Brooklyn

Outpost of Brooklyn

 

W Vale

(The William Vale Hotel, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Image by Greg Gordon. 2016)

Perched on stilts, an Architecture of striation and, in a lot of ways, playful fun, has risen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The building has become the latest curiosity in the New York Architecture landscape because it directly challenges the conventional buildings rising in the city, and it also contains diametrically opposing structural systems. An interest indeed amongst the boring glass boxes peppered throughout The City.

An Architecture of Elevation. As the viewer tends to look up and at the building, it invites the passer by to stare skyward. It is a box, perched on legs, and elevated above a plaza. Hearkening back to the pure modernism of the 60’s with brutalist tendencies. The lower half exhibits a musculature akin to arms holding up a delicate layer cake. There is a directness and forcefulness to the gesture which is refreshing.

Without entering, there is a feeling that this place will become successful; Not for its gentrifying nature, but potentially only for providing delight from the relentless grid of The City. This building makes one want to find out more.

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:

ODA_Spitzer

(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.

 

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 Anonymous Building

2-North-6th-Place

(The Anonymous Building, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rendering via J&A Concrete. 2015)

The Anonymous Building rises on the Brooklyn waterfront. Modernization and Development with no context to Place. New York, New York. Anywhere, USA.

The Gentrification movement has had its grip on large swaths of The City, most notably now, in Williamsburg, where local offender “The Egde” condominium continues to sprout glass boxes without a connection to surroundings. Only views to the outside skyline can be had for a price of admission, and a token concession of affordable units allocated to those lucky enough to win the lottery.

The Anonymous Building has crept into our public consciousness as an Architecture which lacks any clear distinction, or personality; In many respects, an architecture of reluctance. Though a lack of assertion is not always a bad thing. There are countless ways a responsible “background” building can stand its ground as a contributor to its surroundings, usually with thought and connectivity to landscape.

The Anonymous Building, in its desire to be nothing in particular, has become an agent of compromise in our expanding New York. Sheer scale and demand have outpaced the ability (or desire) for meaningful Design to adapt to our rapidly changing Urban Context. So much so, that the solution has become an Architecture that disappears from memory. The Anonymous Building, Anywhere, USA.

More info on The Anonymous Building can be found HERE:

Third Edge Tower, Now Rising. From Curbed

40 Story, 554 Residential Unit Tower Rising. From YIMBY

 

League Studio Open House and Public Space Roundtable

League Event Invite_E Mail

Friends of Gordon’s Urban Morphology, please join League Studio (Partners Andrew Magnes and Greg Gordon Canaras) at our launch event this Saturday, November 5th in Redhook. The format is a Studio Open House and will involve food, fun and an open dialogue on The Evolution of Public Space at our MakeSpace overlooking New York Harbour.

Life in The City, Rising

27COVER-superJumbo

(The Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Image by Pablo Enriquez from The New York Times. 2015) 

A recent article in The New York Times chronicles the daily stressors of living in a City which is constantly in flux. C.J Hughes writes about the loss of views, construction noise and the socio-political climate behind controversial projects such as The Pierhouse Development in Brooklyn. In this instance, construction was halted by local community organizations who feared that the buildings height would take away a valuable public asset: the skyline views from the Brooklyn Promenade.

An interesting read in today’s “construction heavy” New York.

Link to the Article and other relevant articles can be found Here:

The Stress of New Construction, from The New York Times

A Tale of Two Bridges, From Gordon’s Urban Morphology

A Tale of Two Bridges

Two bridges 2_Cybrary

(A view of Two Bridges, The Brooklyn and Manhattan. Image from Cybrary Man)

The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, both connectors across the East River, have succumbed to separate development controversies; each revealing a uniquely New York socio-economic subplot, with the same outcome.

Pierhouse_3

(Construction Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge Viewblocker)

A long story short: A medium size development called Pierhouse is being built next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fairly low lying structure, short by Manhattan standards, but it blocks the view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It has gotten the community of Brooklyn Heights up in arms because the beloved view of the Bridge from the promenade has been compromised; A justifiable concern when, as city dwellers, access to space is a precious commodity.

Just up the river, The Manhattan Bridge is getting its own neighbor in the form of an 80 story Monolith Tower. A gated luxury villa replete with a now banned “poor door” for lower income residents. The controversy surrounding this development involves the encroachment of the market rate consumer into a below market rate community. Another justifiable concern.

extell-LES-residential-tower-2

(A vague rendering of The Manhattan Bridge Monolith. Image from City Realty)

The controversies surrounding the two developments have been puzzling to say the least. The realization of the Pierhouse “view blocking” debacle came after the building was mostly built. The community rallied (without success) when the structure was almost topped out.

The Monolith Tower of Manhattan Bridge has been shrouded in secrecy since the day the development plans were released. There has been no coherent rendering of the entire project, only hints to its size, its discriminating entry sequence and vague references to a “luxury market rate product” coming to the Lower East Side.

Viewed from differing perspectives, these developments and the controversies surrounding them makes one wonder how “value” is placed on the Landmarks of New York, our public green space, and surrounding communities? And how is this “value” regulated? These perspectives are manifest both internally (from the inside looking out) and externally (from the outside looking in).

Internally, because the Manhattan Bridge Monolith is being shunned on all fronts by the neighboring community. As much of a boon it will be to its surroundings (a new grocery store and affordable housing complex are included), it has almost been universally rejected by the neighboring residents of Chinatown and surrounding housing projects (for good reason) because it is new, and it is huge. So while this thing is forging ahead with the mighty backing of The Developer, it makes one wonder if regulations could have been put into place to mitigate such a disaster from happening. Because now, it is apparent that any existing regulations are being blatantly manipulated. This is an internal cry from the community that something must be done.

Developer

(The Developer strikes again)

Externally, the same goes for the Pierhouse development across the way, where the neighborhood is crying wolf after the fact. With very legitimate concerns about the right to public space, light and air, and the Urban Benefits of our park systems for all, it makes one wonder, again, what could have been different? Where was the breakdown in process and dialogue and why is this discussion being projected onto a building when it is already there?

So, while the political and economic contexts surrounding these two projects differ (one is in the rich area and one is in the poor), the rallying cry behind their wreckage must be assessed through a redefined lens; One that does not view The City in hindsight. Because in this particular Tale of Two Bridges, everything has transpired “too little, too late”.

Links of Relatable Note Can be Found Here:

Brooklyn Bridge Deserves a Scenic District of It’s Own, from Curbed.

Protestors Voice Outrage over Extell’s “Building From Hell” from Bedford and Bowery

Brooklyn Bridge Blocking Pierhouse is Allowed to Keep Rising, from Curbed.