New York

High Line Progress


While I'm sure that our friends observing New York development will find something to complain about here, or at least downplay the significance, I'm relaxing. Amanda Burden is on the job. She will get the job done. Park will be created. New Yorkers will use it.

"This is one of the most unique open spaces in the world," said Amanda M. Burden, chairwoman of the New York City Planning Commission and an outspoken advocate of the High Line project. "You will be able to walk 22 blocks in the city of New York without ever coming in contact with a vehicle. People will see the city from a completely unique perspective."

Friday New York Links


It's Friday, which means after you've creeped out to your Hamptons/Fire Island time share, you can enjoy the tall buildings of New York (all the ones you don't have a second to look at during your lunch break at Pax) from the beach. Or Brooklyn.

New York Skyscrapers!

Daniel's Manhattan Architecture Page

NYC Architecture

(I'm a sucker for home-made pages about buildings, because it's an easy and gratifying example of the intersection of being online and being incity)

Building Big In New York City

"New York was always singular for the dynamism with which the Brooklyn Bridge went up and skyscrapers went up and roads were built," he said. "Then, in the 1970's, civic reputation began to be acquired by people who prevented things from happening. There are some things you shouldn't do, but many things now get stopped for no reason."

A little reminder from our dear departed good-force ghost, Patrick Moynihan.

I propose a new possibility: that criticism must be backed up with a proposal. The ground rule is no complaints without ways of moving forward. In short, nothing stops. This is, after all, New York.

The Highs And Lows of PS1


I'd rather not put my ass on an expanded aluminum cheese grater while I'm sweating and waiting for a beer. Can we have our lovely bamboo canopy back, please?


(I thought nArchitects' construction last year was a brilliant way of combining computer-generated forms with a cheap, gorgeous, and natural material.)

East River Waterfront Is Latest Part Of Ken Smith Takeover Plan


When the LMDC announced the plan it commissioned for the East River Waterfront, the images looked very familiar. They are almost identical in shape and character to the images I developped at Rogers Marvel Architects for the 55 Water Street Park (which we won, yo, and is being built, double YO, which is a yo-yo).

I also led the RMA charge to get the East River project. We didn't get it, needless to say (so no yo, yo), but we were happy to see that really good architects had beat us out.

The plan is safe, yet good. It provides a basic infrastructure for public life on this portion of the East River, without any pandering to historicism. And what plants!

Ken Smith's landscape will flow from the new elevated park at 55 Water Street up the East River, and down to the Battery. You gotta give this guy credit: his first full-on profile in the New York Times (House and Home, or whatever they're calling it these days) was about how he had one table and plastic flowers in his apartment, and no public projects with living plants built. But he is as tireless in his pursuit of good public space as he is for good press. Which is a compliment, silly reader.

New York's Secret Maps

I present for your inspection NY Songlines. The title is rarified, and there are no graphics. It feels like the site should be on an Apple G4 Cube, which is running system 9, for an exhibition called "Websites Before Flash Messed It All Up". But this is no museum piece. This is hard data on the City, and it is growing.

Think of it as SuperFuture for New York. Except without any graphics. Or color sense. I adore everything about it.

I have long propounded that New York City is the best place in the world to use the internet. (I have since amended this to include any City). The information, ideas, content, and schlock that one finds online forms a powerful parallel to urban life. It's often mapped by the turn of a corner, a sequence of smells, or a particular sign, rather than an orthogonal geometry. And when the two connect, the possibilities for Knowing more than you know create new connections, both IRL and with URLs. This is city living, and the essence of public space.

My favorite part: I found it by googling the street I live on.

High Line at MoMA


MoMA has an exhibition on 3 of Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's winning entry for the High Line competition of last year. Please note that I led the competition entry for one of the seven firms invited to compete for this commission.

When we found out that we didn't win, I was immensely disappointed. Now, I am very happy that the project is in good hands.

The design has gone from a strange cartoon to a lush vision of a possible future for the High Line. It is irresistable, even for this critic of images. I looked at the illustrations and model the way I approached my first Star Wars film: with wonder.

The illustrations were dense with information, combining real data about the city, about how people occupy parks, about the technical requirements of the project (10" of concrete), with intutive moves and observations about city life. The project accomodates all of this information with ease, without ever feeling like it's a lame resultant of all the information thrown into the hopper. The project is a sythensis of a lot of information, yet never feels overwrought or overgestured. The project requires a lot of technical information, and I'm sure the amount of problems they will uncover during construction will cause years of headaches, but the view from above is of effortless flow and blending.


I am a particular fan of the linear planking system, the grain of which reminds me of the repetition of the long, parallel heavy steel girders below. The planks melt into areas for trees and grasses.

High Line Project Gets Boost From Dia

The Times reports that the Dia Center is going to move into The High Line. It solves the problem of one end of the High Line: it gives the tracks an end, and a reason to go to that end.

You'll note that your editor's own contribution to this design process was also concerned about the ends. Either hyper-programmed (as in Dia) or hyper-landscape (like an artificial hill) were my thoughts. It's always a pleasure being right. Or Theoretically Right. Or Whatever.

Of course, there's a stadium dragging down the other end. So art addicts and West Villagers get on at Gansvoort, and by the time they're up to 33rd street, they're outraged. Not sure how this is supposed to look.

Surprise On The Drive Back From Fire Island


One of the pleasures of the drive to and from Fire Island is the piece of the Hecksher Parkway the Richard Meier's United States Courthouse and Federal Building is on, in Islip, New York. At the almost-end of a long journey from the city comes a bend in the parkway which reveals the white building, orange from the evening sun, set above a hedge of budding trees. The approach from the opposite direction is much the same, as if the building were sited to have this surprise be symmetrical for travelers like me.

Another surprise is that GSA let Meier design such a completely uncompromising building. It's a pleasant surprise.

The building is also visible from The Great South Bay. Meier's whiteness is the perfect color for this part of Long Island: it appears bleached, like the shingled houses on my little resort sandbar. On a clear day, from the ferry, it appears less like a building, and more as a magnificent white mountain. Few contemporary federal buildings can be described as magnificent, but I submit this one for consideration.

WTC Redesign Wrapup, 2002-2005


I have so little to say about the WTC Master Plan and Building Designs that this will probably be my only post about it.

2002-2005: Daniel Liebeskind does some stuff, which turns out to be completely bogus, because he didn't use any verified facts, including sun angles or security information. In the meantime, he designs some truly hideous buildings to prove he can do it too. David Childs takes over the design of the Freedom Tower so that it can actually get done and be beautiful, and there's some noise about whether it's Liebeskind's design or his. The Master Plan gets really average about the time they unveil the Memorial design, meaning we're approaching urbanism that is less interesting or original than the first WTC. Then security stuff shows up, bizarrely after the project should be in ground, and the tower is going to be redesigned.

Philip Noble, Nicholai Oursoff, and our friends at Curbed seem to be documenting it all rather well. I am particularly drawn to Oursoff's look toward the possibilities in the current breakdown.

But really, who cares about the latest redesign hub-bub? The tower is very average anyway, attempting to be tall and amazing, even though in photos like the one above, you can clearly see that it's a cop-out. It's a phantom building. A symbol of our courage: an outline, a drawing in the air, but nothing we're actually willing to rent space in.

Does anyone remember the New York agency-sponsored urban planning exercises of the last 50 years? Let's take, for instance, the United Nations competition. A star architect's design won it. There was a period of uncertainty, in which time the star architect was completely out of the picture, replaced by a local who did good but not-groundbreaking (but totally buildable, yo) work. And we ended up with the UN, an outline of a Le Corbusier project, but with none of Corbusier inside it. We're lucky to have the UN complex. I'm not saying Liebeskind is anywhere near as talented as Corbusier: an outline of a Liebeskind project will just look dumb.

What I'm saying is that from day one, I never expected anything from the master plan, the one that won or any of the others. Even when I organized a design charette for the WTC site and wrote RFQs for the Master Plan, I knew that this was the game I was playing. I knew that three years later, I'd be looking at a local architect who was really running the show, and waiting for the whole thing to get stirred up with local politics until at some point someone built something, whatever that may be.

Pratt Architecture School Nearly Done Nine Years After Fire


Nine years after a fire destroyed Pratt Institute's Architecture School (because someone propped open the fire doors), it's nearing completion. Higgins Hall, which houses the Architecture Department at Pratt, is becoming rejoined again by the Central Wing, designed by Steven Holl in 1997. The project is being executed with Rogers Marvel Architects (where I worked from 1997-2004) as the architect-of-record.

I was at Pratt monday for architecture reviews. What astounded me was that none of the critics had toured it, even though it's been under construction for at least a year. The building appears small, crafted, and beautiful. They're rumored to be done in the fall, but no one was clear on "fall" as in "before the fall semester" (aka August) or "sometime before the end of November". Because there aren't a great deal of interior finishes (budget and the program both dictate this) it's entirely possible a late August move-in date is possible. Until then, you'll have to enjoy the renderings and progress photos.

Steven Holl Architects

Rogers Marvel Architects

What Happens When One Flies In From Tokyo To New York And Visits A Museum By A Japanese Architect

A week after coming back from Japan, I was invited by a friend to visit MOMA. It was the Wednesday of the week of opening parties, invitation only. I strode onto 53rd Street it as if I knew where I was going. Once I turned the corner, and approached the building, I realized that I did not know where the entrance was. The entire block had been transformed. Even the original Durrell Stone building had been transformed: it was glowing with its original translucent facade. Everywhere on the block were black cars, women in furs, men in furs, and security guards directing people to their respective lines. It was a big, New York block party.

There were people on the street. Some had tickets. Some were watching. Some did not need tickets. Some were protesting the cost of admission. Everyone wanted in. I did not have a ticket, but Greg did. We didn't need them: we were let in by some friends of some friends. A Rockefeller. The entry cuts through the block, traversing 53rd street to 54th street. One turns off this axis to enter the museum, views the sculpture garden, and then ascends the stair. In short, the sculpture garden has become linked to the public space of the city.

There is always someone in the world who knows the location of the place you're seeking. (I remind you that "place" includes state-of-being.) You may not be close to these people at all. Yet if you find them, an incredibly intimate thing happens when they point you in the direction you wanted. In a way, they show you the future you asked for. It is a succinct demonstration of the situational power people have in each other's lives.

Hearst Tower Revives Interest In Diagonal Living

The Hearst Tower, Norman Foster's only building in Manhattan, is getting its curtain wall. (I'm not counting the fabulous Asprey store, gorgeous but interior). What struck me on the afternoon I took this was how the glass origami crystal candy building appeared like a fantastically alien construction, contrasting brutally with the brown brickness all around it.

The surrounding buildings is a little architectural history microcosm of New York. Below, 19th century brick. It is nice. Therefore, goes 'contextual' architectural thinking, Brick equals Nice. Fast forward through the period of real modernism, of which only a few buildings made it into New York anyway. To the west, late 1960s brick, where one attempts to create a Seagram Building, only...Brick! They demolished the nearby CCC, another white-brick modernist compromise, so we know how that is going to end. To the north, 1980s Multi-Brick, also known as Po-Mo Brick, where one attempts to create a 19th Century Brick building, only using brick (or in this case, metal panels, same diff, yo) in a lot of non-brick like colors and patterns, thus creating a recognizable extension of context for the building,'s completely flat, like a billboard. It's like irony, without the irony.