New York Stories

Lower East Side Histories

Williamsburg Bridge 1937

(The Lower East Side, Williamsburg Bridge & East River Park. New York, around 1937)

A stunning image posted from our friends at “The Lower East Side” Facebook page; The East River Park under construction sometime around 1937. Old warehouse buildings against The River, now long gone, remnants of the industrial rise of New York City in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Pictured here, the City’s transformation of its coastline from one of industry to one of parkway and leisure.

Steadfast and solid, bisecting the picture, is the Wiliamsburg Bridge; constructed at the dawn of the 1900’s.

An Urban Image can be so telling; in this instance a City Kinetic. Virtually all of this landscape is different now, save for the bridge and the river that runs through the churning maze of Lower Manhattan. A new buffer constructed against the decaying storefronts awaiting their next chapter to be written.

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.

ShoP_w57_06

(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

mark-foster-gage-architects-41-west-57th-street-ornate-sculptural-new-york-tower-designboom-05

(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.

mark-foster-gage-architects-41-west-57th-street-ornate-sculptural-new-york-tower-designboom-03

(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.

 

Vintage Stock of NYC

Vintage Stock_Williamsburg

(Construction of The Williamsburg Bridge, New York, 1903. Image by Ewing Galloway)

For all the mapping fans, and the historical photo fans of New York’s History: The New York Public Library has released an interactive photo map highlighting numerous locations across The City. For a fun historical tour of many familiar and some long gone places, you can click HERE.

It’s the Vintage Stock of NYC.

Imagination City

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

(The 2030 Manhattan Skyline envisioned by Visualhouse. New York, NY. 2015)

A compelling image has been released by Manhattan architectural graphics company Visualhouse, depicting the Manhattan skyline as it will appear with all of the planned and to-be-built towers coming down the pipeline. Mesmerizing yet also familiar; The pictorial takes into account all of the “Supertalls” planned for the West 57th Street corridor, as well as the Massive Hudson Yards complex rising above the Westside rail yard.

Mesmerizing yet also familiar. The fascination with the everchanging skyline (this blog included) encapsulates the capacity for imagination and wonderment. Perhaps it is Awe in the collective constructive achievements of Mankind? Individual feats, brought together by teamwork and assembled into a massive agglomeration? This agglomeration creates that feeling of the familiar and is a nod to a form of Expectation: The Gestalt of New York.

Manhattan 2030 really is not that much different from Manhattan 2015, 2000, or 1975 for that matter. Differing socio-economic and geo-political circumstances aside, The City just grows and multiplies based on the prevailing forces of Market Capitalism. The seemingly familiar driver behind The Mesmerizing.

Step back within any of those eras, and The Skyline consistently captivates. It has, and always will remain a symbol of Destiny Density; of a collective will-to-improve. The Skyline also serves the memory as a Projection of Dreams, where people cast their own visions onto that familiar skyline, constantly changing in the blink of an eye.

Links of Relatable note can be found Here:

Visualhouse, a unique Manhattan architecture and urbanism branding company.

Imagining the Megatower Filled Manhattan Skyline of 2030, from Curbed New York.