Now towering over Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek is Heatherwick Studio’s latest landscape-heavy development: a veritable mountain of trees populating a sprawling, mixed-use facility made for the city’s burgeoning M50 arts district. 1,000 Trees—the project's official name—has been under construction for the past five years and its first phase, spanning 3.2 million square feet, is slated to open in 2020. As a whole, the project is made up of two buildings split across two sites totaling 14.8 acres, each featuring a jagged facade with a “mountain peak” where the highest floors top out. So far, only the exterior of the first mountain has been unveiled to the public, revealing an undulating frontage punctuated by an array of plants atop structural concrete columns. In initial photos, the project looks like a shrine to landscape architecture, or more specifically, the diversity of plants capable of outfitting buildings. Sourced locally from Chongming Island just northeast of Shanghai, 25,000 individual plants representing 46 species make up the vision of 1,000 Trees. Over half are evergreen to ensure a yearlong verdant look for the massive structure. Heatherwick Studio used grey-green granite to create a striped or striated facade that further accentuates the plants throughout. Shangai's M50 arts district is located in an old manufacturing neighborhood where textile production used to take place. Now, the industrial area is a boon for contemporary art and 1,000 Trees is being built to amplify that theme. At 10 stories, the first section of the development, when open next year will boast eight levels of retail, restaurants, and commercial office space, as well as room for events programming and art galleries. Its southern, street-facing facade, is practically flat compared to the rippled, creek-front portion, but it does include a series of boxy windows of varying sizes that are set back from the building's frame. Natural light from the floor-to-ceiling glass will be allowed to percolate inside the building, while multiple tall atriums throughout the elongated structure will bring a nice glow all the way down to the ground-floor from above. Heatherwick Studio partnered with local graffiti artists to cover some of the southern windows with large-scale murals. 1,000 Trees was commissioned following the completion of Heatherwick’s U.K. Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo nearly a decade ago. As China continues to push towards building extra-large developments, architects are also considering the role landscape plays in the country's increasingly dense environment. For example, a new green-roofed hospital with a terraced design by Foster + Partners and the Cleveland Clinic is set to rise in Shanghai as well, bringing wellness to the forefront of contemporary architecture. Compared to Heatherwick’s smaller, albeit still plant-focused projects, such as the nearly-complete, 2.75-acre Pier 55 or “Little Island” in New York (which utilizes a similar sculpted concrete pillar approach), 1,000 Trees will completely change the look and appeal of Shanghai’s M50 arts district. Phase two of the mega-project will connect to the existing structure through an enclosed link bridge, a tunnel, and a ground-floor drop-off area. It will feature even more public space and a 129,000-square-foot park.
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Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has unveiled its vision for a 64-story tower in Tokyo, which, once finished, will be the tallest in Japan at 1,082 feet. The project is part of the upcoming Toranomon-Azabudai district, an ultra-green, mixed-use destination with an urban design plan devised by Heatherwick Studio. Located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, the skyscraper will be one of three new soaring structures when completed in 2023. Other projects in the new district designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli include an 862-foot-tall tower that is currently coming online and another that is already finished and caps out at 935 feet. The latter will soon be the second tallest in the city. According to the architects, each building was designed to reference the nearby Tokyo Tower, with gleaming facades that break down towards the base of the structures into a lattice-like pattern with wider windows. The 1950s-era landmark that doubles as communications and observation tower features the same texture, but without the glass. The Toranomon-Azabudai Tower, as the tallest one is formally called, will house office and retail space, as well as 10 floors of apartments at the top of the building. Where it meets the sidewalk, the base will be activated with a series of terraced public spaces. The other two skyscrapers will largely be filled with apartments and one will include a 120-room hotel. The entire district—a "modern urban village" with a focus on health and wellness—is being built out by Tokyo-based developer Mori, which has also enlisted Thomas Heatherwick to envision the surrounding streetscape. Early renderings show that bringing green space to the center of the city was on the London architect's mind; he’s created a massive landscaped pergola at one corner of the 19-acre site. Largely a piece of architecture with green terraces straddling its roof and glass siding, the pergola will include interior space for offices, shops, and more. In addition, Heatherwick has also designed a series of low-lying buildings throughout the entire district with the same distinct identity. Each mimics the surrounding mountainous region that Tokyo sits in, and altogether, the structures will undulate from one side of the site to the other and propagate that pergola-like design. Hidden gardens, sunken courtyards, and terraced spaces will be well mixed among the apartment buildings, retail, office spaces, museum, and gallery. A seven-story international school is also slated for the site as well along with an underground pedestrian tunnel and food hall.
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.
The first phase of Manhattan’s $25 billion Hudson Yards development opened to the public on March 15, and with the embargos lifted and first impressions filed, a wide variety of critics have put pen to paper on their Vessel thoughts. The $150 million, 150-foot-tall occupiable sculpture is the centerpiece of Hudson Yards’ first phase and sits at the heart of a Nelson Byrd Woltz–designed plaza. The Thomas Heatherwick–designed public installation, inspired in part by Indian stepwells, expands from a minimal footprint at the bottom to a 150-foot-wide diameter at the peak. After signing up for free tickets and agreeing to Vessel’s restrictive photo policy, which previously stated that guests would forfeit the rights to any photos or videos taken there, visitors can explore the 154 flights of stairs and 80 landings. Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross, who paid for the structure out of his own pocket, claims that Vessel holds a mile of staircases. For the mobility impaired, Heatherwick Studio has included a curvilinear elevator that stops at three different landings along the sculpture. The intentions behind the piece have been well stated—the desire to create a monument in Hudson Yards that engages, not overshadows, the surrounding towers, and a "living room" for the public and residents who call the new neighborhood home. So, what do people think of the 15-story Vessel? The reviews have been mixed; some saw it as a monument to excess, while others drew comparisons to shawarma, a pinecone, trash can, drinking glasses, and more. Still others juxtaposed the structure’s 360-degree views and position to a panopticon, as Vessel is eminently and intentionally viewable from most places in Hudson Yards. It should be noted that Related insists that Vessel cost $150 million; the $200 million figure cited in the below articles reportedly accounts for the plaza it sits in as well. The Architect's Newspaper AN's Executive Editor Matt Shaw couldn't help but link Vessel to its larger place and the moneyed circumstances that led to its creation, questioning whether it was spectacle for the sake of spectacle. "Vessel and its counterpart, The Shed, occupy an important niche in the rich culture of Little Dubai: they serve as the attractors to get tourists to come and play, and thus spend money at retail options. Like the spectacular Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Frame, and man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah, Vessel acts to bring attention to the place. The High Line is already doing this, but these new spectacles will bring in tourists en masse, possibly so much that this area will be like a cleaner and even less exciting Times Square. "This centralization of power—via a marriage of government and private interests—gives power to consultants to plan whole districts, as well as ties together Little Dubai and its namesake (and the other countless cities like it). It should not come as a surprise that this is taking place in New York. In fact, it is a very New York phenomenon, as much of this type of culture was shipped from New York’s office towers (literally and metaphorically.)" The New York Times Michael Kimmelman didn’t mince words in his review for the NYT. “It is temporarily called the Vessel. Hoping for public buy-in, its patron, the lead developer of this vast neoliberal Zion, has invited suggestions for a new name. “Purportedly inspired by ancient Indian stepwells (it’s about as much like them as Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great Adventure is like Chichen Itza) the object—I hesitate to call this a sculpture—is a 150-foot-high, $200 million, latticed, waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere, sheathed in a gaudy, copper-cladded steel.” New York Magazine Justin Davidson had many of the same concerns as Kimmelman, as he recognized that historically stairs have been used as gathering places throughout New York City, but that ultimately Vessel felt like a staircase to nowhere. “The advance hype doesn’t prepare you for a structure quite this large, shiny, and extravagantly pointless. Its stainless-steel skin gleams russet like polished copper but won’t weather or lose its gloss. From the beginning, Ross declared his desire for an artwork big and splashy enough to focus the whole development. Not a clock or an obelisk—how about a botanical puppy, say, or a Chicago-style shiny kidney bean? Ross wanted something bolder, an artwork he wouldn’t have to warn people off of. Instead, Heatherwick’s piece functions as its own sign: PLEASE CLIMB ON THE SCULPTURE.” The New York Post Post writer Zachary Kussin wrote much more enthusiastically about his experience with Vessel. In an article entitled “Why the Hudson Yards Vessel is $200M worth of glistening glory,” Kussin recounted a grandiose trip to the top of the sculpture. “He’s right. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick and his London-based Heatherwick Studio, Vessel is an interactive artwork made entirely of staircases that make you feel as if you’re in a giant honeycomb, surrounded on all sides by copper-colored steel.” Curbed Alexandra Lange, reviewing Hudson Yards for Curbed, was simultaneously dazzled by the physical structure of Vessel, but questioned its promised social utility. She writes that once inside, rather than sparking conversation between climbers, the focus turned towards the piece itself, and an innate awareness of being on Vessel. “Whatever you call Heatherwick Studio’s Vessel—the wastebasket, the egg-crate, the Escher-brought-to-life, the basketball net, the Great Doner Kebab—it is the opposite of those examples. Not temporary, not cuddly, not delicate. It looks just like its renderings except possibly more perfect. I had mentally assigned it an outer cladding of weathering steel; with everything else so smooth and shiny, surely Vessel would have an industrial flavor? But no—Heatherwick Studio leaned into the fractal nature of its design, and the cladding, copper-colored steel, has a mirror finish like Anish Kapoor’s Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, welcoming our irresistible impulse to selfie.” The Baffler Kate Wagner’s take on Vessel was, predictably, the most pointed AN was able to find. In “Fuck The Vessel,” Wagner savages Heatherwick’s entire body of work as well as the structure’s premise, writing that Vessel embodied the attitude of Hudson Yards, a utopia for the rich out of the grasp of the other 99 percent. “It is a Vessel for labor without purpose. The metaphor of the stairway to nowhere precludes a tiring climb to the top where one is expected to spend a few moments with a cell-phone, because at least a valedictory selfie rewards us with the feeling that we wasted time on a giant staircase for something—perhaps something contained in the Vessel. The Vessel valorizes work, the physical work of climbing, all while cloaking it in the rhetoric of enjoyment, as if going up stairs were a particularly ludic activity. The inclusion of an elevator that only stops on certain platforms is ludicrously provocative. The presence of the elevator implies a pressure for the abled-bodied to not use it, since by doing so one bypasses ‘the experience’ of the Vessel, an experience of menial physical labor that aims to achieve the nebulous goal of attaining slightly different views of the city.” Heatherwick’s response For Thomas Heatherwick’s part, he hasn’t let the criticism bother him. On the opening day of Hudson Yards, The Real Deal was able to snag a brief interview, where the English designer shrugged off the above concerns, saying that all that mattered was whether visitors enjoyed it. Indeed, it seems that for as many think pieces and social media slams that Vessel has endured over its purpose and aesthetics, and whether it truly belongs in New York, tourists have still been clamoring to climb it. AN has reached out to Heatherwick Studio for its take on the critical hullabaloo and will update this article accordingly.
As throngs of tourists and New York City residents descend on Manhattan’s far west side for the opening of Hudson Yards’ first phase, AN joined the first tour of the Thomas Heatherwick–designed Vessel (interested visitors can reserve free tickets). Bill Pedersen, founding partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Thomas Woltz of landscape architecture studio Nelson Byrd Woltz, representatives from Heatherwick Studio, and Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross, who paid to construct the Vessel out of his own pocket, were also on hand to dive into the design behind the development. With the first phase of Hudson Yards opening to the public today, plenty of ink has already been spilled over the new neighborhood’s “fortress-like” nature, the accusations that it intentionally and discordantly stands apart from the street grid and city as a whole, and that the development is a playground for the one-percent financed through $6 billion in tax breaks (though some might passionately dispute that characterization). Those points have been argued elsewhere. What is definitely true is that the 11-million-square-foot, $16-billion first phase of Hudson Yards is now mainly open, or will open shortly, and it’s likely to draw shoppers, tourists, and High Line hikers to what was formerly an open-air staging area for the Long Island Railroad. The second phase of the megaproject over the still-uncovered western railyard will hold five more residential towers and a commercial project from architectural heavy hitters like Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Robert A.M. Stern. Related expects that infrastructure work on the second phase will begin next year before the site is decked over. Vessel, Heatherwick’s $150 million not-quite-a-sculpture, not-quite-a-building sits at the center of Hudson Yards’ Public Square and Gardens. The climbable installation is made up of 154 flights of stairs connected to 80 landings, and it balloons up to 150-feet-wide at its 150-foot-tall summit. As project architect Stuart Wood explained, Vessel (explicitly not “the Vessel”—although Related will rename the structure later, anyway) was designed to be open in its programming while not “jamming up” the plaza. “The project was built entirely from staircases and landings. They're public, publicly accessible, free to use spaces. It's non-prescriptive. That was absolutely our intent from the outset. This should be a project that is open to interpretation. It's open to different natures of use.” The underside of the piece is clad in warm, reflective metal paneling that distorts the glass towers around it and brings a sense of liveliness to the “sculpture” as more visitors gather at its base. As visitors scale Vessel, climbers see themselves reflected overhead as the panels act as mirrored ceilings; that interactivity is intentional. On the topside, Heatherwick has used wood railings, darkened steel, and stone for the steps and landings in reference to the site's industrial heritage. With a form so often compared to a beehive or garbage can by outside observers, actually entering Vessel produces an unusual effect. Standing in the sculpture’s base feels akin to entering a towering atrium, with the glass handrails resembling windows. Climbing the structure’s numerous staircases, at least when devoid of the crowds that will surely descend on it after the official opening, felt slightly dangerous. The view of Hudson Yards, the Shed, shops and dining areas, and across the Hudson River, open up towards the top, and might induce the same sense of vertigo found on construction sites. For mobility impaired visitors, Heatherwick Studio has added a glass elevator that travels along a curving track along Vessel’s inside rim, though it only stops at one landing per story. The plaza in which Vessel sits is elliptical and gently spirals out to each of the buildings on the site, a decision that Nelson Byrd Woltz came to in tandem with Heatherwick Studio. As such, it serves as the epicenter of Hudson Yards’ public space, and its central location in the neighborhood’s main plaza visually cements that status. Vessel, for better or for worse, is intrinsically at home in Hudson Yards and wouldn’t fit anywhere else in the world. And even if it wasn’t, as Wood explained, Related has copyrighted the design.
Toronto’s interconnected “smart neighborhood” is inching ever closer to reality. Sidewalk Labs has released a batch of new renderings from Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio, as well as documents detailing how the company plans to pay for the ground-up development. Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside waterfront Toronto neighborhood is being touted as a smart, interconnected, “100 percent timber” development. In a February 14 Medium post, the company released a progress report detailing its progress before the finalization of its draft Master Innovation and Development Plan. One proposal that’s drawing flak is an arrangement where Sidewalk Labs would build infrastructure such as light rail on the site in exchange for a share of the revenue generated by increased property values—diverting tax revenue from public coffers. Sidewalk Labs claims the arrangement would allow the neighborhood to rise “years, if not decades, sooner than it would otherwise. This would unlock the potential of the Eastern Waterfront, and the jobs, housing, and economic growth that will come with it.” The company also clarified how many units of housing it would be building in the neighborhood, which would contain 12 mass timber towers. The project will adhere to the site’s existing zoning and will be 90 percent residential. That means 2,500 units total, 1,000 of which would be rented at below-market rates, and 50 percent of which would be “purpose-built rental apartments.” Half of the below-market housing would be affordable (and a quarter of that marked as “deeply affordable”) and the other half would be designated for middle-income earners. To meet the high demand for timber that the 12-acre project requires, Sidewalk Labs has announced that they would build a tall-timber factory in Ontario, which would supply up to 4,000 new jobs. Google’s 600,000-to-one-million-square-foot Canadian headquarters could also be in the making on the western side of Villiers Island along the planned light rail loop. Retail, an educational component, and amenities are likely headed to the campus as well. The neighborhood will also become a testbed for innovative urban technologies. Other than the weather-responsive “skirts” deployed at the open-air bases of each building, the entire project will be networked with high-speed Wi-Fi. A civic data trust would be responsible for removing identifying markers from any information gathered and aggregating it. On the design side, Michael Green Architecture has developed a mass timber kit-of-parts, and Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio have designed building concepts for the campus, innovation zone, common areas, and other spaces. Of note are the “scalloped” balconies found throughout the residential developments and post-and-beam styled open-air “stoas” at the base of each tower. The design will continue to change as Sidewalk Labs solicits feedback from stakeholders, the Canadian and provincial government, and Alphabet, Sidewalk Labs' parent company. The entire presentation can be viewed here.
Three of Heatherwick Studio’s monumental projects are taking shape along Manhattan’s High Line, part of the transformation of the Meatpacking neighborhood from a gritty industrial landscape to a playground for the ultra-wealthy. From Hudson Yards at the elevated park’s northern-most tip, to the manmade island taking shape on the coast off of 15th Street, AN recently checked in on the status of the London studio's rapidly rising projects. Pier 55 Pier 55 seemed like it was on the verge of financial collapse just a year ago, as the cost of the Barry Diller–backed project rose to $250 million and the nonprofit Hudson River Park Trust was buffeted by lawsuits. Diller withdrew his support of the 2.75-acre pocket park in the Hudson, and the floating island, supported by sculpted concrete piers, looked like it was never going to happen. Then, thanks to Governor Cuomo stepping in at the last minute to mediate between billionaire Douglas Durst, the City Club of New York, and Diller, the project was declared back on. When AN last toured the site in April of 2018, piles were being driven into the Hudson’s riverbed for the two walkways that would lead to the park. Now, at the start of 2019, it appears that construction is picking up steam. Most, if not all, of the piers appear to be in place, and the 132 sculptural, wave-like concrete caps are being installed. Each of the “pots” was fabricated in Upstate New York from custom foam molds and it’s expected that they’ll be fully installed in March 2020. The installation is on hold for the winter and should begin again in May of this year. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will be handling the landscape design proper, and the park is expected to open in early 2021. Once complete, Pier 55 will include an amphitheater and two landscaped staging areas. 515 West 18th Street Further north on 18th Street, the first tower of the two-pronged 515 West 18th Street has already topped out. The 425,000-square-foot development was only first revealed in January 2018 thanks to a video aimed at luring foreign investors, but the project has already made considerable progress in a year. The split project drew polarizing reactions for its bulging, barrel-like bay windows, which almost seem to be inflated from the inside. The two towers (connected via a single-story annex under the High Line) are expected to bring 181 condos to the neighborhood. The 10-story tower on the eastern half of the High Line has topped out as of January 2019, and the western tower, which will reach 22 stories so that residents can catch views across the Hudson River, is already above ground. It’s likely the condos in the finished development will be pricey, as developer Related Companies has promised high-end interiors, plenty of amenities, and 175 parking spots. Coincidentally enough, Thomas Heatherwick’s High Line–straddling project is going up right next to BIG’s; on the southern side of 18th street is the XI, the Bjarke Ingels Group’s pair of twisting, travertine-clad towers. Once complete sometime in mid-2020, Heatherwick’s bulging towers will sit comfortably between the Gehry-design IAC building to the west, and venerable performing arts space the Kitchen to the north. The Vessel At the High Line’s northern terminus, looming over the entire park is the glass-heavy presence of Hudson Yards. At the center of this massive public-private development is the Vessel, Thomas Heatherwick’s $150 million, 150-foot-tall, bronzed-steel-and-concrete staircase sculpture. Completely climbable (an elevator will also be included for those unable to take the stairs), the Vessel features over 154 flights of stairs, 80 landings, and over 2,400 treads. The installation expands as it rises, going from a 50-foot-wide footprint at the base to a 150-foot-wide diameter at the top. Once at the top, visitors can expect unobstructed views across the Hudson River, down the city, and of the surrounding Hudson Yards neighborhood. The piece was prefabricated in 75 large parts in Italy, then assembled on site, with the last segment installed in December of 2017. When AN visited the site last, construction workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the sculpture’s rails and lights. Phase one of Hudson Yards, which includes the Vessel and the development’s five-acre public plaza in which it sits, is expected to open to the public on March 15 of this year.
Over the past two years, New York City residents have been awaiting the unveiling of one of the city’s most complex and outlandish landmark attractions. The Vessel—a 150-foot-tall, beehive-esque, interactive art installation in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards—is now allowing people to sign up for early tickets for a first step on its massive stairs. Visitors must sign up for specific time slots for entry into the free, climbable public space, which is expected to be engulfed by a frenzy of locals and tourists when it opens this coming spring. Composed of concrete and shimmering bronzed steel, the $150 million landmark, which will serve as the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards Plaza, topped out last December. The honeycomb-shaped megastructure will undoubtedly shape the nascent aesthetic of the new West Side neighborhood, one that is unique for its location above a massive rail yard. Aside from the Vessel itself, whose 2,500 steps, 14 flights, 80 landings, and 16 stories can hold over 1,000 people at a time, the site at Hudson Yards Plaza will also comprise a fountain and over 27 acres of landscaped space for events with views across the Hudson River and Manhattan. London-based Heatherwick Studio was chosen to design the landmark. To create a memorable work of art, the studio chose to build a structure that visitors could not only look at, but also use and explore.
A 100,000-square-foot shopping center in London's Kings Cross set within a Victorian-era coal yard officially opened to the public last weekend. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, Coal Drops Yard completely transforms the former industrial site into the city’s latest shopping district, dropping dramatic, contemporary architecture within the historic brick buildings. Built in the 1850s, the railway tracks were once used to sort and unload millions of tons of coal as they arrived by train. As urban coal consumption declined, the huge cast-iron and brick structures were left neglected. The district’s cobblestone courtyards, ornate ironwork, and rugged brick viaducts survived despite the lack of use, and were revitalized over a two-year period of construction to link a new network of over 50 stores, restaurants, and cafes. Once considered the underbelly of King’s Cross, the formerly depressed area was long-known for its derelict warehouses, eerie remoteness, and later, for its mob of rowdy night-clubbers. Heatherwick Studio's restoration revived the area's distinctive character, turning it into one of Central London’s busiest and trendiest boroughs. Coal Drops Yard is centered around two cast-iron and brick structures that define the space, both fluid and highly technical. They include dramatic curvilinear roofs that rise upward and stretch out toward each other, creating a large covered outdoor space and a hub for the entire shopping district. Within the historic coal drops where incoming trains once unloaded their cargo, the individual retail and food spaces are built out to uniquely take advantage of the site's low-rise structures, Victorian arches, canal-side views, and gritty charm. Heatherwick Studio has already made a substantial impact on both Central London and Manhattan. Their upcoming projects include a 16-story landmark sculpture in Chelsea’s Hudson Yards, and an innovative park and performance space, Pier 55, along the Hudson River.
Thomas Heatherwick’s studio has released renderings of their plan to overhaul Olympia, an events center in west London. The design would transform the Victorian exhibition hall into a high-profile mixed-use space. Heatherwick Studio, along with London-based architecture firm SPPARC, will transform the 130-year-old exhibition hall into a mixed-use district that will hold a hotel, theatre, museums, co-working spaces, restaurants, and entertainment spaces. The $920 million project will completely overhaul the space to make way for almost 600,000-square-feet of office and studio space, and 70,000-square-feet of co-working space. Another 2.5 acres will be dedicated towards public areas. The renderings also reveal plans to pedestrianize Olympia Way and add new public and community spaces while preserving the historic facade, as well as a new, modern building for a theater and performing arts space. The redevelopment of Olympia is set to position it as a global destination for creative industries, as well as having a significant impact on its surrounding area, like the regenerations of Covent Garden and King’s Cross. The owners of Olympia, Deutsche Finance and Yoo Capital, first announced that they were planning to develop the site in 2017. Olympia was completed in 1886 and designed by architect Henry Edward Coe. It’s key features, a massive domed window and an arched roof supported by ironwork, will not be affected by the redevelopment. The 15-acre site hosts exhibitions and events annually, such as 100% Design, part of the London Design Festival, and welcomes 1.6 million visitors every year. “As caretakers of Olympia London, we are investing to protect this iconic site and promote it on the global stage as a world-leading destination for the creative industries," John Hitchcox, chairman of Yoo Capital, said. The current designs were developed with feedback from event organizers, exhibitors, and visitors. There will be a period of public consultation before a planning application is submitted in September of this year. Meanwhile, Heatherwick Studio is working on Google’s headquarters in King’s Cross with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
Since 2017, Facebook has stated its intention to establish a new British headquarters within the ongoing redevelopment of King’s Cross Central in London. The London Times speculates that architect Frank Gehry is currently in talks with the social media giant to fit out two adjoining buildings, currently designated T2 and T3, as well as a stand-alone building on a separate plot. The buildings T2 and T3 are designed by the British firm Bennetts Associates and are slated for completion in early 2019. In total, Facebook looks to add three buildings totaling more than 700,000 square feet to its London footprint. According to the Architects’ Journal, Gehry has designed numerous buildings for Facebook in the past, including its campus in Menlo Park and a ‘fit-out’ of Rathbone Square. The larger development surrounding Facebook's potential new headquarters, King’s Cross Central, is a 67-acre mixed-use redevelopment site encompassing fifty new buildings, 1,900 homes, twenty new streets, and twenty-six acres of public space. British developer Argent is leading the project and the master planners are Allies & Morrison and Porphyrios Associates. The transformation of King’s Cross from decrepit industrial district to emerging tech hub is influenced by its proximity to King’s Cross Station and St. Pancras International. These stations provide unrivaled rail transport access to international, regional and local transport networks. According to the Urban Land Institute, over 63 million passengers will pass through King’s Cross–St. Pancras by 2022, and approximately 45,000 Londoners will directly live or work in the district. Facebook is not the only tech giant shifting personnel to King’s Cross Central. In 2017, Google submitted plans for a nearly one million square foot headquarters in the sprawling redevelopment site. Designed by BIG and Heatherwick Studios, the 11-story building will extend horizontally approximately one thousand feet, a distance roughly on par with the height of London’s tallest building, the Shard.
2017 Best of Design Award for Unbuilt – Infrastructure: Maker Park Architect: STUDIO V Architecture Location: Brooklyn, New York Maker Park proposes a vision to address Brooklyn’s disappearing industrial waterfront—reimagining what a public park for the 21st century should be. The design pays homage to Williamsburg’s legacy of manufacturing and culture of collaboration. Ten oil tanks are redesigned as community gardens, performance venues, and art installations. Each tank houses groves of trees, reflecting pools, vines, a theater, or an adventure playground. The restored inlet supports wildlife and boating, and a sloped lawn promotes performances while protecting from floods. “So many people would just see this industrial site as an eyesore—if they saw it at all. The designers found the beauty in it. Better still, their scheme helps others see that beauty. Preservation isn’t always about quaint neighborhoods and ornate cornices; it’s about former manufacturing sites and old oil tanks too. It’s all part of our shared heritage.” —Morris Adjmi, principal, Morris Adjmi Architects (juror) Landscape Architect: Ken Smith Workshop Cofounders of Maker Park: Stacey Anderson Zac Waldman Karen Zabarsky Honorable Mention Project: The Statue of Liberty Museum Architect: FXFOWLE Location: Liberty Island, New York The Statue of Liberty Museum is an extension of Liberty Park, which merges architecture with landscape. Monumental steps activate the large circular plaza by providing sitting, climbing, and viewing spaces for more than four million annual visitors. The 26,000-square-foot museum will include visitor services, a theater, and support spaces, and will feature Lady Liberty’s original torch. Honorable Mention Project: Pier 55 Architect: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Location: New York Within the cancelled Pier 55 project is a story that never received its due: the landscape. Elevations 40 to 60 feet above the water treat the visitor to views which encompass the grandeur of the river and focus the eye on the delicate plants at one’s feet. Microclimates mitigate winter winds, buffer highway noise, and allow sunlight to reach marine life. Structural, Civil, & MEP Engineering, Events: Arup Designer: Heatherwick Studio Executive Architect: Standard Architects