Urban Periphery

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.

 

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.

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.

Remnants on The Urban Fringe

Urban Mass

(Urban Relic, Redhook, Brooklyn. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

Urban Fringe of NYC, one of the last bastions of Old Industrial New York. Walk to The Edge and you will find the relics which housed the infrastructure of a once burgeoning Industrial City. Relic’s unused, standing as memorials, partially preserved for the Urban Wanderer.

Urban Tower

(Infrastructure Remnant, Redhook, Brooklyn. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

An exercise in the Poetics of Form, through necessity. Big skeletal tower. Solid little building. Now a curious composition which could be mistaken as an installation by The Builders of Our Past. Totems from a prior Time, waiting for preservation, on The Fringes of New York.

Railspotting NYC

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(Williamsburg Bridge Subway Rails, New York. 2007. Image by Flickr User R36 Coach)

An interesting post from our fellow bloggers at Curbed, Nick Benson has compiled an array of photographs of rail systems traversing many Cities across the globe in his Railfan Atlas. Of particular interest to us are the Subway images of NYC across its 5 Boroughs.

Urban geography is defined not only by buildings but by the vast infrastructure connecting people across The City’s terrain. The subway is the lifeblood of New York. The experience is often mired by the difficulties of traveling so close to so many in this large Metropolis. But oftentimes, moments of beauty break through to give pause in The Frenzied City. Enjoy.

Links of Relatable Note can be found Here:

Railfan Atlas (Note: Type in New York on Location Search)

Mapping the Many Photographs of NYC’s Subways from Curbed

Our Gateway to Manhattan Turns 50

Verrazano

(Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Early 1960’s. Image from Museum of The City of New York)

Happy Birthday this past week to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which turned 50! Always commanding a presence at the mouth of New York Harbor; The bridge has welcomed visitors and travellers alike now for half a century.

Hats off to the Bloggers at The Bowery Boys, keepers of many of New York City’s best historical secrets. They put together A top 10 list of facts and a podcast about the Bridge and its relationship to Our City’s past. Cheers to the Verrazano-Narrows and to many more future years servicing New York.

Links of Relatable Note can be found here:

The Bowery Boys (an amazing compilation of New York City’s curious Historical Facts)

Verrazano Turns 50, facts and podcast from The Bowery Boys Blog

Robert Moses, Wikipedia link to The Master Builder of New York Monuments

Between Metropolis and The Land

Containers

(Container Village, New Jersey. 2014. Image by Greg Gordon Canaras)

On the outskirts of New York, On the Jersey Side, reside stacks of colorful boxes. Shipping containers, at first glance appear as buildings along the din roll of the highway. Spontaneous Architecture brought about by the passing of commerce. These structures for transport invite ones curiosity about the use of “The Modular” unit in the fabric of The City.

This subject, highlighted in our prior post “Modular New York” explored the concept and its potential as a building type in our Urban Landscape. As an architecture which is flexible and temporary, the idea of the container which serves as an environment for human habitation has been readily explored; most notably by the UK based company Urban Space Management and the construction of Container City’s 1 & 2 on the outskirts of London.

Container_City_3

Container City II, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London. Photo by Urban Space Management

Between Metropolis and The Land lie spaces of semi-permanence; Landscapes rarely viewed as places of Spontaneous Architecture. And as the dense core of Our City eventually pushes outward, into these spaces of the in-between Docklands, perhaps the use of this modular unit may become accepted as a common sight. This fleeting landscape viewed from the car, colorful like a village, may someday transform into a place that is Occupied.

Links of Relatable Note:

Urban Space Management, The Creators of Container City 1 & 2

Between Metropolis and The Ocean, a prior musing, from Gordon’s Urban Morphology