Posts tagged with "Hudson Yards":

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AN Interior chats bespoke office solutions with Aaron Schiller

Since graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 2013, New York–based architect Aaron Schiller, founder and principal of Schiller Projects, has completed a series of offices that are pushing the limits of what workplace design can be. Rather than create simple open plans or collaborative spaces with no direction, Schiller and his team analyze how businesses operate in order to deliver data-driven solutions that help employees work better. AN Interior’s executive editor Matt Shaw sat down with Schiller at his Hudson Yards studio to discuss. AN Interior: In your practice, workplace design is really more of a research process. What is the thinking behind that? Aaron Schiller: When we take on a new project, first we work with the company and all stakeholders to understand the core functionality underneath how they’re using their current space. The design solution is really that study; it’s analytical design. And out of this analytical design, we get to a new program. In a way, what we do is essentially community organizing within a workplace culture. AN: How do you think that is different from a typical client briefing on an office design? AS: It is about the level of investigation we get to. It takes real engagement on the side of ownership or leadership to commit to this path because it requires more time upfront, but it results in an analytics-driven playbook that looks somewhere between IDEO and OMA. Our workplace strategy and cultural engagement booklets have lots of infographics and charts. We don’t go into these workshops with just architects. We also bring in MBAs, data visualizers, people with experience in community organizing, or people with sociology backgrounds. We move in with the clients, we observe how they work in the space, and we get real data metrics behind it. They’re all distilled to attack the core issues of scale, duration, and frequency. In the law office we designed at Hudson Yards, they came to us and they said, “Look, we’re really collaborative, but we have a traditional space and we don’t like it.” We said, “OK, let us study you.” And we came back to them, and we said, “OK, you’re not going to be a trading floor, and you’re not going to be a traditional law firm anymore, either. Here is something in between that fits your model better.” Part of that was understanding that the majority of their collaboration—their meetings, so to speak—were only two or three people. So now we have a scale. They lasted 15 to 25 minutes, so now we have a duration. And the frequency is that these are 90 percent of all meetings in total. So now we know there’s a lot of what we call impromptus, and they happen all the time. So, we don’t create traditional dead spaces, which is what offices can largely be for a lot of companies. We’re not creating space for happenstance. We’re creating very clear multipurpose space. The great businesses are not getting rid of offices to be cheap toward their employees. They’re getting rid of offices to offer their employees what they think will be a richer working environment. Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.  
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Design firm turns Hudson Yards towers into sex toys

New York-based design studio Wolfgang & Hite is taking a more intimate approach to critiquing the development boom in Hudson Yards. The studio’s newest project, XXX:HY, casts the controversial West Side development in a whole new light. A self-described “luxury real estate dildo experience,” the project presents a series of pink silicone sex toys modeled after Hudson Yards’ most iconic sites. Wolfgang & Hite specializes in interior architecture, exhibition design, and art production. In the past decade, the firm has completed a number of commercial, residential, and studio projects from Atlanta to Copenhagen. While the phallic undertones of skyscrapers may be old news, the inspiration for XXX:HY came from one particular comment by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal review of Hudson Yards proposals, the 87-year-old Huxtable remarked that “Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's most conspicuous contribution is a pair of skyscrapers that look, in profile, alarmingly like sex toys.” While Huxtable never lived to see these buildings in all their not-so-subtle glory, Wolfgang & Hite has paid a grand tribute to the late critic by reducing SOM’s skyscraper (known as 35 Hudson Yards) to Huxtable’s interpretation—a hot pink silicone dildo. The collection includes a clitoral stimulator modeled after Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Shed as well as a ribbed butt plug mimicking Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel. All items were created at 1:100 scale and fit neatly into a base formed from a similarly scaled model of the entire 28-acre development. “There’s a lot to love in NYC’s recent building boom, but the city and developers have been jerking each other off for decades, so naturally we wanted to join in the fun… Masturbation is a great metaphor for the latest wave of development in New York City,” Wolfgang & Hite said in a statement about the project. “Architects design dildos all the time. We wanted to put these buildings to the test.” In a move to make its statement even more provocative, Wolfgang & Hite has gifted a full set of XXX:HY prototypes to the New York City Department of City Planning and Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of The Related Companies. "Sex does the body good. After the fiery criticisms of Hudson Yards this year, we thought city officials might need a healthy outlet for working through some of that guilt,” the firm said in a public statement.
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Shimmering, shuddering tower revealed for 450 Eleventh Avenue at Hudson Yards

Renderings for the latest skyscraper at Hudson Yards have been unveiled—again. An updated vision for 450 Eleventh Avenue was revealed last month from Flushing-based Marx Development Group and things look drastically different than the initial scheme put out in July. Taller and thinner at 487 feet tall, the project now resembles an untouched Jenga Tower, not to be confused with one that looks like it’s currently in play at 56 Leonard.  The rendering, done by DSM Design Group, indicates a much more dynamic building than what was first chosen. Spearheaded by hotelier David Marx, the $368 million structure has been in the works since 2016 but movement on it has been slow. The 43-story tower was originally supposed to feature a tall podium from which a slimmer tower rose. Its glass facade then appeared to boast a woven-basket window pattern. Now, the skyscraper is instead made up of window boxes stacked on top of one another, with a reflective glass grid that undulates ever so slightly, and a new series of irregular double- and triple-height spaces at its base.  Set to rise directly across from the Javits Center between West 36th and West 37th Street, the project is already in the early stages of pre-construction. According to New York YIMBY, the site is still largely being excavated. Once complete in the fall of 2022, it will house a 531-room hotel for Marriott International.
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The Railyards in Sacramento will be America's next big urban development

A neglected parcel of land once home to a leg of the First Transcontinental Railroad could become the next Hudson Yards-like mega-development in the United States. The former Union Pacific Railyards spans 244-acres just north of downtown Sacramento, California,—the largest urban infill site in the country—and is currently being eyed for several large-scale projects. Built in the 1860s, the site served the western terminus of a 1,912-mile-long stretch of rail line that extended from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to the Oakland Long Wharf in San Francisco Bay. Old, existing brick buildings used as maintenance shops in the yard's heyday still exist on the massive industrial plot and serve up sour views for drivers along Interstate 5 or passengers on flights headed into the nearby airport.  Sacramento has long had a difficult relationship with the Railyards—environmental remediation has been ongoing for decades—but recent investment in the adjacent Downtown Commons district has brought in significant interest in revamping the underused land next door. For example, the Golden 1 Center, a new high-tech arena for the city’s NBA franchise, the Sacramento Kings, finished up construction in 2016 and has spurred the introduction of new hotels and businesses in the area.  Around the same time the venue was completed, the local city council approved a planning entitlement submitted by Downtown Railyard Ventures, a subsidiary of the development group, LDK Ventures, that bought the Railyards in 2010 for $18 million. The ambitious company has a masterplan to make the Union Pacific return to its roots as a central hub of activity and innovation. In the next several decades, The Railyards, as the project is formally being marketed, will become a mixed-use urban landscape made to attract local residents, tech workers, and tourists. In total, there’s set to be 30 acres of green space, 70,000 square feet of retail, up to 10,000 residential units, 5 million square feet of office space, a 1,000-room hotel, and a mass transit hub with a new Amtrak station.  Preservation will be a key component of redevelopment on the site—unlike at Hudson Yards—with the partial reuse of the “Central Shops” buildings and the old Southern Pacific Sacramento Depot. It’s suspected that this area will become some sort of tech district for the city. In addition, three major architectural projects already in the works will anchor the initial phase of development.  By far the biggest and most-talked-about development coming to Sacramento is a new, $250 million soccer stadium for a future MLS franchise. The city has been in talks to upgrade its own team, Republic FC, to major league status now that it’s secured long-term funding from billionaire businessman Ron Burkle. The proposed development would include a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment arena situated on 14-acres of the Railyards’ northeastern corner, as well as a surrounding 17-acres of commercial buildings and retail.  Visuals for the project have already been revealed by architecture and infrastructure engineering firm HNTB and feature a square-shaped, open-air bowl with red inverted triangles that wrap and protect a 360-degree canopy. Fans will have unencumbered views of the surrounding city from anywhere around the pitch. Housing is planned in between the arena and an upcoming 900,000-square-foot hospital by Kaiser Permanente. The healthcare giant announced in January that it had purchased 18 acres of land to build a state-of-the-art medical facility on the northwestern edge of the Railyards that will open in 2025 and offer services to the thousands of people who live downtown.  Other structures slated to come online include a light rail stop, two six-story office and retail buildings by RMW Architecture & Interiors, as well as a 175,000-square-foot museum. On the southernmost portion of the Railyards, there will be a 17-story complex housing the Sacramento County Courthouse. Designed by Miami-based studio MOTIV in collaboration with NBBJ, the largely-glass-clad structure is supposed to start construction this fall and open in 2023. 
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The Shed’s temporary gallery partitions don’t work, and more updates

Nearly six months after the opening of Hudson Yards, and five after the opening of the Shed (now The Bloomberg Building), it has come to our attention that there has been a snafu at the Shed, the “new Fun Palace” designed by DS+R and Rockwell Group for New York's Hudson Yards. Heralded as a flexible platform for performance and arts of all kinds, the movable elements such as the translucent ETFE sheath and interior walls are what give life to the $485 million complex. However, recent reports indicate that there were some hurried details in the large gallery space, and the temporary partitions do not work. The floor grid does not align with the ceiling grid, making it impossible to install the partitions as originally designed. As such, the gallery currently can’t be subdivided. Whoops! Shoddy construction? Budget cuts? Blame the architects? UPDATE: In a statement, Diller Scofidio + Renfro told AN, "The Shed utilizes anchors in the floor to cantilever freestanding partitions, which allows for a thinner dimension than most fixed museum walls that are typically braced from the ceiling. The same system was used successfully for The Broad museum's gallery floors. In a few limited instances, construction deviations left the anchors slightly off center. The wall system has easily adapted to these conditions and continues to serve the Shed well. For example, Level 2 was partitioned to separate the two different performances (choral and orchestral) of Reich Richter Pärt." In other Shed news, on the heels of a $250,000-a-plate fundraiser for President Trump’s reelection held by CEO and chairman of The Related Companies Stephen Ross, calls to boycott The Shed have been growing. According to Hyperallergic, artists Zackary Drucker and A.L. Steiner withdrew their contribution to the Shed’s Open Call show, Rag & Bone dropped out of the Fashion Week show that would be held in the Shed, and artist Thanushka Yakupitiyage staged a “Decolonize This Place” performance on Sunday, August 25, in protest. Yakupitiyage, through a combination of remixed music, dance, and audio clips put on MigrantScape as part of Open Call and spoke out against the government’s treatments of migrants—as well as Ross’s complicity. The piece was put on on top of the concrete plaza in front of the building, which, when the ETFE envelope is rolled forward, forms the 17,000-square-foot McCourt space, the venue’s main performing area. In more positive news, The Shed was named to TIME Magazine’s second annual list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places today, placing it in high accolades among other exemplary recent projects, such as Snøhetta’s underwater restaurant and a suite of refined museums.
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What do architects think about Related Companies' Stephen Ross fundraiser for Trump?

Ahead of today’s planned fundraiser for President Donald Trump in Southhampton, organized by the billionaire CEO and chairman of The Related Companies Stephen Ross, people have taken to Twitter to denounce their support of any and all things that Related owns, including Hudson Yards. Even celebrity chef José Andres, who has a new food hall inside the mega-development, took to the social media platform asking Ross to cancel the event. As this conversation grows louder and louder—and people continue to boycott companies like Equinox, SoulCycle, and Bluestone Lane Coffee (the two former fitness groups have facilities in 33 and 35 Hudson Yards respectively), it's fair to ask: Will architects join in the discussion? And if so, when? Related owns a slew of properties in the United States, from New York to Miami, as well as in London and Abu Dhabi. Phase one of Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan’s opened earlier this spring to mixed reviews and is successfully attracting throngs of people who are spending countless hours and dollars shopping around the $25 billion site. The Shed, the transformative arts venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, was built on city-owned property and is not directly affiliated with Hudson Yards, but no doubt the recent news may rock its fall season of already-planned performances. In fact, one fashion designer, Prabal Gurung, announced he's canceling a show that was in talks to be located at the Vessel after hearing about Ross's ties to Trump. New York Fashion Week was supposed to be hosted at Hudson Yards in the coming years.  Buildings aren’t necessarily something one can boycott or at least totally ignore. They are a basic human necessity and provide tangible shelter. But the towering monoliths at Hudson Yards weren’t conceived to shelter your average New Yorker. What’s done is done and Hudson Yards is here, and a number of prominent firms contributed to the project's first phase, including Kohn Pederson Fox, Skidmore Owings & Merill, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects The next few years of construction, set to start late next year, will see the build-out of designs by Gehry Partners, Santiago Calatrava, Robert A.M. Stern, and more by Heatherwick Studio. So this leads us to ask: Like Jose Andres, artist Jerry Saltz, and other figures who've laid bare their frustrations with Ross in the last 24 hours, will architects vocalize their political views and become part of this conversation? AN has reached out to a number of firms who’ve worked on Hudson Yards and will update this story when we hear back. 
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AN catches up with Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Without having to leave the firm’s office on the eighteenth floor of Manhattan’s old Starrett-Lehigh Building, employees at Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) have front-row views of five of the studio’s projects. They can look down at the High Line, the project that helped win the practice global attention, gaze over at The Shed, the brand-new arts space at Hudson Yards, or look farther north to Lincoln Center, which DS+R transformed into an inclusive public space. “Being so close to our work was definitely unintentional when we moved into this office in 2006,” said principal Charles Renfro. At the time, the firm had just wrapped up construction on the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, design work had begun on the High Line, and the practice was still mainly known for experimental installations and interiors, like the former Brasserie Restaurant in the Seagram Building. But now, just 13 years later, DS+R has 24 active projects around the world, including the Hungarian Museum of Transport in Budapest, and the expansion of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). With its planned completion this fall, MoMA will mark the firm’s ninth built project in New York City, most of which only broke ground in the last decade. While DS+R’s work, no matter the typology, has always tried to activate public space, Renfro said finding projects that also address issues of inequity, housing, and climate change are top of mind now. “It’s imperative for architects, who have a cultural position that’s respected and are given so much opportunity, to take their knowledge, experience, and influence and share that with organizations and people that are less likely to get it naturally,” he said. “It’s important that our design thinking is put to use in the public realm. We want to better people’s lives.” The Shed & 15 Hudson Yards Completed 2019 New York’s newest destination for the performing and visual arts, The Shed, designed with Rockwell Group, is a transformative piece of infrastructure spanning eight levels housing galleries, a theater, rehearsal space, creative lab, and upper-floor event space with natural light. Jutting out from the base of DS+R and Rockwell Group's 910-foot-tall 15 Hudson Yards, the development’s first residential skyscraper, the city-backed cultural space boasts a telescoping outer shell covered in cloudy ETFE panels. High Line (and The Spur) Completed: Phase 1, 2009; Phase 2, 2011; Phase 3, 2014 Together with James Corner Field Operations and Piet Oudolf, DS+R designed the 1.5-mile-long elevated park for Manhattan’s West Side and created a bespoke paving system using precast concrete planks that allows plants to grow through its cracks. The “pathless landscape” has propelled a global rails-to-trails movement as well as throngs of high-end development along the park. Most recently, The Spur, the last section, which connects to the adjacent Hudson Yards megadevelopment, opened to the public. Lincoln Center Public Spaces Completed 2009, 2010 The iconic Lincoln Center campus was dramatically revitalized in 2010 when DS+R completed a 70,000-square-foot redesign of its public spaces. In an effort to turn the exclusive arts and culture hub practically inside out, the team connected and activated the on-site plazas and introduced a new central spine from 65th Street to Columbus Avenue. The project also included a renovation of the Juilliard School, a new Alice Tully Hall, an expansion of the School of American Ballet studios, and the addition of the Hypar Pavilion and Lincoln Ristorante. MoMA Expansion Opening October 21, 2019 DS+R will give the 53rd Street entrance of the midtown museum a facelift and add 40,000 square feet of new gallery space to its building. The project, a collaboration with Gensler, has been unveiled in phases and also includes the rehab and extension of the historic Bauhaus staircase to the upper-floor galleries, and the addition of a new, first-floor lounge that faces the sculpture garden. Once finished, the design overhaul will allow MoMA to enhance its experimental, performing, and visual arts offerings, and should connect it more seamlessly with the public.
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The summer shows at the Shed take an eclectic look at the built environment

The Shed at Hudson Yards, the new inflatable arts venue on the western edge of Manhattan, has assembled a varied group of visual art exhibitions that are all on view through August 25. Open Call: Group 2 in the Level 2 Gallery and Collision/Coalition in the Level 4 Gallery all boast new artworks centered on the built world. Julia’s Weist’s Study for Fiction Plane makes its world debut in the Open Call show. Weist has aggregated a collection of eight photographers’ work depicting fabricated, simulated spaces or “sets” by artists ranging from Larry Sultan, Sarah Pickering, Corrine Botz, and the artist herself. Fake hospital rooms where actors affect symptoms for medical students, ersatz domestic spaces set afire for burn pattern analysis, a mock city constructed by the FBI, and a Mars simulator are some of the sites. Weist is now collaborating with Hollywood artists to place these photos in the background of upcoming TV shows to add another layer of artificiality. Another hall of mirrors, this time more literal, is in Hedges, 2019 by Hugh Hayden, where a shingled house with dormers is covered with large sprouting branches like the twigs of a bird’s nest is set inside three mirrored walls to reflect an infinite row. Gabriela Corretjer-Contreras’s Llévatelo To’ No Me Deje Na, 2019 takes us inside her alter-ego Nena’s bedroom from Puerto Rico where we can try on her clothes and examine her personal environment, with mementos of the colonial experience. Modern Management Methods, 2019, tackles the United Nations headquarters renovation in Manhattan. Caitlin Blanchfield and Farzin Lotfi-Jam used UN archives and X-rays to focus on the campus renewal that followed 9/11, and they take on such issues as security, nationalism, environment, accessibility, as well as the bureaucratic framework of this multi-billion-dollar capital project. The duo describes their artwork as a building section cut that simultaneously reveals “global managerialism.” Analisa Teachworth’s The Tribute Pallet, 2019, invites viewers into a shack-like scaffolded structure with a multimedia installation and a table with glass jars holding candy to be eaten by visitors. Similar to Kara Walker’s monumental Domino Sugar installation in 2014, the slave trade is called out in the harvesting and processing of sugar. Similarly, Kiyan Williams’s Meditation on the Making of America, 2019, uses soil as its main material for a “portrait” of America that violently extracted and exploited black bodies and the land. And The Forever Museum Archive: The untitled/A Template for Portable Monuments by Onyedika Chuke, 2019, is a structure adorned with snakeheads and symbols of divinity, protection, and descent. A bonus is New York’s Poetry Slot Machine, 2019 by Saint Abdullah and Daniel Cupic, which is based on a relic from WWI placed on the streets by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. They featured the poetry of the Persian poet Hafiz, which was used by Iranians for guidance when facing critical decisions. Surplus slot machines from empty casinos were installed around the city in 1917 and raised $2 million during WWI, $4 million during the depression and $6 million during WWII. At the Shed, you pull the lever and get a poem by the 14th-century poet instead. On another floor is the exhibition Collision/Coalition featuring work by Oscar Murillo. His canvases, dummies, and video depict a walk from Hudson Yards, where the Shed is located, to Rockefeller Center with the dummies pushed in wheelchairs. His central conceit is that the newly opened Hudson Yards is the inheritor to Rockefeller Center, a take very similar to that of The Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross.
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DS+R and Rockwell Group's The Shed opens its massive guillotine doors

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Opened in April 2019, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) and Rockwell Group's The Shed is an eight-level, 200,000-square-foot art center located on the southern, 30th Street flank of Hudson Yards. The project has received acclaim for its operable features, notably its gliding ETFE-clad shell and multi-ton doors.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cimolai S.p.A BGT Bischoff Glastechnik AG Bator Industries
  • Architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Lead Architect) Rockwell Group (Collaborating Architect)
  • Main Contractor Sciame
  • Facade Installer Cimolai S.p.A Cimolai Technology CS Facades
  • Facade Consultant Thornton Tomasetti
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion April 2019
  • System Kinetic lifting system
  • Products Custom steel frame and aluminum glass panels
The large operable doors, dubbed “guillotine doors,” are located on the north and east elevations of the structure. When lifted, they allow the central performance space, or the McCourt, to effectively function as an open-air pavilion. The structural steel for the doors was fabricated with predrilled mounting for the glass facade and was assembled on site with kinetic components that facilitate proper guidance and alignment. Coordinating with kinetics contractors and fabricators proved a challenging aspect of the project. “Typically, kinetics contractors are quite independent of other construction elements,” said Charles Berman, associate principal of DS+R. “We had the opportunity to work with these trades in early engagement, design-build processes which ultimately led to the best path to success.” Along the north elevation, the door measures 25 feet wide and 32 feet tall, while along the east it is 33 feet wide and 32 feet tall. Each door weighs approximately 30 tons and is lifted by a pair of electric drum winches that pull braided stainless steel wired cables through a series of roller bearings. The system is also integrated with brakes and lockout assemblies to allow for variegated opening heights. In total, raising the doors to their maximum height of 32 feet takes nearly two and a half minutes. The Shed adjoins DS+R and the Rockwell Groups adjacent 15 Hudson Yards along a seam of polished steelwork. Many of the mechanical components of the performance space are embedded within the podium of the tower, ventilated by parametrically designed glass-and-louver modules.
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Related taps Foster + Partners for new neighborhood in Silicon Valley

The Related Companies is bringing its vision of a ground-up, architecturally unified neighborhood to the West Coast, and has tapped Foster + Partners to design and master plan the 9.2-million-square-foot, 240-acre first phase of an $8 billion development in Santa Clara, California. Santa Clara sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, abutted by San Jose, Mountain View, and Cupertino, where Google, Apple, and other tech titans are headquartered, and Related is banking on the need for offices, hotels, and apartments in the area. The unnamed development is the result of a public-private partnership between the city of Santa Clara and Related to transform a golf course into a mixed-use hub. The plan includes 5.4-million-square feet of new office space; 1,280 new apartment units, 170 of which will be affordable, and 400 “extended stay” apartments with amenities; an Equinox hotel (Related owns Equinox) and a 440-room business hotel; and 1-million-square-feet of retail and restaurants. In future phases, Related has also blocked out up to 4-million-square-feet of space for a potential corporate campus on the site’s eastern end. Foster + Partners is responsible for the site’s master plan and the design of the project’s first phase, with Gensler serving as the executive architect. The development is being pitched as extremely walkable and environmentally conscious, and indeed, the neighborhood is sited with links to Caltrain and BART, the Capitol Corridor Amtrak route, and VTA bus and rail lines. The project also neighbors the extant Levi’s Stadium and the convention center. From the renderings, it seems that Foster + Partners is leaning heavily on timber, as the arched trusses and swooping canopy of the "Global Food Market," the “loft offices,” and other buildings prominently integrate mass timber. A 30-acre public park, of which Related will kick in $5 million towards the construction of, and numerous hiking and biking trails have also been planned. The project was first announced in 2013 and has been working its way through public feedback and the city approval process ever since. As such, site work can begin immediately, and Related expects vertical construction to begin early next year. The development’s first phase is expected to open in 2023.
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After Hudson Yards, Sunnyside could be New York's next megadevelopment

Lawrence Halprin and William “Holly” Whyte both published books in the 1960s that highlighted the ad hoc and often bottom-up design decisions that make cities successful for their users and inhabitants. Facing the massive Nieman Marcus–emblazoned steel and glass street wall that greets visitors entering Hudson Yards from 10th Avenue, the lessons of Halprin and Whyte seem a quaint reminder of how city building has changed in the past 50 years. Hudson Yards, or as its developers like to call it, “New York’s next great neighborhood,” is not so much an accretive, incremental part of the city, but a pop-up assemblage of high-rise corporate boxes surrounding a shopping mall. There is little here that would interest Halprin or Whyte about how to design a city.

As America’s white middle class was abandoning the city for the suburbs, the authors wanted to rediscover and celebrate the joys of high-density living. Gentrification has gone from an obscure English academic theory to a popular derisive term to describe how our cities are being organized, planned, and developed. In New York City in 2019, even affordable housing has been handed over to large corporate entities, much as it was in the 19th century, when tenements proliferated and developers were allowed to do as they wished with their property holdings.

The urban critics writing about Hudson Yards yearn for a seamless Whyte-inspired urban fabric that gives as much as it takes from the city. Sadly, the Yards are described, variously, as “an urban failure,” a “$25 billion enclave,” “too clean, too flat, too art-directed,” and “a vast neoliberal Zion.” But how could it have been otherwise? It was conceived, planned, and designed by a corporation with little interest in anything but short-term profit, and it proceeded with little input from community boards, elected officials, or planners. The community boards had all been bludgeoned for years by proposals for sports stadiums on the site, and they gave the go-ahead to the first proposal that promised housing and a school, even if that meant luxury towers. Without serious input from community boards and city planners, this new quarter of the city was destined for failure. Developers only begrudgingly accepted the High Line—one of the most successful top-down planning projects of the past 25 years—into its 14 acres of “public” space when pushed hard by the department of city planning. The High Line, to its credit, makes provision for the sort of urban happenstance that we like about cities, and we can be thankful it wends its way through Hudson Yards and does not stop at its perimeter. The short High Line spur, with its still unfinished plinth for a rotating case of public sculptures, visible overhead to cars driving up 10th Avenue, is the sort of unexpected condition that makes the city richer. Unfortunately, the gigantic footprints of the Hudson Yards buildings and their corporate lobby design aesthetic makes it impossible for any bottom-up ad hoc events to take place.

A major problem for the Yards is that it sits on a 28-acre concrete pad and underground infrastructure complex that precludes any urban use that doesn’t generate billions of dollars in income. It’s the same problem faced in varying degrees by the World Trade Center site and Park Avenue, but these seem like triumphs of urban design compared to Hudson Yards.

Sadly, this blueprint for city building on concrete pads (and its economic and financing formula) may be the model for the next big development site in the city, Sunnyside Yard, as New York’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has already begun planning its future. It was identified as a potential development site in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2030 plan, and the 180-acre site in western Queens is not far from Manhattan and the growing centers of Long Island City, Astoria, and Queens Plaza. It potentially has 19 million square feet of retail, commercial, residential, and mixed-use spaces, and has been identified by the EDC as a place that could potentially house up to 24,000 homes, 19 schools, and 52 acres of public parks.

In February 2017, the city unveiled a feasibility study of the Sunnyside Yard area, which showed that decking was in fact possible, and that there were various scenarios in which a development of the site could move forward. But again, expensive decking will almost certainly preclude anything but corporate high-rise offices and luxury residential towers with commercial and open space, exactly like that at Hudson Yards.

Sunnyside Yard sits next to one of the most important residential developments in the United States, Sunnyside Gardens, designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein of the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA). If only the planners for Sunnyside Yard could look next door and have the expertise and nerve to propose something as revolutionary as the RPAA did in the 1920s. But let’s not hold our breath—we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.

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De Blasio cracks down on glass towers as part of Green New Deal

Days after the New York City Council passed the sweeping Climate Mobilization Act, which will impose emission restrictions on buildings over 25,000 square feet, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a sweeping “Green New Deal” for the city. The OneNYC 2050 initiative, which would see the city go fully carbon neutral by 2050, tackles climate change through new building codes, glass tower crackdowns, renewable energy requirements, citywide composting, investing in resiliency planning, and by supporting the new congestion pricing scheme. The $14 billion package would, combined with actions taken by the prior administration, reduce carbon emissions from a 2005 baseline level by 40 percent by 2030. A number of steps will help the city government decrease emissions 23 percent from a 2005 baseline. The city’s 50,000 buildings over 25,000 square feet will be retrofitted with more efficient technology, and city-owned buildings will be switched over to all-renewable energy sources in the next five years (the city is currently in talks to build out the infrastructure that would allow them to bring in Canadian hydropower). De Blasio also touted the potential restrictions on new towers with inefficient glass curtain walls. “Now, we’re going to take it another step because part of the problem here is that buildings got built that never should have been built to begin with if we were thinking about the needs of our Earth,” said the Mayor when announcing OneNYC 2050 on Earth Day yesterday. “Some of them you can see right behind us in the background. And so, we are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming. They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore. “If a company wants to build a big skyscraper, they can use a lot of glass if they do all the other things needed to reduce the emissions. But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our Earth and threatened our future, that will no longer be allowed in New York City.” The mayor went on to ding Hudson Yards in particular, claiming that many of the towers were inefficiently heated or cooled due to their glass envelopes. De Blasio’s aides were quick to point out that the administration wasn’t banning glass as a facade material outright, but that they would be imposing much rigid standards on performance or allowing developers to purchase carbon offsets instead. Mark Chambers, the city's sustainability director, touted SHoP’s American Copper Building for its smart use of high-performance glass. "The reason I’m saying ban is to emphasize the point that if a company came in, a landlord came in with the exact same kind of design that they’ve come in with in too many cases in the last—just few years, it will be rejected and they would not be allowed to build, period. That’s why I say it’s a ban. You literally will not be physically allowed to build the kinds of buildings that have gone up even recently in this town. Now, you know, there’s good examples and Mark pointed out the Copper Building, the buildings that Cornell-Technion are built to much higher standards which is a good example that you can have, you know, a modern skyscraper that works. But honestly even some of the recent ones built in this city don’t meet appropriate standards and those will no longer be allowed." That drew immediate pushback from Hudson Yards’ developer Related Companies, which told Crain's that the neighborhood was designed to meet LEED standards and that its towers were among the city’s most efficient class A office buildings. Other changes the mayor proposed included amending the city’s electrical code, enacting a citywide organics recycling program (composting), and realigning the city’s development goals with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Although the New York City Green New Deal was announced with much fanfare on de Blasio’s part, actual details of how these changes would be implemented were sparse. The plan will also have to pass a City Council vote as legislation and may change in the process.