Month: February 2015

Urban Artboard : Urban Voids

Urban Voids

(Urban Voids, New York, New York. 2014. Image by Greg Gordon)

Along the streets of The Lower East Side sit vacant lots ready for the developers shovel. Sometimes empty for years, these spaces exist in between the rich historical fabric of the storied New York neighborhood. Once the sites of tenements, housing countless immigrant families and dreams for a better life, these voids now stand as a testament to a form of Urban Impermanence.


The F#ck You Building on the Fringes of Delancey

Cantilevered Condo

(Rendering of the F#ck You Building. New York. By ODA Architecture)

The Urban Critic: Delancey Street, in New York’s Lower East Side, has been known for its rough around the edges aesthetic, and below the radar neighborhood status for the majority of New Yorker’s. Its Far East Side location, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, has been kind of a no-man’s land for many decades after the demolition of multiple city blocks in the name of Urban Renewal. Of Note: These demolished city blocks are now under development as the future Essex Crossing, which we critiqued in our prior post A Bait and Switch in The Lower East Side.

Where the Essex Crossing development lacks in clarity across Delancey, this fortress of glass rising across the street (at 100 Norfolk Street) harnesses the current trend of Air Rights Transfers in New York and takes this real estate trick to a new level. By exposing all aspects of building structure and packaging it into a powerful building Form, this cantilevered condo tower takes an aggressive position of iconography in a rapidly changing Lower East Side. In a lot of respects, this position is welcome.

Oftentimes, the softer side of architectural expression takes over with the contribution of community organizations and neighborhood input. Watered down versions of friendly building forms with developer-grade facades becomes the expectation. Since this is the prevailing trend in Our Changing City, the definition of powerful architecture gets lost.


(The softer side of Architecture, across the street at Essex Crossing)

The Cantilevered building on Delancey falls into the category of a F#ck You building. It positions itself as an “edge” structure, in a fringe neighborhood; Not quite sure of itself, but taking a position by pushing boundaries. Its fragmented form, a building type we’ve highlighted before in Jenga Box Rising, bucks the notion of traditional residential architecture and elevates it into the realm of Fragmented Realism.

And while this notion of fragmentation is oftentimes disturbing to the viewer, provoking feelings of unease and imbalance; It is precisely what society needs in order to keep moving in a progressive direction. The F#ck You building is a provocation, an Urban Experiment. It questions the everyday challenges of living in a complex and mutable city, and solidifies these challenges into a three dimensional Urban Form, soon to rise on the fringes of Delancey.

The Brooklyn Fire of 2015


(The Brooklyn Warehouse Fire from Across The East River, Photo by Greg Gordon, 2015)

Few natural forces have the impact to affect Urban Change so much as a massive fire. In this case, almost a full city block was engulfed in flames in what was one of the largest incinerations of personal records This City has ever seen. Fortunately, not a life was lost in the blaze. Though an immense portion of the waterfront is a charred wasteland. Urban Morphology through forces of nature.

When humans have the collective will to change our urban landscape, it takes hundreds of minds to think, plan and ultimately implement what can become decades long projects for the pen-ultimate use of City land. In this case, mother nature interjected by opening up a Void, a raw canvas for makers to remake.


(Firemen at the remains of the warehouse. Photo from The New York Times, 2015)

Urban Morphology via necessity. A typical scenario would involve the vulture developer circling around, eager to strike; for this is now a prime development opportunity on one of the most prominent pieces of land in The City. But now this site requires a strategic rethinking based on the parkland surrounding, and the community which it is serving. The vulture developer cannot always have His way.

An activist Brooklyn (if it is still there) should rise and take charge of this Urban Swath, before the glass box of gentrification rears its protruding head once more. This is an opportunity now to remake a large portion of The Waterfront, and a story in progress, which we will follow with great intent.

Links or Relatable Note can be found Here:

Lingering Risks of an Analog Age, from The New York Times

Fire Puts Private Lives on Display, from The New York Times

Urban Artboard : The Disappearing Skyline


(Gentrification Waste #2, Disappearing Skyline, Greg Gordon, New York. 2014)

Capturing The Urban Skyline in transition. Old tenement tops juxtaposed with the steely silhouettes of modern window frames. Anonymous viewports looking out into The City. The craggle of the tenement buildings against the sky is short for these days, amidst the frenzy of development across New York. Windows of the past will soon be deconstructed and replaced by Structures of The Modern Era.

A Skyline in transition. A Skyline soon to disappear.

Urban Artboard : Gentrification Waste

Gentrification Waste 1

(Gentrification Waste #1, Greg Gordon, New York, 2014)

As we have continued to chronicle the sweeping phenomenon of Gentrification across The City, we have also been photographing the Urban Condition and Gentrification’s influence upon The City:

Boarded up buildings awaiting demolition for the next wave of new condominiums.

Structures half way under construction, then halted and abandoned because of dried up financing. The Urban Site becomes an instant liability to the surrounding neighborhood fabric.

Urban City Blocks which have been torn down and lie fallow, awaiting, sometimes for years, for the next project to take shape.

The low-rise, one story retail structures of our Older New York; Instant prey for an up-sizing of the development site. These are usually beloved retail establishments, the mom and pop stores which oftentimes give continuity to our neighborhoods and provide familiarity and comfort to local inhabitants.

These snapshots are of a continuous streetscape in The Lower East Side, in various stages of conversion.