Arts & Culture

An Urban Provocation

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(Honeycomb on The Hudson by Heatherwick Studio. Image by Visualhouse, 2016)

At the massive Hudson Yards complex rising on Manhattan’s West Side, the anticipated centerpiece has been unveiled by London’s Heatherwick Studio.

Towering above the newly constructed platform over the railyards, this Honeycomb of sorts, at least through its representative image, draws the public in like a sieve and portends to act as an Urban Filter for the masses. A large scale and walkable sculpture. At once, another New York Icon which prioritizes the Participatory Public (as a subjective experience) over what easily could have been an exercise in objective “Form Making”.

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(The Honeycomb’s Base. Heatherwick Studios. Image by Visualhouse. 2016)

Nodding to The Chicago Bean, another interactive Art Piece (and more an object in its own right), The Honeycomb softens the edge of an oftentimes Caustic City. Placed in the middle of New York’s man made environment; it is an invitation to view and be viewed within, provoking one’s physical and perceptual senses. An Urban Awareness on the grander scale of The City, which continues to transform at an overwhelming pace.

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The Williamsburg Wall

Thoughts on Urban Densification and the changing structure of New York’s waterfront:

The New York waterfront has seen a proliferation of “Urban Wall” buildings cropping up along it’s shores; Most notably in the Williamsburg area of the City. With changes in Zoning and a push toward affordable housing, there is nowhere to go but up. And the permanence of these changes will be amplified by the design (or lack thereof) of this New Urban Wall. Here is a rundown of the major developments impacting Williamsburg:

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(416-420 Kent Avenue by ODA Architects)

416-420 Kent, just to the South of the Williamsburg Bridge, is one of the more daring developments to take shape on the Urban Waterfront, This series of towers, developed by Eliot Spitzer and ODA Architects, takes the conventional tower form and “cracks” it into pieces, as is the trend in tower design (see prior post) these days. A reference point for this trend can be found across the River at Herzog and DeMueron’s Jenga Tower which has topped out in Lower Manhattan. Foundation work on this project has started.

Domino Sugar

(Domino Sugar Redevelopment, Image by SHoP Architects)

The Domino Sugar Development, brought to fruition by Two Trees Development, was controversial from the outset because of its site. In essence, this development embodies “New” New York taking over the old, as many of the Domino Sugar buildings were town down to make way for these mega towers. The design mixes residential with greenspace, as well as offices in the old Domino Building, which is the one building still standing on the site (with smokestack). The refurbishment of this structure seems in the vain of the Tate gallery in London, with a new glass bar erected on top of the old industrial hulk of industry gone by. Construction on this project has started.

Greenpoint Landing

(The Glassification of Greenpoint Landing, Rendering by Handel Architects)

And further up The River, Greenpoint Landing, a massive development at the northern tip of this industrial area, is reshaping the Urban Edge and in many ways, will sanitize a once gritty maritime waterway. A continuation of The Urban Wall against The River as New York’s transformation (and Gentrification forces) continue unabated.

 

2016 Trends in Our Changing City

Hello readers to 2016 and our annual segment for the upcoming year in Our Changing City. We like to highlight a few of the building trends shaping our New York environment which we will be eagerly watching:

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(East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. Proposed land berm by Rebuild by Design)

Reshaping the waterfront’s edge has been a major topic of discussion amongst planners and residents alike. After the destruction from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, initiatives have been underway to shore up the Southern tip of Manhattan to prevent widespread flooding in the next major Hurricane event. Architects and City Planners have been hard at work in The Lower East Side to review plans along the Rivers Edge for a land berm and improved East River Park which will buffer the mostly Lower Income and low lying neighborhoods from the Next Superstorm. You can read more about the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project HERE (Note: This is a long Urban Land Planning document and very technical).

The Proliferation of Supertall Buildings will continue their ascent into the Manhattan skyline. Many of these towers are now past their design and permitting stages and are actual construction sites. Dramatic changes to the skyline should appear around the Southern end of Central Park (Central Park Tower/Nordstrom Tower) as well as the World Trade Center Site (3 World Trade by Richard Rogers). Boxy and relatively unadorned in appearance, they will make their marks as companions to the skyline, rather than showstoppers. The real exclamation points will likely be at Hudson Yards where the North Tower will ascend to a pinnacle with a dramatic skydeck sometime later this year. We’re also anticipating SHoP Architects’ 111 W 57th St. Tower at the Southern end of Central Park. It will be the skinniest and most dramatic of the Supertalls.

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(SHoP’s 111 West 57th St. Rendering by SHoP Architects)

The expansion of New York at its Perimeter Cities “Urban Clusters” (Williamsburg, Long Island City, Barclays Center, Jersey City, Queens and central Brooklyn) is creating large, and relatively innocuous, urban centers of activity. Formations of dense silhouettes on the skyline; they are signifiers of New York’s continuing development. As in the past, as well as the future, We advocate for thoughtfulness in design for these new cities. Glass boxes housing people is not a solution to neighborhood creation. We are hoping that a better example is taking shape at the Domino Sugar Development, another cluster soon to rise at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.

We anticipate the opening of The Hills on Governors Island in 2016. The creation of public space for the greater community at large is always a positive advancement, as long as the space is egalitarian and democratic in nature. The Hills is unique to New York and will become a major public asset once it is open to All.

The Hills

(The Hills on Governors Island, soon to come. Image by West 8)

We welcome the continuation of investment in New York’s Infrastructure and transportation systems. Visible progress will be made when Santiago Calatrava’s transportation hub at the World Trade Center site is opened sometime this Spring. It’s creature like form is a stark contrast to the typical New York building and will become an instant landmark. We hope that the massive budget overruns will be worth the dollars spent, as a welcoming and inviting Transportation Center is added value to an Urban Core. This segment is written against the current backdrop of New York’s mayor reigniting the conversation about making Penn Station a respectable point of entry to the future visitors of New York.

Penn Station

(Another breath of life for a tired place: Penn Station. Image from Andrew Cuomo’s Office)

And larger scale developments, such as Essex Crossing, while not necessarily daring in design, continue to densify the core of New York. Currently under construction, its mixed use of market rate & senior housing, a new Essex Crossing Market and services for the underserved Lower East Side communities are a welcome addition to a dialogue which oftentimes focuses on the higher end of the spectrum.

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(The Market Line, currently under construction, at Essex Crossing. Image by ubiquitous SHoP Architects)

So here we have a few of the stories which we will be following in 2016, always alongside the smaller one’s which compose the fabric of The City. New York’s building landscape is one which is constantly evolving. Sometimes we note it is for the better. Oftentimes, as we note, it can be for the worse. Our interest will continue to lie in between the intentions of idea making and the reality of the built environment, as it is this environment which is ultimately perceived, experienced, and recorded in our Collective Public Memory.

2015 Urban Morphology Roundup

Thank you readers for your continued interest in our blog throughout 2015. Gordon’s Urban Morphology has grown substantially in readership over our prior year as we continue to highlight subjects in New York’s built environment which have galvanized The City in one way or another.

Continuing the tradition from last year, here is our Round-Up of our most popular posts based on user clicks:

 

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

Our most popular post of 2015: Readers imaginations soared to the heights of the Supertall Skyscrapers in Imagination City


Cantilevered Condo

Our most controversial post which touched on the provocative positions which Architecture can take:  The F#ck You Building on The Fringes of Delancey


Essex_Main

The blandness of the Essex Crossing Development, sold to the public as a development which was once much more attractive: A Bait and Switch in The Lower East Side


Fountain View 2 WTC

The redesign of Two World Trade Center, and the impressions this change left us had us lament in Hunchback of The Trade


Nordstrom Spire

And New York’s next great Supertall had its top lopped off in The Central Park Spire, Revisited


Two Tenements Down_2

While our most poignant post revisited a piece of Tenement history, befallen by the wrecking ball in Two Tenements, Down


 So, there you have 2015’s top posts. Thanks again for your readership and stay tuned for 2016 where we’ll continue to strive to bring fresh perspectives on our Changing City. Happy New Year from Gordon’s Urban Morphology.

The Nightmare at Christmas

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(A Nightmare on West 57th Street. Image by Mark Foster Gage Architects. 2015)

Hopefully part satire, and most likely a commentary on the gaudiness of the Billionaire’s row towers sprouting up along Central Park South; this image of a Theoretical Tower on West 57th Street has grabbed the attention of New Yorkers. Mainly because it sows seeds of confusion amongst the population. What IS this giant decorative monolith?

“Is this really getting built”

“Gotham on steroids”

“New York’s largest Christmas Ornament”

The rendering, understandably, can be taken in the lighter context as a theoretical work of urban critique. The pastiche is completely over the top and unnecessary from an architectural standpoint. Perhaps it is the perfect counterpoint to the banal glass boxes rising all across the City. In this respect, this Modern Gothic is a welcome relief, purely as an image, or as a historio-futuristic reference.

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(The Nightmare Tower, Perched over Central Park. 2015)

As a real building though, and as a building which should be taken seriously; This mismatch of scale and styles is one for the paperbacks. The Theoretical Nightmare Tower to forget, at the end of 2015.

More on the provocative tower proposal can be found here:

Mark Foster Gage takes architecture to new heights, from Arch Daily

Elaborate Gargoyle Skyscraper, from Dezeen

Time Lapse NYC

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(Time Lapse Image of Lower New York, 1779. By Reuben Hernandez)

A video depicts Lower Manhattan’s evolution from a natural habitat to The Center of Urban density in one continuous time lapse. The video, by Reuben Hernandez for The New York Times, captures the spirit of Urban Morphology spanning multiple decades. A landmass undergoes change from its point of settlement to over 500 years later, with buildings appearing and disappearing as the pace of development continues.

This video is the centerpiece animation for the elevator ride to the Skydeck of the One World Trade Center Observatory.

To see the video of New York and its growth, click HERE.

 

Exhibiting the Lowline

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(Image of the Proposed Lowline, from RAAD Studio)

The shell of the old Essex Market is soon to become a testbed for The Lower East Side’s most ambitious project, the Future Lowline. While efforts are still in the fundraising stages, local urban blogger “Curbed” reports that the experimental space, which will exhibit a portion of the proposed plantings and finishes, will be on display on weekends starting October 17th.

The future Lowline, much like it’s predecessor, The Highline, aims to convert derelict Manhattan infrastructure into usable Public Space for The City. The challenge all along for the Lowline has been its subterranean location, with concerns surrounding security and lighting at the forefront of the project. It will be interesting to see how the project, in reality, proposes to provide a light filled and safe environment in one of Manhattan’s most challenging locations; A welcome proposal indeed.

More information on The Lowline Exhibit can be found HERE, from fellow blogger Curbed.