Oculus - Winter 2014 - (Page 21)
Of Sidewalks and
B Y J A M E S S . R U S S ELL, FA IA
ith the controversial rise of supertall, super-thin, super-expensive
towers, the nature of Manhattan's skyline is fundamentally changing for
the first time since the original World Trade Center towers altered New York's
The rapid pace of development inevitably redefines the city - and not just
at altitudes inhabited mainly by peregrine falcons. That's why in this issue, we
look down to the street as well as up at the skyline. How do we define livability
as a new, larger scale asserts itself, leaving the verities of contextualism and
"human scale" behind? What scale works?
Streetscapes of the supertalls are rarely discussed, yet that's what most of us
will encounter on a daily basis. Will the intimate plaza and high-end retail of
Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park gracefully ground this unsetbacked shaft? Can a fluttering canopy lend a human dimension to Christian de Portzamparc's One57?
Perhaps, yes. On the other hand, the Municipal Art Society's shadow studies
depict an ominous impact of great height. When supertalls are super-thin, do
shadows matter? I would say that the zoning verities of light and air matter
more than ever. We'll want more daylight to replace electric lights if we are
going to get serious about energy conservation. Likewise, a well-ventilated
building can eschew air conditioning for more of the year than we've been told.
After the Pan Am building besmirched Park Avenue's great vista and a
Supreme Court fight saved Grand Central itself from a similar fate, is it really
okay to put a 65-story building across the street? Kohn Pedersen Fox argues
yes, first by deftly slimming the top, then by opening a new vista to the station
at the street, and investing in substantial pedestrian improvements.
Today's real-estate prices have owners and developers moving air rights
around at a pace New York has never seen. Along the side streets, traditionally
much lower in scale than the wider avenues, the fear of block-busting sliver
towers now gives way to creeping cantileverism. The artful dance of two projects by FXFOWLE and Karim Rashid with WASA Studio pushes the limits
without (yet) pushing the neighbors over the edge.
A prominent, long-debated triangle of land will at last see a sculpted
residence/cultural center combination by TEN Arquitectos that dramatically
signals the presence of Brooklyn's long-hidden BAM cultural district. By contrast, neighbors in the Bronx's Melrose Commons passionately defended an
infill rather than a bulldozer redevelopment strategy, a riposte to Le Corbusier's 1935 pronouncement that the city's skyline was too timid (subject of this
issue's "80-Year Watch"). In SoHo, an insightful "garbage garage" by Dattner
Architects and WXY Architecture + Urban Design will force us to rethink
what constitutes a LULU - a Locally Undesirable Land Use.
As developers hustle for every cubic inch and neighbors push back, this
issue of Oculus helps us look deeper at the way design helps us strike the right
balance between growth and greatness.
22 Hello, We're at a Place
26 Tower at the Crossroads
28 The Mid-block Move
30 In Step with the
32 LULU Hits the Streets
34 Just Another Messy Urban
James S. Russell, FAIA, writes for publications ranging from the Wall Street
Journal and the New York Times to his own blog at jamessrussell.net/blog.
He authored the 2012 book The Agile City: Building Well-being and Wealth
in an Era of Climate Change. He also serves as editorial advisor to the
Changing Skyline/Evolving Streets
©Seong Kwon Photography
37 New Practices New York
(image) MAP Architects, La
Terraza, Melrose Commons,
Winter 2014 Oculus
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2014
First Words: Letter from Two Presidents - Vision and Transition
Letter from the Editor - Tall Is as Tall Does
Center for Architecture - Center Highlights
One Block Over - Not All High Line Highlights Are On the Skyline: As a “museum of architecture” rises along the lush, elevated park, some streetscapes are coming to life
Opener: Of Sidewalks and Skylines
Hello, We’re at a Place Called Vertigo - 57th Street is sprouting residential supertalls. With great height comes great expectations. What aspects of these buildings earn so much of the sky?
Tower at the Crossroads - One Vanderbilt sculpts its top and bottom to trade additional floors for street-level amenity
The Mid-block Move - Side streets aren’t just for background buildings anymore
In Step with the Neighborhood - The new BAM South development is designed with equal attention to Downtown Brooklyn’s skyline and streetlevel civic space
LULU Hits the Streets - A sanitation garage shows how to make a Locally Undesirable Land Use...desirable
Just Another Messy Urban Neighborhood - Remarkable simply for being normal, Melrose Commons flourishes where the Bronx once burned
New Practices New York 2014 - Farms, think tanks, sausages, and nomadic operations – just some of the things these young design firms are focusing on
In Print - How Paris Became Paris: The Inventio
80-Year Watch - Le Corbusier’s first sight of Manhattan’s skyscrapers evoked a controversial yet prophetic response
Last Words - Hit the Road
Index to Advertisers - Alphabetical & Categorical Index
Oculus - Winter 2014