Search results for "waterfront"

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Turning The Tide

The first phase of DS+R's linear London park is now open to the public
The first phase of The Tide, London’s version of the High Line, officially opened to the public on Friday. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with London-based firm Neiheiser Argyros, the inaugural section of the linear park marks one-fifth of the overall three-mile-long landscape coming to the banks of the River Thames. As an outdoor cultural destination set in the city’s burgeoning creative district, Greenwich Peninsula, The Tide features what Kerri Sibson, director of the local development office, calls a “bold 3D landscape” that’s perfect for enjoying nature and absorbing art. “The Tide brings to London an unrivaled outdoor experience in the city,” Sibson said in a statement. “Most importantly, it’s a place for everyone.” When fully finished, the elevated and at-grade park will weave through and connect the seven different neighborhoods being constructed as part of the 150-acre Greenwich Peninsula district. This new urban enclave will boast architecture by Santiago Calatrava, C.F. Moeller, SOM, and SelgasCano, among others, and is currently being marketed as London’s emerging art and design community. The Tide is just one element that’s slated to attract future residents to the Peninsula over the next two decades as it is built. The mega-plan includes adding 15,000 new homes, nearly 4,000 affordable housing units, 13,000 new jobs, two new schools, and 48 acres of public green space to the formerly industrial zone—a move prompted by the area’s recent regeneration sparked by enhanced transit connections to downtown London. Though this level of development is substantially larger than what DS+R’s High Line has inspired in New York’s Chelsea, The Tide is actually a project that’s been envisioned ahead of future growth in the district, and of course, it’s being done from scratch. Unlike DS+R's seminal urban park project, the British iteration will be built in tandem with the buildings that will rise above and around it, while still making nature, art, and city views the focal point of the landscape. And it won’t necessarily be a tourist destination either, according to the architects, who have envisioned it as a source of respite for locals with ample programming for meditation, running, and waking. The first section of The Tide features curvaceous walkways that mirror the ebb and flow of the river, as well as terraces, and overlooks, all which are supported by 28 angular steel stems. Some parts of the park’s initial viewpoints feature support structures as tall as 29 feet high. The paths themselves also stand out with a striped pattern that doubles as a wayfinding tool, guiding visitors from one section to the next. Giant sculptures by Damien Hirst and Allen Jones already populate the introductory segment  The Tide’s above-ground routes act as canopies covering the plazas below, which DS+R used asphalt and granite Portuguese paving stones to surface. Edinburgh-based landscape studio GROSS.MAX designed a textured vision for the park’s many elevated and sunken gardens, of which phase one includes native birch and pine, waterside trees, seasonable bulbs, ornamental grasses, and sections of groundcover. All of the open spaces above, below, and within the park, including the jetty garden and a picnic area that boasts an 88-foot-long communal table, were intended to invite incoming locals to experience the city from the waterfront and create community through it. These activation areas make up a network for recreation, culture, and wellness. Benjamin Gilmartin, partner-in-charge of the project at DS+R, said The Tide aims to “embed a new public realm into the daily rhythms of Greenwich Peninsula” as it grows.  “Diverse programming along the way will act as islands that welcome the surges of commuters, visitors, cyclists, and runners,” Gilmartin said in a statement, “while also providing intimate places for pause contemplation, conversation, and people watching.”
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Red Rover Red Rover

Red Regatta brings a sea of color to the Venice lagoon
One of the world’s great liminal conditions is the space between the viewer and the backdrops along the major canals of Venice, Italy. In most spots along the city’s waterfront edge, the view continues across the canals to architectural and historical layers of magnificent facades. It is a contained view of such sublime beauty, that despite the age-old clichés of Venice, it reminds us why we continue to believe in the power of architecture and the city. But, there are wide and expansive vistas out across the open waters of the lagoon that are as equally as captivating. One thinks, for example, of the view from the quarter around the Giardini towards the Lido and San Giorgio Maggiore, or from the Fondamenta Nove towards the Cemetery of San Michele, that opens up to grand vistas that merge the sky and sea; off in the far distance, hints of outer islands add to the beauty of the setting. Now Red Regatta, a series of performances, or “choreographed regattas,” of up to 52 vela al terzo (traditional flat-bottomed sailboats) is being staged in “La Serenissima” by a group of 250 local partners. The event is organized by the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in New York to highlights the city’s open vistas. Artist Melissa McGill and curator Chiara Spangaro have painted the sails on the boats a bright red color to activate them in the open water of the lagoon. Pageants like Red Regatta are spectacular in the waters of Venice, and this one, its creators believe, staged using only wind-powered sailboats, is intended to “encourage a new appreciation of the interaction of the defining forces of Venice, water, wind art, architecture.” Further, McGill believes that this piece will also “call attention to the forces of climate change, and tourism.” It’s hard to see how this piece will draw prolonged interest in solving these long-suffering issues, but Red Regatta proudly includes Venetians as the performers in the boats, and that’s a great accomplishment for the city in itself. The dates of the special regatta, organized alongside the city’s ongoing art biennale, are as follow: Red Regatta  June 30, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: San Servolo – Poveglia Viewing locations: Riva dei Sette Martiri; Viale Giardini Pubblici; San Servolo Island; Lido’s Lagoon waterfront From McGill: “Navigating the waters between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, Red Regatta will weave through the historic landscape and activate the architecture with the choreographed flotilla. Starting between San Servolo and Venice, Red Regatta will move towards Poveglia, in parallel to the Lagoon coast of Lido.” Red Regatta, coinciding with Venice’s Regata Storica September 1, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: Canale della Giudecca – Bacino San Marco – Canal Grande Viewing locations: Fondamenta Zattere; Punta della Dogana; Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore; Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni; Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande Red Regatta  September 15, 2019, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Route: Burano – Torcello Viewing locations: Burano waterfront; Torcello waterfront From McGill: “Concurrently with the historic Regata di Burano, which features the centuries-old tradition of the voga alla veneta, Red Regatta will move through the Northern lagoon between Burano and Torcello. Engaging with the landscape of this unique section of Venice with its ancient Roman ruins and distinctive architecture, the vela al terzo fleet will weave through the islands and call attention to the location’s history and traditions.”
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Form and Function

Weiss/Manfredi continues to reinvent its approach at all scales
The realities of contemporary architectural production—site, client, and program—often demand that architects incorporate a combination of open space planning, landscape, and infrastructure into their building projects. The reasons are fairly obvious, given the fraught relationship of daily life to the realities of climate change, digitally mediated landscapes, and the amount of time we spend away from home and in our workplaces. It is unfortunate that these conditions most often appear in contemporary architecture as symbols, tacked on to a facade or plaza, hinted at in a green-walled lobby, or worse still, exist only in the project’s marketing images. However, there are a handful of architecture firms that, as far back as the early 1990s, foresaw the looming urban and environmental crises that we face today. They took climate change and the need for environmentally healthy workplaces seriously and considered how architecture might address these demands. One of the firms that recognized the need to rethink architectural approaches is Weiss/Manfredi. Its formulation of design thinking and form making was best described in a 2008 interview with the designers by the late historian Detlef Mertens. “I am fascinated how you teased out commonalities across scales and disciplines,” Mertens said, “and at the same time, used each to rethink the other—landscape to rethink what a building is, infrastructure to rethink what a landscape is, architecture to rethink landscape—and so on.” The firm’s signature design approach and formal architectural response were developed at its inception, when Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi left Mitchell Giurgola to found their own firm in 1989. Yale Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking The unique, elliptical form of Yale University’s Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking is centrally positioned in a courtyard of stepped orthogonal structures. Curved glass walls encourage circulation through and around the center and allow the rest of the university to see and participate in the building’s program. The open studio, conference, and cafe spaces create opportunities for spontaneous discussion and provide a link between public areas and adjacent instructional spaces. Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum The firm’s design synthesis was utilized even more powerfully in its 2007 Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Its design for an industrial site on the edge of Elliot Bay creates a continuous constructed landscape for art in the form of an uninterrupted Z-shaped "green" platform, and descends 40 feet from the city to the water, capitalizing on skyline views and rising over the existing infrastructure to reconnect the urban core to the waterfront. An exhibition pavilion that provides spaces for art, performances, and educational programming links three new northwest landscapes: a dense temperate evergreen forest, a deciduous forest, and a shoreline garden. The design not only brings sculpture outside the museum walls but also establishes the park itself within the landscape of the city. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park The firm’s established design aesthetic of merging landscape, infrastructure, and building are no more fully developed than in this new, 11-acre continuous waterfront in Queens designed in tandem with SWA/Balsley. Its design creates places of retreat and invites intimate connections with nature at the water's edge, complementing active recreation spaces. Further, it reestablishes the site's former marshland identity and introduces a resilient, multilayered recreational and cultural destination that brings city dwellers to the park and the park to the waterfront. Museum of the Earth The firm’s approach can already be seen in its 2003 Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York, located on an open promontory sloping down toward Cayuga Lake. Weiss/Manfredi carefully modified the site to merge delicately into the museum’s two glass and steel pavilions through processional ramps and out to the view beyond. The site and plan merge without compromising the building’s powerful glass-and-steel form.
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Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily

Foster + Partners reveals a totally timber boathouse on the Harlem River
If you row, row, row your boat gently down the Harlem River, you might end up at a new waterfront structure designed by global firm Foster + Partners. The boathouse was designed for Row New York, a nonprofit that offers academic programs and rowing classes to young people from low-income families. The 1,600-square-foot, almost-all-wood building in Inwood's Sherman Creek Park is meant to evoke the timber-framed boathouses that lined the Harlem River a century ago. A large wooden folding canopy will cantilever over a plaza and terrace on the shore side and provides shade, while the bottom level will be devoted to boat storage. "In envisioning a design for a boathouse that will serve a diverse population and be a resource to the community at large, I wanted to create a building that was both functional and accessible, but also one that responded to the Hudson River’s long history as a busy transportation hub," Norman Foster declared in a press release. "This timber boathouse will fit naturally into the landscape of the riverfront and will transform this stretch of the Harlem River into a lively gathering place for people from all communities." Foster + Partners is designing the project in association with Brooklyn-based Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC).
The new building will allow Row New York to serve five times as many students and to consolidate all its programming under one roof. There's a nice looking terrace on the top floor that will give early-rise-rowers a peep at the sun warming the city. (That view is well-deserved for any teen who voluntarily commits to being somewhere at 6 a.m.) Next to the terrace will be a flexible multipurpose space, plus lockers and classrooms. Wide ramps to the upper stories will make the two-story building 100 percent accessible, as well. Right now, Row New York is raising $35 million for building construction and operating costs.
A press announcement from the organization states that the project will break ground in 2020. It is slated to open in 2022.
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Logging On

Sidewalk Labs unveils full Toronto waterfront master plan that's a timber-topia
The smart city is the king of go-to solutions for the problems that bedevil urban areas. At the moment, the concept—tech innovates those problems away!—is trending hard in Toronto thanks to the work of Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet-owned company that dove face first into urban design a few years ago with a plan for a lakefront district in Ontario's capital. Now, that plan is a completed master plan, the foreground to any large development. The public got its first look at Sidewalk Labs' new neighborhoods yesterday when the company released a full run through of their finalized plans. Unlike New York's super-sleek Hudson Yards, a comparable "big development," there will be a forest's worth of wood buildings in this project.  The digital doorstopper runs 1,500 pages and is available here, but the basic premise is two new mega-developments, with the potential for more, will be built mostly from mass timber and kitted out with sensors and data collectors that will, its authors contend, make life more pleasant for Torontonians by providing affordable housing, non-car transit options, jobs, and economic development. The company will, for a substantial investment and cut of the profits, develop real estate, finance transit networks, provide management services to government, and deliver what it calls "advanced systems," the whiz-bang infrastructure that supports the building of Quayside and Villiers West. The computerized promise of better services has garnered a lot of attention. Trash-sweeping robots would displace nifty nabber trash grabbers. Sensors embedded in crosswalks could, for example, keep the walk sign on until a pedestrian is safely on the opposite curve. Google's business model relies on pawning off data advertisers, but in a media briefing, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff claimed that the very valuable data Sidewalk Labs collects will be underpinned by the "strongest data and privacy regime for any urban data in the world." That protection was certainly absent for Google Nest Cam users, and government officials still have concerns over whether the company's policies will align with Canadian data security laws. Data gleaned in Toronto, Doctoroff noted, will be stored in a data bank and won't be shared with third parties without users' "explicit consent." While it's too soon to tell how that promise shakes out, there's plenty of information on the smart city's design and construction. Unlike 20th-century glass-and-steel corporate modernism that projected power and influence, Sidewalk Labs is turning to mass timber for 12 major buildings in the Quayside portion of the development. The showcase here is both structures by London's Heatherwick Studios, the eminent go-to firm for megadevelopers, and an $80 million vertical timber supply chain for those buildings that will extend from forests to an Ontario factory to fashionable city blocks. Doctoroff said his company is working with the Toronto buildings department to amend rules that cap timber building heights at six stories in order to build up to 30 stories tall. The developments will feature a standard of mixed-use towers, but about 70 percent of the project will be devoted to housing. Of these units, about 40 percent, or 1,700 units, will be rented below-market. "We expect to make money the way a normal real estate company would," said Doctoroff. Sidewalk Labs is investing over $680 million in what is projected to be a $2.9 billion development.  The credits list New York's Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) and Heatherwick Studio as the teams responsible for the master plan sketches and renderings, but Doctoroff said Canadian firms would be behind most of the projects to come. Along with Stantec, BBB gets top billing for design and engineering services, while Snøhetta who were tapped for design services back in February, is credited alongside Heatherwick and dozens of other firms for research and development.
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IN PLAIN SIGHT

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners cloaks spy museum in pleated "veil"
The International Spy Museum opened its doors to the public on Sunday, May 12, for the first time since closing its original location last January. The new facility, a not-so-inconspicuous design by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP), is located at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C., between the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront. As the country’s only freestanding museum “solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage,” and RSHP’s first cultural building in the United States, the project had few precedents to follow. Instead, the architects blended their usual display of sophisticated engineering with tongue-in-cheek references to espionage and intrigue. The majority of the program, including 35,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 150-seat theater, is concealed within the “black box,” a slightly sinister-looking building clad in corrugated metal. Suspended in front the box is the "veil," a 60-foot-tall, pleated glass curtain wall that encloses the lobby and public circulation. The black box cantilevers past this veil dramatically on one side, bringing to mind the trope of the spy peeking out from behind a newspaper to surveil the world around him. The fritted-glass-and-perforated-metal structure was designed to “hide in plain sight,” explained the architects. It reveals just enough of its internal activity to pique the public’s curiosity, enticing crowds from the Mall to come snooping. Their hope is that the museum will play a vital role in the revitalization of L’Enfant Plaza and, in turn, the surrounding waterfront. “It has been an absolute delight to have been involved in the design of the International Spy Museum,” said Senior Design Partner Ivan Harbour. “It is a building for the future that will bring its neighborhood to life; a celebration not only of the long-standing human activity that it showcases but also of the city around it. A landmark for 21st-century D.C.”
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Lakefront Landscape

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates reveals vision for new Buffalo waterfront park
Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)’s vision for Buffalo’s expansive new waterfront park has finally been unveiled. Stretching 92 acres along the shore of Lake Erie, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park will be a verdant hub of cultural and recreational activity that connects downtown Buffalo to the city’s Lakeview neighborhood. Designed in collaboration with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the organization that donated $50 million towards the project, the park is a major beautification effort for the City of Buffalo. The foundation worked alongside MVVA, the city government, as well as the University at Buffalo Regional Institute over the last two years to engage different communities surrounding the existing 77-acre LaSalle Park—the landscape that the new project will overtake—to create a new and dynamic playspace for the lakeside city. MVVA’s initial aerial renderings reveal multiple shifts in the topography throughout the site, which, as it exists today, is fairly flat to accommodate straight views as well as room for sports. In a former interview, Van Valkenburgh told AN that this flatness would generally remain in the firm’s design proposal because “there’s a kind of wonderful, almost magical concept of playing at the edge of a lake,” he said. “At the same time, we’ll likely want to add some topography to the landscape to allow people to get to a higher level over the water to see Buffalo’s famous sunsets.” In keeping with the original functions of LaSalle Park, the upgraded landscape will include many baseball and soccer fields, as well as pools, playgrounds, and promenades with those uninhibited views of Lake Erie. Large-scale lawns, reminiscent of those found in Brooklyn Bridge Park, will also be integrated into the design so that families can picnic, play frisbee, or go sledding during Buffalo’s snowy winter. In addition, the design team has proposed what appears to be a peninsula built of terraced rocks where Buffalo residents can connect directly with the water—something the old park was lacking according to Van Valkenburgh. While this first set of visuals showcases the size and scope of the park project, it doesn’t yet include details on where or how these topographic changes will occur. However, a key component of the plan is that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park will enhance the landscape directly surrounding the city’s historic pumping station (to the northwest of the park), as well as extend a branch of parkland across Interstate I-90, connecting into Lakeview. Van Valkenburgh said he plans to create some sort of noise buffer around the roadway to keep a peaceful tone within the landscape. Right now, a large-scale model of the landscape design is touring the city and locals can view the vision up close. On Thursday, it’s heading to the LaSalle Park Pool Building.
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Techtown USA

The origins and perils of development in the urban tech landscape

In most major cities of the world, an urban tech landscape has emerged. One day, we were working on our laptops at Starbucks, and the next, we were renting desks at WeWork. We embedded our small architectural and design firms in low-rent spaces in old factories and warehouses, and then we emerged as “TAMI” (technology, advertising, media, and information) tenants, heating up the commercial real estate market. Friends who could write computer code started businesses in their apartments before moving into tech incubators and accelerators, which then morphed into a “startup ecosystem.” Though a competitive city in the 1990s might only have had one cutely named cluster of startups—New York’s Silicon Alley, San Francisco’s Media Gulch—by the 2010s, many cities were building “innovation districts.” How did this happen? And what does it mean for these cities’ futures?

The simplest explanation is that cities are catching up to the digital economy. If computers and the web are one of the primary means of production for the 21st century, all cities need the infrastructure—broadband, connectivity, flexible office space—to support them. Companies that control the means of production also need raw material—the data that newly “smart” cities can provide—to develop concepts, test prototypes, and market their wares. Local governments and business leaders have always reshaped cities around the businesses that profit from new technology; In the 19th century, they built railroad stations, dug subway tunnels, and laid sewage pipes; in the 20th century, they wired for electricity and erected office towers. Maybe we should ask why it has taken cities so long to rebuild for digital technology.

Inertia is one answer, and money is another. Entrenched elites don’t readily change course, especially if a new economy would challenge their influence on local politics and labor markets. Think about the long dominance of the auto industry in Detroit and the financial industry in New York, both late converts to digital technologies like self-driving cars and electronic banking, respectively.

Another reason for cities’ slow awakening to the tech economy is the post–World War II prominence of suburban office parks and research centers, part of the mass suburbanization of American society. On the East Coast, tech talent began to migrate from cities in the early 1940s, when Bell Labs, the 20th-century engineering powerhouse, moved from Lower Manhattan to a large tract of land in suburban New Jersey. A few years later, on the West Coast, Stanford University and the technology company Varian Associates spearheaded the construction of an electronics research park on a university-owned site of orange groves that later became known as Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley got the lion’s share of postwar federal government grants and contracts from the military for microwave electronics innovation, missile research, and satellite communications. Venture capital (VC) soon followed. Although VC firms began in New York and Boston, by the 1960s and ’70s they were setting up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Valley’s hegemony was solidified in the 1980s by the rise of the personal computer industry and the VCs who got rich by investing in it. The suburban tech landscape so artfully represented in popular mythology by Silicon Valley’s DIY garages and in physical reality by its expansive corporate campuses was both pragmatically persuasive and culturally pervasive. Its success rested on a triple helix of government, business, and university partnerships, defining an era from Fairchild, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard (the first wave of major digital technology companies) to Apple, Google, and Facebook.

In contrast to the suburban postwar growth of Silicon Valley, the urban tech landscape was propelled by the rise of software in the early 2000s and gained ground after the economic crisis of 2008. Software was easier and cheaper to develop than computers and silicon chips—it wasn’t tied to equipment or talent in big research universities. It was made for consumers. Most important, with the development of the iPhone and the subsequent explosion of social media platforms after 2007, software increasingly took the form of apps for mobile devices. This meant that software startups could be scaled, a crucial point for venture capital. For cities, however, the critical point was that anyone, anywhere, could be both an innovator and an entrepreneur.

The 2008 economic crisis plunged cities into a cascade of problems. Subprime mortgages cratered, leaving severely leveraged households and financial institutions adrift. Banks failed if they didn’t get United States government lifelines. Financial jobs at all levels disappeared; local tax revenues plummeted. While mayors understood that they had to end their dependence on the financial sector—a realization most keenly felt in New York—they also faced long-term shrinkage in manufacturing sectors and office vacancies.

London had already tried to counter deindustrialization with the Docklands solution: Waterfront land was redeveloped for new media and finance, and unused piers and warehouses were converted for cultural activities. In Spain, this strategy was taken further in the 1990s by the construction of the Guggenheim Bilbao museum and the clearing of old industrial plants from that city’s waterfront. By the early 2000s, Barcelona’s city government was building both a new cultural district and an “innovation district” for digital media, efforts that bore a striking resemblance to the 1990s market-led development of the new media district in Manhattan’s Silicon Alley and the growth of tech and creative offices in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.

Until the economic crisis hit, both spontaneous and planned types of urban redevelopment were connected to the popular “creative city” model promoted by Charles Landry in London and Richard Florida in Pittsburgh (later, Toronto). In 2009, however, economic development officials wanted a model that could create more jobs. They seized on the trope of “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” that had been circulating around business schools since the 1980s, channeling the spirit of the economic historian Joseph Schumpeter and popularized in a best-selling book by that title by the management guru Peter Drucker. Adopted by researchers at the Brookings Institution, urban innovation districts would use public-private partnerships to create strategic concentrations of workspaces for digital industries. It seemed like a brilliant masterstroke to simultaneously address three crucial issues that kept mayors awake at night: investments, jobs, and unused, low-value buildings, and land.

In the absence of federal government funding, real estate developers would have to be creative. They built new projects with money from the city and state governments, the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program for foreign investors, and urban impact funding that flowed through investment banks like Goldman Sachs. Federal tax credits for renovating historic buildings and investing in high-poverty areas were important.

Though all major cities moved toward an “innovation economy” after 2009, New York’s 180-degree turn from finance to tech was the most dramatic. The bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and 2001, followed by the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and an economic recession, initially kept the city from endorsing the uncertainty of tech again. Michael Bloomberg, mayor from 2001 to 2013, was a billionaire whose personal fortune and namesake company came from a fusion of finance and tech, most notably the Bloomberg terminal, a specially configured computer that brings real-time data to stock brokers’ and analysts’ desks. Yet, as late as 2007, Mayor Bloomberg, joined by New York’s senior senator Chuck Schumer, promoted New York as the self-styled financial capital of the world, a city that would surely triumph over its only serious rival, London. The 2008 financial crisis crumpled this narrative and turned the Bloomberg administration toward tech.

By 2009, the city’s business elites believed that New York’s salvation depended on producing more software engineers. This consensus motivated the mayor and his economic development officials to build big, organizing a global competition for a university that could create a dynamic, postgraduate engineering campus in New York. Cornell Tech emerged as the winner, a partnership between Cornell University and the Israel Institute of Technology. Between 2014 and 2017, the new school recruited high-profile professors with experience in government research programs, university classrooms, and corporate labs. They created a slew of partnerships with the city’s major tech companies, and the resulting corporate-academic campus made Roosevelt Island New York’s only greenfield innovation district. Not coincidentally, the founding dean was elected to Amazon’s board of directors in 2016.

The Bloomberg administration also partnered with the city’s public and private universities, mainly the aggressively expanding New York University (NYU), to open incubators and accelerators for tech startups. After NYU merged with Polytechnic University, a historic engineering school in downtown Brooklyn, the Bloomberg administration made sure the new engineering school could lease the vacant former headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority nearby, where NYU’s gut renovation created a giant tech center.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn waterfront was booming. The Brooklyn Navy Yard added advanced manufacturing tenants and art studios to its traditional mix of woodworking and metalworking shops, food processors, and suppliers of electronics parts, construction material, and office equipment, and began to both retrofit old machine shops for “green” manufacturing and build new office space. While tech and creative offices were running out of space in DUMBO, the heads of the downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO business improvement districts came up with the idea of marketing the whole area, with the Navy Yard, as “the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.” With rezoning, media buzz, and a strategic design plan, what began as a ploy to fill vacant downtown office buildings moved toward reality. 

Established tech companies from Silicon Valley and elsewhere also inserted themselves into the urban landscape. Google opened a New York office for marketing and advertising in 2003 but expanded its engineering staff a few years later, buying first one, then two big buildings in Chelsea: an old Nabisco bakery and the massive former headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Facebook took AOL’s old offices in Greenwich Village. On the next block, IBM Watson occupied a new office building designed by Fumihiko Maki.

Jared Kushner’s brother, the tech investor Jonathan Kushner, joined two other developers to buy the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ former headquarters and printing plant on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The developers converted the buildings into tech and creative offices and called the little district Dumbo Heights. By 2015, the growth of both venture capital investments and startups made New York the second-largest “startup ecosystem” in the world after Silicon Valley. Within the next three years, WeWork (now the We Company) surpassed Chase Bank branches as Manhattan’s largest commercial tenant.

All this development was both crystallized and crucified by Amazon’s decision to open half of a “second” North American headquarters (HQ2) in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, in 2018. Amazon organized a competition similar to the Bloomberg contest that resulted in Cornell Tech, but in this case, the contest was a bidding war between 238 cities that offered tax credits, help with land assemblage, and zoning dispensations in return for 50,000 tech jobs that the company promised to create. But in announcing its selection, Amazon divided the new headquarters in two, supposedly placing half the jobs in New York and the other half in Crystal City, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Many New Yorkers erupted in protest rather than celebration.

The amount of tax credits offered to the very highly valued tech titan, almost $3 billion in total, appeared to rob the city of funding for its drastic needs: fixing the antiquated subway system, repairing the aging public housing stock, and building affordable housing. The decision-making process, tightly controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, enraged New York City Council members, none of whom had been given a role in either negotiating or modifying the deal. The deal itself was closely supervised by New York State’s Economic Development Corporation behind closed doors, without any provision for public input or approval.

Housing prices in Long Island City rose as soon as the deal was announced. A city economic development representative admitted that perhaps half of the jobs at HQ2 would not be high-paying tech jobs, but in human resources and support services. In a final, painful blow, Amazon promised to create only 30 jobs for nearly 7,000 residents of Queensbridge Houses, the nearby public housing project that is the largest in the nation.

Amazon representatives fanned their opponents’ fury at public hearings held by the New York City Council. They said the company would not remain neutral if employees wanted to unionize, and they refused to offer to renegotiate any part of the deal. Opponents also protested the company’s other business practices, especially the sale of facial recognition technology to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Yet surveys showed that most registered New York City voters supported the Amazon deal, with an even higher percentage of supporters among Blacks and Latinos. Reflecting the prospect of job opportunities, construction workers championed the deal while retail workers opposed it. The governor and mayor defended the subsidies as an investment in jobs. Not coincidentally, Amazon planned to rent one million square feet of vacant space in One Court Square, the former Citigroup Building in Long Island City, before building a new campus on the waterfront that would be connected by ferry to Cornell Tech.

After two months of relentless, vocal criticism, in a mounting wave of national resentment against Big Tech, Amazon withdrew from the deal. Elected officials blamed each other, as well as a misinformed, misguided public for losing the economic development opportunity of a lifetime.

Yet it wasn’t clear that landing a tech titan like Amazon would spread benefits broadly in New York City. A big tech company could suck talent and capital from the local ecosystem, deny homegrown startups room to expand, and employ only a small number of “natives.”

From San Francisco to Seattle to New York, complaints about tech companies’ effect on cities center on privatization and gentrification. In San Francisco, private buses ferry highly paid Google workers from their homes in the city to the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, green space and cafes in the Mid-Market neighborhood proliferate to serve Twitter employees and other members of the technorati, low-income Latinos from the Mission district are displaced by astronomical rents—all of these factors stir resentment about Big Tech taking over. In Seattle, Amazon’s pressure on the city council to rescind a tax on big businesses to help pay for homeless shelters also aroused critics’ ire. Until recently, moreover, tech titans have been unwilling to support affordable housing in the very markets their high incomes roil: East Palo Alto and Menlo Park in California, and Redmond, Washington.

It remains to be seen whether urban innovation districts will all be viable, and whether they will spread wealth or instead create highly localized, unsustainable bubbles. Venture capital is already concentrated in a small number of cities and in a very few ZIP codes within these cities. According to the MIT economist David Autor, although the best “work of the future” is expanding, it is concentrated in only a few superstar cities and only represents 5 percent of all U.S. jobs.

Yet urban tech landscapes emerge from a powerful triple helix reminiscent of Silicon Valley. Elected officials promise jobs, venture capitalists and big companies make investments, and real estate developers get paid. Though these landscapes glitter brightly compared to the dead spaces they replace, they don’t offer broad participation in planning change or the equitable sharing of rewards.

Sharon Zukin is a Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and is author of the forthcoming book The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy.

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East River Presence

Brooklyn waterfront office building features brick and glass curtain facades
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The Brooklyn waterfront is no stranger to development. Over the past two decades, swaths of post-industrial Williamsburg filled with warehouses and factories have been cleared in favor of glass-and-steel residential properties. One building, 25 Kent, an under-construction half-million-square-foot office tower designed by Hollwich Kushner as Design Architect and Gensler as Design Development Architect bucks the area's cliches with its bifurcated facades of brick, glass, and blackened steel. On a lot that measures 400 feet by 200 feet, the full-block project presents a formidable mass in comparison to its low-rise recent neighbors. Reaching eight stories, with floor to ceiling heights of 15 feet, the office tower is largely split between two staggered rectangular volumes linked by a hovering glass prism. Combining these three materials is not inherently novel, but the mix presented challenges in meeting increasingly stringent sustainability and LEED goals. "In lieu of brick returns, an aluminum perimeter trim was used in tandem with thermally broken window to achieve the best performance in a practical and cost-effective manner," said Yalin Uluaydin, senior associate at Eckersley O'Callaghan, the project's facade consultant. "Similar issues were addressed at the interface of the east and west facing aluminum curtain wall and underslung curtain wall. Mainly we had to address the offset mullions and how the curtain wall end panels are set in a brick opening on three sides."
  • Facade Manufacturer Summit Brick Pure+FreeForm Guardian Schüco
  • Architects Gensler Hollwich Kushner
  • Facade Installer CMI 
  • Facade Consultants Eckersley O'Callaghan
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Glass curtainwall with punched masonry
  • Products 25 Kent Blend Brick SCHUCO AWS 75. SI+ Guardian SN 70/41 Brooklyn Steel
The structure's facades are understated, rising with little in the way of outward ornament. The east and west elevations are clad in glass curtain wall modules tied to the structural slab edges with steel anchors. For the side-street elevations, the design team nods to the surrounding historic warehouses with multi-tone brick surfaces. Successive floors, which protrude and recess like an overturned-ziggurat, are clad in a custom blend of bricks patterned in a stretcher-bond format. Punched mullion-free window openings, measuring eight feet by ten feet, are rhythmically placed across these elevations to further daylighting while mirroring the stylistic qualities of adjacent structures. The windows, inset from the brick drape, are lined with custom 'blackened steel' finished aluminum. On the North and South streets, the retail storefront entrances are framed with printed 'blackened steel' aluminum portals, in a custom finish developed by Pure+FreeForm  The portal details were brushed with silver pearl and treated with a patinated gloss matte layer, providing subtle iridescent qualities. Proximity to the waterfront, although an amenity, also presented a structural challenge for the design team. "The foundation design is a continuous mat slab with thickened portions below the tower shear wall cores, and drilled tiedown anchors located outside the tower footprints to counteract hydrostatic uplift from groundwater," said Gensler Design Manager & Senior Associate Anne-Sophie Hall. "To accommodate the architectural intent of the vast column-free space in the central region of each floor plate, each of the six columns supporting the bridge slab has a 20-foot long rectangular drop panel to achieve the desired long span with a conventionally reinforced 12-inch slab, while eschewing post-tensioning or similar strategies which would have entailed additional costs or specialized subcontractors."
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Windsor Castles

Is Windsor, Florida, peak New Urbanism?
The drive out to the luxury community of Windsor, Florida, feels like passing through worlds. Asphalt unfurls relentlessly across the state’s swampy underbelly, past RV towns, cattle ranches, deactivated power plants, and unending rows of orange trees with workers harvesting fruit in the midday sun. Birds of prey circle down on blistered fields and the smell of wood smoke hangs in the humid air, even as Smokey the Bear insists, sign after sign, that fire levels are at a minimum. Luxury rodeos and casino joints start cropping just east of Osceola County, where I’m greeted by the spectacular sight of Yeehaw Junction—a chaotic trucker spot just off the Florida Turnpike that looks exactly like it sounds. 18-wheelers piled high with citrus barrels cross the intersection, horns blaring, loose oranges falling akimbo. As the miles keep coming, Florida continues to oscillate between unfathomable affluence and destitute poverty. On the bridge to Orchid Island, the McMansions emerge all at once. Orchid, the town next to Windsor, boasts the ninth highest income in America; it’s also the only town I’ve ever knowingly been to that is 100 percent white. All 450 of its residents must have been somewhere else that day (perhaps their real homes), because it seems completely empty. Finally, the serif script sign announcing Windsor Club appears and I veer left into a grove of oak trees. I learn later that oak is a favorite motif of Hilary Weston, one half of the couple behind Windsor. The Westons’ Canadian empire dates back to the late 19th century, beginning with a bread factory that ballooned into an international food processing and distribution conglomerate; the couple now has a combined net worth in the billions. Just like Windsor’s host state, the Westons’ companies cover the whole socio-economic spectrum, ranging from luxury department store Selfridges to Primark, the U.K. equivalent of Walmart. Founded in 1989, Windsor intends to “combine yesterday’s charm with modern comforts and the vision of tomorrow.” Having encountered the land in its elemental state—mangrove bushes straddling the ocean and dirt paths through overgrown forests—the Westons wanted to develop the future community of Windsor in a way that honored the intrinsic purity of the landscape. They called upon Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, co-founders of the New Urbanist movement, an urban planning ideology that stresses walkable, compact cities with a consistent architectural style. Later made (in)famous by the New Urbanist Floridian towns of Seaside and Celebration—the former starring in the The Truman Show (1999) and the latter, originally developed by Walt Disney in the 1990s, sustaining a series of grisly murders—New Urbanism developed a particular association in the Sunshine State with repressed resort towns where the darker truths of American culture fester underneath a cheery veneer. For all of Duany’s and Plater-Zyberk’s efforts at Windsor, the result is much the same. A meticulously maintained community that offers endless amenities to its guests—a shooting range, art gallery, tennis courts, equestrian trails, croquet, and beach club among them—it appears largely empty during my visit. As a result, Windsor seems to remain suspended somewhere between a false utopia and a luxury ghost town. A large white picket fence by British artist Michael Craig-Martin stands proud in the lawn between the oaks and the reception, seemingly winking to its context. Candy-colored umbrellas, stilettos, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow make their appearances around the club’s 500-acre expanse as part of Craig-Martin’s solo exhibition at The Gallery, Windsor’s in-house art space. The second installment of a three-year, three-show collaboration with the Royal Academy, it seems the initiative may have helped pique interest in Windsor—membership numbers are reaching an all-time high. Admission to the Cult of Windsor doesn’t come cheap: golf equity memberships are a cool $200,000, while social membership dues rack up at $14,858 annually—all of which is practically pocket change if you can afford the costs of building your own mansion. Homesites begin at $625,000 and go up to $4,200,000 for waterfront lots. Although residents are free to choose their own architects they must use Windsor’s builders to ensure total compliance with the Windsor Code: a strict handbook conceived by Duany and Plater-Zyberk that delineates the permitted architectural styles, from building thickness and height to approved pastels and the types of perennials you’re allowed to plant. New Urbanism spits venom at cars, which its acolytes blame for almost single-handedly ruining cities; Windsor follows suit with modified regulations, permitting the gratuitous use of golf carts (though during my visit, I see more range rovers than residents). First up on our golf cart tour is the Town Hall. Built in 1999 and designed by the Luxembourgish architect, New Urbanist convert, and devout defender of Nazi architecture, Léon Krier, it’s easily the wackiest building here. A classic PoMo case of proportion mash-up, its large triangular pediment embellished with small geometric cutouts. They run down its long side, where chunky columns are intermixed with fortress-like doors painted eggshell blue. With a dramatic pitched roof that soars high above its vanilla surrounds, the building exudes a mystical aura only brought back to its context by the Mercedes-Benz parked outside. The doors of the hall are flung open to reveal rows of empty seats; a row of more homely fold-out wooden chairs flanks the entrance, while a giant glitzy obelisk stands proudly at the altar. It’s unclear whether there will be any takers for today’s sermon. Next up is the Equestrian Centre, where I’m greeted by the forlorn faces of a dozen horses in Windsor’s 26-stable barn. In addition to storage and care for the horses while their seasonal owners are elsewhere, the Centre also offers a 170-yard-long multi-purpose stick and ball field and full-sized polo field for exhibition matches. Carrying on to the clubhouse, the scent of jasmine wafts up from the eight Stan Smith–designed Har-Tru™ tennis courts. I arrive to see two seniors shake hands at the net and migrate to the patio, Diet Cokes in hand; it’s startling to see real humans actually use the facilities at Windsor, and for a moment this scene breaks the overwhelming impression that Windsor is little more than an elaborate stage set, a pretty piggy bank in which international business moguls can store their cash. At the Clubhouse’s bar, a bowl of mixed nuts remains out for the ghost nibbler, while the TV blares for no one in particular. The Gallery is upstairs, where Michael Craig-Martin’s graphic 2D works hold their own in a relatively unremarkable space that feels shockingly squished, given the amount of real estate on offer. I head out to the second-floor balcony overlooking the 18-hole golf course—a sumptuous landscape known rather incredibly to members as “Windsor’s Serengeti.” I turn back to face the tinted glass doors of the gallery—Craig-Martin’s sunglass paintings coolly deflecting their context, but still sitting complicit in this parallel universe—and the true insanity of this place comes full circle. Our final stop is the Beach Club—another Anglo-Caribbean style structure built in 1994, it’s recently undergone a vibrant facelift courtesy of the local designer Rod Mickley. In the new Lodge, a dozen handymen are busy setting up for the night’s fundraising gala. Returning to the newly remodeled reception, it’s intensely-perfumed interiors prove overwhelming. Stumbling out into the Village Centre designed by Scott Merrill, I fall into its proverbial small town embrace: a Village Store, a real estate office, concierge, post office, gym, and a cafe where residents can catch up over a coffee or pick up fresh produce. Even though it’s totally deserted during my visit (save for one member on a treadmill), this is the closest Windsor gets to feeling like a community. Outside, the synthetic lawn, shell-infused concrete, and the Exedra—a semicircular amphitheater used for concerts that bears traces of Arcosanti’s bell workshop—bear traces of Windsor’s aspirational New Urbanist roots. Surrounded by a semicircle of spindly palms that rival L.A., it’s here I realize once and for all the movement is best relinquished to this elitist country club. “New Urbanism has not evolved so much since Windsor, but it has evolved towards Windsor,” Duany has since reflected on the project, as if confirming that the teachings of the movement are more aptly suited for a luxury resort rather than any real city. Crossing its virtually uninhabited expanse, one gets the sense Windsor’s days are numbered, threatened more by rising sea levels than credit defaults. Until then, it remains a peculiar relic of aspirational urban planning, bloated and malformed into a gross excess by all the investment capital stowed away in Florida—because where else would take it?
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Green Screen

SHoP’s Pier 35 folds industrial materials into an East River habitat
Pier 35, the latest addition to Manhattan’s waterfront and yet another nod to the industrial heritage of the city’s waterways, is now open to the public just in time for spring. SHoP Architects, together with landscape architecture studio Ken Smith Workshop, have dropped a folded, zigzagging landscape intervention on the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. The pier-park’s most striking feature is the 35-foot-tall, 300-foot-long metal screen that both backdrops the park’s landscape as well as hides the Sanitation Department shed at the adjacent Pier 36. As the screen moves eastward and approaches the water’s edge, it rises on weathered Cor-ten steel panels, ultimately bending to create a raised and covered “porch,” complete with swings. A wavey esplanade runs alongside the landscaped lawns and a series of artificial dunes up to the porch, mirroring the sinuous curves of the screen. The underpass of FDR Drive connects with the pier at “Mussel Beach,” a micro-habitat that SHoP and Ken Smith designed in collaboration with ecologist Ron Alaveras. The urban “beach” seeks to recreate the historic conditions of the East River and foster mussel growth, similar to the work being done by the Billion Oyster Project. The 65-foot-long beach’s precast slopes and outcroppings are exposed and submerged as the East River rises and falls, mirroring the tidal conditions that mussels require “in the wild.” Mussel Beach was made possible through a grant from the New York Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources, as it’s a prototypical environment that, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere. Although Pier 35 was launched with a soft opening in mid-December, the canopy and plants have sprung up just in time for Earth Day 2019.
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Go Fund Yourself

San Francisco homeless shelter inspires online fundraising battles
A homeless shelter proposed for San Francisco’s Embarcadero has resulted in dueling GoFundMe campaigns; one from residents who want to keep the Navigation Center out, and one to support the shelter. On March 4, San Francisco mayor London Breed allowed a plan to move forward that would transform a 2.3-acre parking lot in the eastern waterfront neighborhood into the city’s largest Navigation Center. Centers allow residents to stay 24 hours, provide health and wellness services, and allow pets—they’re also designed to be temporary. It’s expected that the center at Seawall Lot 330, if allowed to open by the end of this summer as anticipated, would only operate for four years while the city wrangles with its homelessness crisis. Some Embarcadero residents aren’t happy. On March 20, a group calling themselves Safe Embarcadero for All launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 for a legal defense fund to help them oppose the shelter. Complete with its own website, Twitter feed, and well-heeled backers, Safe Embarcadero successfully hit its goal in 25 days. The group cited the large number of families and tourists the neighborhood draws, and the site’s potential proximity to landmarks such as Oracle Park as reasons for trying to push the shelter elsewhere. “The rushed process the Mayor is following to build the homeless shelter by the end of the summer is concerning to the community,” reads the Safe Embarcadero for All GoFundMe page. “We are worried that the rushed process puts the political goal of building a large Navigation Center ahead of legitimate concerns about public safety, drug use, and other problems that a large shelter may bring to the community. According to the city’s own data, a third of the homeless are drug users and some are sex offenders. “The Navigation Center will not allow drug use inside, meaning that about 75 drug users will be forced into the surrounding family neighborhood to use drugs. The community is also concerned about the environmental effects of building on a site that is known to have toxic materials beneath.” Perhaps recognizing that concerted opposition by “not in my backyard” organizers has killed or segregated low income and homeless housing elsewhere, a counter fundraiser was created in support of the Navigation Center. SAFER Embarcadero for ALL, citing the potential legal costs and community challenges that the shelter is facing, sought to raise $175,000 in support of the Coalition on Homelessness. With 1,900 donations, in comparison to the original group’s 360, that goal was reached in 17 days. The GoFundMe in support of the Navigation Center also drew big donations from Salesforce, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and GoFundMe itself, which contributed $5,000. The fight over the Embarcadero center is playing out in real-world meetings and protests that are just as charged as their online counterparts. On April 3, Mayor Breed was shouted down at a town hall meeting as she tried to stump for the scheme. While the mayor has proposed opening another 1,000 beds worth of shelters by 2020, so far only 212 have actually come online. The final battle over Seawall Lot 330 will culminate in a vote by the Port Commission on April 23, as the body (whose five members were selected by the mayor) votes on whether it will lease the site to the city.