Society

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.

essex-crossing-3

(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.

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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 City and The Public Realm

TS-VIEW 2

(The Public Realm, 2010. Greg Gordon Canaras with Wayne Norbeck and Jordan Rogove)

Over the last few weeks, much has been written about Mayor de Blasio’s suggestion for the elimination of pedestrian plaza’s within Times Square in order to control the inappropriate behaviour (of topless ladies) in and around the environs. In typical New York fashion, the reaction was swift, and appropriately candid to point out the Mayor’s short-sighted suggestion that this would somehow improve on the area. It’s almost not worth writing about, because the topic of public space in The City, and advocating the need for it is an Urban no-brainer amongst planners.

Looking back into the Histories of Cities, from the Agora in Greek times, to the piazza’s of Italy, and pubic squares in cities across the globe, Public Space has served as the primary organizer of culture, connecting people within the Urban Milieu. Without Public Space, there would be no City.

TIMESSQUARE-articleLarge

(Times Square. 2015. Image by Richard Perry from The New York Times)

And New York, as many inhabitants know and are feeling, is being squeezed out of itself in many ways. From the cost of living (for the majority), to the rampant developer driven and controlled creation of “Public Space” which is actually private space for the Public to roam; activities tightly monitored by our security driven culture in The Public Realm (rightfully so in this day and age). The suggestion that less of a public amenity would somehow benefit this congested metropolis puts further pressure on an already taxed people. What New York actually needs is more Public Space, and better designed spaces for people to roam.

A central tenet of this blog aims to investigate the transformative forces which impact the Form of The City. Though buildings occupy the primary footprint of The City, it is the public realm which serves as its connective tissue. Starting this Fall, Gordon’s Urban Morphology, in conjunction with League Studio and outside contributors, will begin to investigate the meaning of The Public Realm in Modern New York.

We will question the current state of Public Space and how it is changing both positively and negatively, in the hopes of continuing a meaningful dialogue about the significance of maintaining and enhancing our Collective Urban Environment.

Links of relatable note can be found HERE:

Challenging Mayor DeBlasio over Times Square Plazas, from The New York Times.

A blog investigating public spaces and the urban realm; publicspaces.com

Canyons of New York

Canyons_1

(Urban Canyons of New York, Image via ILNY / Skyscraperpage. 2015)

New Brusque City, via Urban Canyons of The rising Westside. Up and around the environs of West 42nd Street, Our Urban landscape is being transformed into a new, and oftentimes unrecognizable, landmass.

Buildings of immense scale and height resting side by side, non-deferential to sunlight or privacy for their inhabitants. This phenomenon of relentless, developer driven construction has picked up pace since the last recession ended here a few years ago. It continues unabated and will continue until this stretch of Manhattan’s Westside becomes one big Urban Canyon. Fast forward to The not-too-distant future: One will be able to rise to the perimeter of these luxury boxes, via sky-elevator, and look down into the shadowy chasms of the streets below.

This particular piece of Manhattan is past the point worth saving for harvesting any meaningful relationship to the human condition. It has transformed into a spectacle unto itself. Might as well keep going and make it complete as New York’s next great tourist attraction. The Grand Canyon of Manhattan. Come here twice a year to watch Manhattanhenge, between the slivers of sky. Come here to race down 42nd Street, where parkland on The Hudson awaits. Come here with a selfie stick, and drop the plastic wrapper which it came in, onto the windswept streets of New Brusque City.

Hunchback of The Trade

Hunchback Image 2 WTC

(Hunchback of The Trade. Rendering Via DBOX. New York, New York)

The Urban Critic: Earlier this week, the newly redesigned World Trade Center 2 Tower was unveiled. We refrained from posting our immediate reaction. Now its a few days later.

At first there was a gasp, then a sigh as disappointment settled in. Next, a rationalization of positive impressions which could be extracted from The Proposal. Maybe those ticker tapes along the cantilevered masses are interesting and modern? The bulky form is progressive, sort of, and the “gardens in the sky” concept is nice for Office Workers. The animation of the lobby and building experience was beyond first class and a work of art unto itself (Click HERE for Animation).

Two World Trade_Tickers

(Times Square Ticker Tapes along the underside of Unsettled Boxes)

Another question, a major question, began to emerge. Why was Norman Foster, the original Towers’ architect, sidestepped after committing to the project for so long? Clearly his firm is capable of adapting any design to the varied needs of clients, as requirements change with the whims of The World. It appears, after the events of the week, that the ushering in of “Newness” coincided with the crowning of Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, as the Titan of the Twentieth Century Fox Empire, aka: the Primary Tenant of Hunchback of The Trade.

As far as our feelings toward buildings go, the sigh and the frown did not abate. The Hunchback, it appears, does not have great angles.

From the Memorial Fountain Side, the structure creates the illusion of leaning: as if lopsided. Leaning, with a potential to fall over; not necessarily the message a building should convey on a site where towers already fell. Was this message already pondered by the Port Authority many years ago when they constructed One World Trade?

Fountain View 2 WTC

(A leaning view of Hunchback from The Memorial Side) 

A small piece of construction history comes to mind. During the erection of One World Trade, many forget that the original tower had chamfered corners, leaning in; A tapered base, much as the tower tapers toward the sky. In fact, the steel super-structure of the tower was built to accommodate this detail. Then, during construction something changed, and the base of the building was made square. Perhaps this was a reaction to an “unsettled” feeling, an imbalance the tower conveyed? Was this a move toward an Architecture of greater stability? Nonetheless, in final form, the building turned out to be a permanent marker on our New York skyline.

1WTC_Base and Final_2

(Original design of 1 WTC, with tapered base, and final form, as constructed. Image on left from SOM/DBOX. Image on right from The Durst Organization)

Fast forward to The Hunchback, newly revealed. It’s form explained as stacked villages in the sky. Its massing curiously changes from side to side. From the viewpoint taken from The Streets of Tribeca, the Hunchback analogy becomes clear. An off-putting mass; a bit awkward and not too elegant. Interesting, maybe for a moment.

Turning back to The Memorial Fountain Side, we return to the Toppling Effect. The leaning tower of 2 World Trade staring at the perfectly symmetrical One World Trade, as if deliberately acting out in defiance.

From the cut corners of the First Tower, now straightened out, to the unsettled mass of Two. Now moving to the innocuous towers of Three and Four, which are really background buildings: The area has become a mismatch, now unified by Santiago Calatrava’s Transit Hub; A bombastic over-budget structure, but one of the only interesting gem’s to emerge in this landscape, by virtue of perversion, alongside the beautiful and solemn Trade Center Fountains.

WTC 1

(The beautiful and solemn Trade Center Fountains. New York, NY. 2014)

In summation, if the message is going to be switched, the tradeoff at this Heritage Site should be a net positive for The City. This is Our Public Space as well, not deferential to James Murdoch’s Media Empire. For many years, an image was created in Our Mental Memory of a soaring Vertical Diamond, with a strong silhouette, punctuating the New York sky. Perhaps this was a visual cliché’, but this design resonated in the mind of The Public.

So, we ask for The Hunchback building to be a better Urban Monument; something more than a leaning tower of blocks with Times Square ticker tapes. A building which will not cut corners, but will resonate with permanence as a Solid Urban Monument, as we were all led to believe.

Links of Relateable Note can be found HERE:

Link to Curbed New York’s article on the Unveiling of Two World Trade.

Link to animation of the future Two World Trade.

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.

The Housing Authority Rules

 

NYCHA

(The Baruch Houses in New York’s Lower East Side. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

The Urban Critic: This week Mayor Bill De Blasio announced an overhaul of the 10 year plan for the New York City Housing Authority’s cash and building infrastructure crisis. The specifics of this plan can be sourced (HERE) for the reader to gain an overall knowledge, but here at our blog, we are particularly interested in one aspect of this proposal: The leasing of land located in Public Housing developments for the construction of new housing which will target lower to middle income residents.

This plan, in all respects, is a good one with solid backing and is well intended. The strategy would call for the construction of new residential buildings in-between existing (but decrepit) public housing towers. In theory, adding new housing to a City which desperately needs it can only be a net positive. The flaw in this approach is the lack of a solution for all of the existing housing which is in complete disrepair.

Asbestos laden, mold infested and with crumbling infrastructure; These buildings built during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s deserve to be a part of this overall masterplan. Namely, they should be systematically removed and demolished as new housing is built. In turn, residents of these aging structures should be moved, building by building, into these newly constructed housing blocks in order to avoid societal displacement.

photo

(An older image of the Lower East Side in transformation, sometime during the 1950’s)

Existing NYCHA buildings are a monetary drain on The City and its resources. The cost to maintain and upgrade is prohibitive and in many ways the new plan underserves the residents of existing NYCHA buildings by granting housing to those on a backlog instead of improving the lives of current tenants.

We argue that both can be done in simultaneous fashion. The City can construct twice the amount of new building stock adjacent to the existing housing (there is plenty of space), then move the residents of these buildings into them once they are finished. There would also be a surplus of new housing for population waiting in the lottery. It could be a win-win.

The point being is that part of the plan should address the third world living conditions currently existing, and not just kick this issue down the road. In order to improve on The Urban Condition from society’s standpoint, improved housing should be a right for ALL.

You can read more on Mayor De Blasio’s plan HERE from the New York Observer.