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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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Outpost of Brooklyn

 

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(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.

On Urban Fragmentation

Noting recently, the trend in large building design toward a fragmentation (or deconstruction) of sorts, and wondering: What is at the heart of this uneasy feeling in the Architecture World? Looking up at new skyscrapers today, it seems that sky topping design falls into two broad categories, the Monolith, and its arch-rival, the Fragmented Monolith.

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(Fragmentation of The Urban Monolith. New York 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

To understand The Fragment one must first turn toward The first, The Monolith; With respect to the history of skyscraper design; With building massing tending toward “a heavy base” with a logical taper to the top. Clean lines and simple form and fine details which intuitively make sense to the observer as logical rationale. Take for instance the grounded form of One World Trade Center, or the recently completed 30 Park Place, which is a historical reproduction of sorts, but in a sensible manner befitting of Robert Stern.

30 Park Place

(Urban Monolith, 30 Park Place, as a standard bearer of logical skyscraper design. 2016)

The second trend which bucks the first is the Fragmented Monolith, or building as an explosive & teetering art form. Exemplified by structures we have previously written about, most Notably The Jenga Box Rising, by Herzog and de Meuron and another uneasy structure in Jersey City rising dubbed Urban Ready Living. These structures, while true to form from the outset, defy logic by taking an attitude tending toward uneasiness to the observer, with building parts that are either pushed and pulled about, or outright missing. Sudden shifts or deletions of building mass create a feeling of discomfort. Why was the building designed this way?

Urban Ready

(Urban Ready Living, Jersey City, New Jersey. 2016. Image via Skyscraperpage)

A rational answer may be Vanity. A cultural conniesuership of The Object. Where buildings get reduced to what amounts to a recognizeable sound bite in the audio world. These visual bites are candy for the eye and create an instant feeling, unsatisfying to many; a trick which is likely to fall within the “passing trend” category of building design….or, “Those buildings from the 20-Teens which bob and shift about”…how passe’.

Not that this trend is undeserving of Its Time. Perhaps this is a reflection of the destabilizing forces at work in the socio-political arena, as Architecture, often is, a reflector of The Times. So perhaps the trend toward destabilization in our visual sphere is appropriately a marker of The Present.

A summary would attempt to reconcile the two disparate logics at play in an attempt to move forward. They can be rationaled into categories of Classicism and Modernism, or Fragmentationalism (this was made up), or whatever moniker the academic community projects onto the built world.

Or perhaps reconciliation is undeserved, and the Fragmented appearance of this new form of building is-what-it-is, and not much more: An arbitrary counterpoint to the known and familiar.

The Next Great Public Space

Gordon's Urban Morphology

An Update to this Blog post from prior: The World Trade Center Path Station will be opening to the public the week of February 29-March 4th. You can read more about this updated opening at The New York Times, and of course, we will have our full architecture review on this space within the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

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(A Cathedral Like View of the New World Trade PATH Station. Image by Hilary Swift)

Original Blog Post: In March, Santiago Calatrava’s creaturelike Path Station will open to the public in what has become a long anticipated unveiling. New York has waited over Fourteen Years for this great step toward healing after the September 11th attacks, and this piece of hallowed ground will march one step closer toward the repair of The City in becoming New York’s Next Great Public Space.

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(Inside the New World Trade Center PATH Station, from AM…

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Chopping Block : The Provident Loan Building (Updated)

Gordon's Urban Morphology

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(The Provident Loan Building, as it may be in the future, Houston and Essex Streets, New York)

Note: This is an updated commentary to our prior post in early 2015: The Provident Loan Building, whose demise was rumored to be approaching, has been apparently saved and reincorporated into the plan for another condominium tower. This rendering, while outdated and not current, reflects the massing and relationship of the tower to the historic Provident Loan Building below. While not a blockbuster, we’re confident that a solid piece of Urban Design will evolve from this plan, since the New Designer is Rogers Partners Architects.

Satisfying, in many ways, because there is finally an interest in adapting old buildings while recognizing the potential value they may bring to both The Cityscape and development in general. Following a model of adaptation in much older cities (such as London, Paris and Rome), the project recognizes the contribution…

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The Rise of The Beekman

An Update on construction from our Friends at Curbed, on The Rise of The Beekman:
http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/10/16/inside_the_glassy_tower_rising_behind_the_landmark_temple_court.php#more

Gordon's Urban Morphology

Beekman Atrium

(Photo of The Beekman Atrium, to be restored as New York’s next Great Room)

A curiosity of ornamentation mixed with a bit of Old New York style grandeur is being rehabbed and on the rise in Lower Manhattan.  The old Beekman Office Building, designed in the Queen Anne Style, with soaring atrium is set to become a new hotel with an adjoining decorative tower whose appearance will bring back an element of High Style to the New York skyline. This particular project stands out amongst development across the city because it mixes the rehabilitation of one of Manhattan’s Great soaring rooms with a new structure that adopts a complimentary attitude, embracing ornamentation, instead of eschewing it. This is a refreshing take on the new mixed with the old, and if executed well, will become a miniature landmark in Lower Manhattan.

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(Photograph of the original Beekman Office Building, Around 1883)

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(Rendering…

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