approaching, has been apparently saved and reincorporated into the plan for another condominium tower. This rendering, while outdated and not current, reflects the massing and relationship of the tower to the historic Provident Loan Building below. While not a blockbuster, we’re confident that a solid piece of Urban Design will evolve from this plan, since the New Designer is Rogers Partners Architects.

Satisfying, in many ways, because there is finally an interest in adapting old buildings while recognizing the potential value they may bring to both The Cityscape and development in general. Following a model of adaptation in much older cities (such as London, Paris and Rome), the project recognizes the contribution that older structures bring, instead of devaluing their Urban meaning by tearing them down as blank slates. In many cases, the building is completely recognizable (from an exterior vantage point) which is how the majority of the population experiences private buildings in The City. 

We commend the saving of The Provident Loan Building, and are hopeful that its new life will bring beauty and some semblance of scale for another 100 (+) years.

Note: Images and Text Below are from our January 2015 Post:

Provident Loan

(The Provident Loan Building,as it exists in 2015, Houston and Essex Streets, New York)

Another storied building may be on the chopping block: The Provident Loan Building at the corner of Houston and Essex Streets. It was recently revealed at fellow blogger Bowery Boogie, that this gem of a building may be near its End Days, a potential victim of The Developer.


(The Modern Day New York Developer)

Gem’s like these, diamonds in The Urban Rough, do not come around everyday. Built to serve as high end pawn shops in the early part of last Century, the Provident Loan Buildings were a model “Type” constructed across New York City. In this particular case, this structure has served many purposes over the years, though its major accomplishment has been serving as a Historical Gateway Guardian to The Lower East Side.

It was never Landmarked, never protected, an architectural crime in our current day. Perhaps because it lay dormant for so long, then used as a studio for Jasper Johns, until it entered its Nightclub Days.

Nevertheless, this similar story is playing out all across New York. A beautiful building from another era which will be just another picture, soon to come. One more story of The Changing City, laid to waste by the wrecking ball.

More Information on the Potential demise of the Provident Loan Building, and some history, can be found Here:

Demolition Likely for Provident Loan Building, from Bowery Boogie

Rumermongering, from Curbed

A little history of The Provident Loan Buildings from The New York Times


Urban Artboard

Urban Morphology 1

(Urban Morphology #1, Greg Gordon, 2015)

We are starting a new page at Gordon’s Urban Morphology which focuses on the Expression of Urban Change through the lens of Art. Topics will address those relevant to Change in New York’s Urban Sphere and the Social & Economic impacts accompanying this Change.

Our idea is to serve as a visual Urban Artboard, documenting the rapid shifts ongoing in our built environment, and the people behind these shifts.

Gordon’s Urban Morphology will be contributing to The Urban Artboard on a regular basis. Our blog also welcomes contributing artists, photographers, architects and designers whom have explored the topic of Urban Change in New York City.

If you would like to contribute directly to an upcoming Urban Artboard post, please e-mail us directly at

We look forward to featuring your viewpoints on the state of Our City.

A Bait and Switch in The Lower East Side

A commentary on the latest Mega-Development in New York; Essex Crossing:

Last week, the first four buildings of the long awaited Essex Crossing development were revealed to the public. If one word could sum up the general feeling of the images, it would be: Disappointing.


(The initial rendering of Essex Crossing, Lower East Side, by SHoP Architects. 2013)

Some background context should be given: When the Megaproject vision was initially released to the public in September 2013, the project was presented as one unifying design for the multi-block development. The vision was executed by a singular firm (SHoP Architects) and while not immensely exciting, the vision still conveyed a sense that this was a solid urban infill project. The architecture and general design were relatively strong. The buildings, while not potential award winners, were stout boxes on podiums with gardens and pedestrian flow throughout. It looked convincing for an area of The City that has lacked so much for so long; A vast Urban swath which was cleared of Tenement housing in the 1960’s under a failed renewal plan.

Seward Park 06

(Initial rendering of Essex Crossing by SHoP Architects. 2013)

Fast forward to last weeks’ rendering releases of the first four superblock developments and one can only think that something was lost. As part of the Essex Crossing developer agreement, the buildings were broken out as separate parcels with different architects. This idea, in theory, would diversify the appearance of the architecture and the surrounding environment. Although, In typical developer fashion, the buildings took the form of the Everyday New York developer building. In the effort to diversify, they have instead all moved toward looking the same, and downgraded.


(A revised, Mediocre rendering of Essex Crossing, by Handel Architects. 2015)

While still providing great amenities for the neighborhood (a new movie theatre, relocated Essex Street Market, affordable housing for seniors), the project does not deserve to be watered down by Mediocrity. Mediocrity in Architecture has recently been so pervasive in New York that one only has to turn their head to see another boring developer building rising in sight. The brick is all the same, the windows are nondescript. There is a flatness to the facades which scream of construction efficiency.


(Another revised, Mediocre rendering of Essex Crossing, by Handel Architects. 2015)

If there is a time to get it back to right, the time seems to be now. This development site is still fallow and not a shovel has been lifted. This time will soon pass within the next few months and the blocks will be abuzz with activity. This is a moment for the neighborhood and architecture community to rally for better design in our neighborhoods and surrounding environment.


(A Mediocre building for senior housing, by Dattner Architects. 2015)

Urban Infill buildings, when thoughtfully executed, can serve communities in wonderful and meaningful ways. And while never intending to break ground as buildings of beauty, they can still be designed and constructed in a manner which elevates the surrounding Urban context. They can be nice to look at from a distance and also up close.

These renderings reveal that the Essex Crossing Development is currently going through a developer “bait and switch”. While exciting and convincing to The Public at the onset, these buildings have suffered at the hand of the profiteering developer.

This is the time to ask for more. Because soon, Mediocrity will be built and around us for the next One Hundred Years.

The time for the public to speak about the design of the Essex Crossing Development is NOW. There will be a community presentation to the public by Delancey Street Associates and CB3 (Community Board 3) this Wednesday, January 28th from 6-8PM at Grand Street Settlement. 80 Pitt Street. New York.

Links of relatable note can be found here:

Link to the Essex Crossing website with initial project release renderings.

Link to the rendering releases on New York Curbed.

Link to Gordon’s Urban Morphology’s commentary on another mediocre project, the Westside Beasts, on New York’s West Side.

The Re-Invention of Industry House


(Demolition of the former Pastis, New York. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

The Urban Critic: As many have noted about the Meatpacking District, the transition from gritty industrial fringe to Over-The-Top trendy neighborhood has almost been completed. Enter here, the newest structure under renovation, an old industrial building which housed the former eatery Pastis over the past 15 years or so. It is now being hallowed out to make way for a Restoration Hardware and hotel.

A Restoration Hardware! So it goes in the neighborhoods of Manhattan where once unique eateries and one of a kind stores are being pushed out by the forces of big money. Suffice to say, the renderings of the actual building have ended up in a pretty good place. The proportions of the original structure were kept in tact. The pedestrian scale is maintained. And a more modern, industrial glass cube rests on top, slightly pulled away from the street, giving the red brick facade some room to breathe.


(The new building, by BKSK Architects, housing a Restoration Hardware and hotel)

As new buildings go in Manhattan, which these days have a tendency to destroy entire city blocks (reference our prior post on Beasts of The Westside), this conversion from former Industry House, to fashion eatery, and now Restoration Hardware has taken an interesting turn. The New York City Landmarks Commission made the architects go back to the drawing board a few times to get it right. In this case, it looks like they ended up with a perfectly respectable new urban neighbor.

Links of Relatable Note can be Found Here:

Article on Pastis conversion from NY Racked

New York Celeb’s remember iconic Pastis, from the New York Post

Meatpacking District tour from New York Magazine

5 Pointz, Down

(Time Lapse of the 5 Pointz demolition, by Aymann Ismail, from ANIMAL New York)

In a follow up to our Urban Critic article on The 5 Pointz Follies, Aymann Ismail from the wildly interesting blog ANIMAL New York captured the demise of the Graffiti Art collective in a captivating 1 minute time lapse video. An emblem of the clean slate demolition techniques that amplify the Gentrification conversation in Our Changing City; The 5 Pointz demolition was especially sad because it was a container for so much countercultural expression.

Now, we will have brand new hideous condominiums, and one more memory place lost to the forces of growth and an increasingly insatiable appetite for bad developer driven design.

It’s time to amplify the argument for responsible development in The Evolving City.

Links of relatable note:

ANIMAL New York. Culture and politics, straight from the gut.

Link to The Urban Critic and The 5 Pointz Follies, from Gordon’s Urban Morphology.

Mapping The Doors of NYC


(Manhattan Doors, 1975-1976, by Roy Colmer)

An interesting link to the geography of Door Mapping, as a retrospective work of art by the Artist Roy Colmer (1935-2014). These snapshots capture New York entryways in a moment of time, but remind us of a static New York, one that is not constantly changing, but in this case, revolving. Often mundane and everyday, these doors mark the entryways to many homes and businesses across The City. Some are still around. And some have vanished with the passage of Time. The historical collection of photographs can be found at the New York Public Library.

Links of Interest to Roy Colmer’s Door Maps can be found HERE:

Roy Colmers Doors in Photogeographies

Link to a more concise summary of Roy Colmer and his work in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

And, additional coverage on the doorways in Curbed

2015 Trends in Our Changing City

Goodbye 2014 and Hello to 2015. We are excited about the development year coming up in New York. Here are a list of the trends we anticipate Gordon’s Urban Morphology will cover, among other trends, as strong indicators of Change in The City:


(Domino Sugar Factory Demolition. Image by Todd Selie from The Gothamist, 2014)

The gentrification conversation will likely be the most prominent as the topic has inhabited nearly every corner of Central New York development. From small urban infill projects in the East Village and Harlem, to the massive “block-Eating” developments in The West Side, Lower East Side, and now Brooklyn and Greenpoint, this subject has seemingly penetrated the neighborhood dialogues through and through. We will continue to track these landscapes of change and the impact they are having on our broader culture.

Greenpoint Landing

(The Soul Killing, Neighborhood Destroying New Development Project of Greenpoint Landing)

The Mega-Developments of Hudson Yards, Essex Crossing and Domino Sugar will continue to gain traction. These projects, while considered more “urban infill” than Gentrifying forces (with the exception of Domino) are fascinating in their own right in their sheer scale and transformative effect on their surroundings, for better or for worse.

West 57th Street Tower

(111 West 57th Street Megatower by SHoP Architects. Soon to rise in 2015-2016)

The Mega-Tall towers along West 57th Street will grow with new buildings sprouting near the Museum of Modern Art (Jean Novel/SHoP) as well as two towers on the Southwest corner of Central Park (By Robert Stern and Adrian Smith / Gordon Gill). These new Luxury Palaces will solidify the Columbus Circle area as the premier High-End node of the City. Rightfully So.

On a smaller scale, New York continues to add incrementally to its parks and infrastructure with proposals for a new “bridging berm” on Manhattan’s Lower East Side as well as improvements in our urban infill parks; Improving the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods and for future protection of the next major hurricane.


(The “Poor Door” at 229 Cherry Street, Lower East Side)

We will anticipate tracking the growing socio-cultural divide which now divides the City and affects the way The City is built. From the hallowing out of once teeming neighborhoods (with condominiums for the Uber-Rich) to the introduction of “Poor Doors” for housing units abutting market rate buildings, the dialogue has heated up as cries of inequality grow stronger.

And here at Gordon’s Urban Morphology, we are going to start an “Urban Artboard” page which will serve as a hub for expression about Our Changing City. This is, in essence, a call for Artists whom wish to contribute and express their personal impressions about the largest scale developments our City has seen since the massive demolition and reconstruction in the 50’s and 60’s. We intend to display graphic pieces which convey ideas about New York in its current state of flux. Please feel free to contact us at if you wish to contribute.

Thanks again for Your Readership and Cheers to 2015.