West Side

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.

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.

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.

The New Whitney : Americana Projected

Whitney_Ed Lederman

(The New Whitney, An American Projection, New York, NY. 2015. Image by Ed Lederman)

The New Whitney, in Manhattan’s West Side / Meatpacking District is set to open on May 1st, and already the reviews are rolling in. So, in a spirit to look past those reviews (some good, some not so good) Our blog celebrates the transformative nature that such a structure brings to a once derelict part of The City. Aesthetics aside, a new museum, any new museum only serves to add as a cultural anchor in the placemaking structure of a Metropolis.

Oftentimes, critics jump at the chance to take shots at what many perceive as a positive force, or in the particularities of a buildings aesthetic nature. While valid as criticism, these gestures often miss the mark of true intention.

People must remember, when reading criticism, that buildings take many years to formulate through ideas and ultimately the execution by thousands of people. Involving multiple hands in the act of construction, they serve as monuments of inspiration not only for ART people, but for everyday people; The Union people and the Industry of Craft.

So, as the criticism of this particular building gets solidified by the arbiters of Architectural taste (mind you they oftentimes write about buildings, but do not actually build them), remember as you read, that this particular emblem is foremost a celebration of the American Spirit. Muscular in true intention. The opening of this emblem is a projection, both inward and outward, of the Everyday People. It almost serves to defy criticism by merely existing.

A link to The Whitney’s descriptive video on the building can be found HERE.

A pragmatic take and cool video on The Museum, not necessarily criticism, from the New York Times can be found HERE.

Westside Robot Rises

Hudson Yards 1

(Westside Robot on 30th St. New York. March 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

Construction Pic of the Day: The Westside Robot Rises. An image pulled seemingly from another world. Legs straddling precariously over the Highline; Antennae pointed skyward. The Westside continues to grow upward and outward.

This image of The City captures the fast pace of Change enveloping Manhattan. Dizzying to keep track of all of the new development sprouting around, sometimes uncomfortably so. It appears that The City is constantly under construction, roads and all. Never settled. Never static.

Westside Robot symbolizes the constant remaking of our Urban Identity. An object-to-be unto itself; It struggles against the grain and the population at large, adding congestion to an already congested Metropolis. Flip side: The beginnings of this new neighborhood brings a level of optimism to a place which was cast to the wayside. The Westside Railyards.

Westside Robot symbolizes the quest for Urban balance. Sometimes welcomed, sometimes shunned, but ultimately accepted in its place. It will solidify itself as a marker in the Urban Landscape, and someday seem as if it were always there.

Links of Relatable Note Can be Found Here:

High Line Promenade, from Gordon’s Urban Morphology, with first views of Westside Robot under construction.

Platforms, Above and Beyond. An earlier post about the massive construction platform supporting Hudson Yards and Westside Robot.

Storefront Memories of Old Chelsea Yore

Chelsea 1990's

(The Image of what Old Chelsea Used to Be, always a smile. Late 1900’s)

A popular post which is currently making the rounds; The Death of Chelsea’s 8th Avenue by Kenneth in the 212 chronicles the sudden vacancies of multiple retail storefronts on Chelsea’s 8th Avenue. As a resident working around this area, this event has happened fairly suddenly, as we have seen many Chelsea standby’s close shop or depart because of asshole landlords raising rents other reasons.

These retail shops, clothing stores and coffee shops used to be the gathering spots for Chelsea’s counterculture in the 90’s and Aughts. A formidable playground for the Gay Community. A protected enclave in the bubble of New York.

These storefronts, now vacant, signify the rapid cultural shifts on the Urban Groundplane. Sheer economics, combined with the ease of internet culture has brought many businesses to their knees (One exception: Our friends at Nasty Pig would probably take this as a compliment). So, Kudos to the Old Chelsea establishments whom were able to weather this current storm.

M&S Realty

(The vacated storefront of M&S Realty, 8th Avenue, Chelsea, NY. 2015)

On a personal note, we take keen interest in the death of the M&S Real Estate storefront. Only a few years old, this buildout was completed by the popular Architecture Firm DXA Studio in 2011. For it’s brief tenure along 8th avenue, Its Hi-Tech computer screens lit up The Street like a candlestick, with local pickings’ for Rent and for Sale. The presence of this facade was welcome along a particularly lonely stretch, where it took the place of an empty Blockbuster video store. For this storefront, in summary, there have been 3 vacancies over 5 years. Something clearly is not right with this picture.

The City, as we all know by now, is pricing itself out of reasonable existence. So as not to get too deep, we’ll mention only this: These forces of societal change are making New York into a cultured enclave, mainly for the rich…and inaccessible to the rest. Storefronts like these are a testament to the twisted market forces gripping our Beloved City. Landlords would rather keep these spaces empty, then rent them to the Mom-and-Pop establishments which make an interesting Urbanscape REAL.

So, we’ll end this one on a lighter note. Kudo’s again to The Nasty Pig’s and remaining holdouts of Old Chelsea Yore; the one that remains in many of our memories. Because these memories of The City, the Old New York, are the best ones to keep when you need to pull up a smile.

Links of Relatable Note Can be Found HERE:

Kenneth in the 212

New York Before and After, from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

New York’s Disappearing Mom and Pop Storefronts, from Smithsonian Magazine