Jonathan Allen Reuters reports for Chicago Tribune.
[Credit: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons]
The former home of Tammany Hall, which became a byword for patronage and corruption as the headquarters of New York City's powerful Democratic political machine, has been declared a historic landmark. A vote to protect the four-story neo-Georgian building in Union Square was held on Tuesday by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The building was completed in 1929, only a couple of years before Tammany began losing its grip on city politics and its power to control elections. It served as the final headquarters of the political machine that dominated 19th-century and early 20th-century New York City politics.
"The architecture is interesting, evocative and referential, but the history of Tammany makes it stand out," commission chairman Robert Tierney said in a statement. The Tammany Society was founded in the late 1780s as a social club but quickly morphed into a powerful vote-delivering machine. It courted the city's exploding immigrant populations, particularly those from Ireland, with jobs, hand-outs and legal services that sometimes amounted to bribing the authorities, in exchange for votes for Tammany candidates.
In 1925 Tammany helped elect Mayor Jimmy Walker, a popular figure whose tenure was known for its proliferation of speak-easies, which illegally served alcohol during Prohibition, until the 1929 stock-market crash. Walker was forced to resign in 1932 amid a corruption scandal. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who for decades opposed Tammany as a New York politician and governor, was elected U.S. president the same year and swiftly ended Tammany's federal patronage. Before the year was out, Fiorello LaGuardia, a non-Tammany candidate, was elected New York City mayor. Tammany Hall never recovered its footing.
The colonnaded building now houses a film school, a theater and shops.
Joe Anuta reports for Crain's New York Business.The Landmarks Preservation Commission gave Alchemy Properties the go-ahead to make over a portion of the Woolworth Building. Photo by Buck Ennis.
Alchemy Properties, which is transforming the upper floors of the landmark tower into luxury condos, received a key city approval to move forward with its conversion plans.
The developer transforming a portion of the Woolworth Building into luxury units announced Thursday it received a key approval from the city to modify the landmarked structure.
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission gave Alchemy Properties the go-ahead to construct two pavilions on the 29th floor and alter portions of the exterior of the property, located at 233 Broadway between Barclay Street and Park Place, as part of its ongoing effort to renovate the top 30 floors of the building, transforming the space into ultra-luxury residential condominiums.
"We have proposed subtle changes for the Woolworth Building, which will help to preserve and restore it to its true New York City landmark form," said Kenneth Horn, president of Alchemy Properties, in a press statement.
Mr. Horn hopes to begin selling units at the property, dubbed The Woolworth Tower Residences, in mid-2014.
The crown jewel of the project will be a five-story penthouse at the top of the century-old skyscraper. Alchemy will also make additions to the rooftop and replace some windows. It plans to install a new canopy that will hang over a new entrance on Park Place dedicated to residents.
The developer purchased the top portion of the skyscraper for $68 million in August 2012.
Carl Yost writing for Architizer.
“I defend these buildings against people who take moral offense because ‘only wealthy people live in them,’” says Carol Willis, the director of Skyscraper Museum. She isn’t talking about Justin Davidson’s epic takedown of the luxury residential tower One57 in New York Magazine a few weeks earlier, but she might as well be. “All they are doing is playing by the rules of the 1960s. To me, it’s fair play.”
Rendering of One57 as seen from Central Park. Image: Extell Development Company
It’s a refreshing perspective. Preposterously tall, anorexically slender residential buildings are popping up all across Manhattan, like it or not. Maybe I’m out of touch with the zeitgeist of post-Bloomberg backlash, but I think they’re exciting additions to the skyline, and I’m meeting Willis in her museum’s current exhibition, “Sky High & the Logic of Luxury,” to understand why.
"Sky High & the Logic of Luxury" features these new additions to the NYC skyline. Image: The Skyscraper Museum
“It’s about slender, not tall,” she says as we walk to the front of the gallery. “Slenderness is a strategy for luxury.” In an engineering context, “slenderness” has a precise definition: a height-to-width-ratio of at least 10:1 or 12:1. Think of a ruler standing on its end, or the proportions of the 617-foot-high, 50-foot-wide One Madison.
One Madison with Madison Square Park. Image: Cetra Ruddy
Willis points to a collage of eight renderings of super-skinny residential buildings that will soon pierce the sky. It’s about exclusivity, she explains: the fewer apartments per floor, the more exclusive the building, and the more each unit is worth. She contrasts a residential building like the world’s current tallest, the Princess Tower in Dubai, which has more than 700 apartments, with One57, which has only 135—many of them full-floor.
“People don’t realize how new this is, but it comes step-by-step out of the 1980s,” she says as we approach a model of the Darth Vader-like, black-glass wedge of SOM’s 1987 Metropolitan Tower at 146 West 57th Street. Until that time, “New York was really organized as a co-op town.” By the '80s, however, buildings like the Trump and Olympic Towers on Fifth Avenue revealed a market of wealthy buyers, many from abroad, who wanted private pieds-à-terre. High-rise condos sprang up all over the city, but they weren’t particularly slender. Then financier Sanford I. Weill sold his penthouse at 15 Central Park West in February 2012 for a then-record $88 million. At $13,000 per square foot, the financial calculus had changed.
“It’s the value of the per-square-foot that makes super-slender possible,” she says. “You can spend a lot of money if you think there’s a market that will support five thousand, six thousand dollars per square foot.” The ability to engineer super-slenderness had been around for decades, but the financial rationale was missing. “Everyone thought it was economically preposterous, until people started paying 45, 88 million for an apartment. It’s perfectly logical, but the logic hadn’t been demonstrated until the last round.”
Southeast view of 432 Park Avenue from Central Park. Image: CIM Group and Macklowe Properties
Willis walks me over to a model of Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, soon to be the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere at 1396 feet, and the star of the exhibition. On a touchscreen she scrolls across the panoramic views from a penthouse that hasn’t even been constructed yet, the photos taken by remote-controlled drone.
She explains how reducing the footprint of the core generates maximum revenue. Compared with an office tower, a residential building—especially one with only one or two units per floor—requires far fewer elevators: 432 Park Avenue has only two, plus one service elevator. Viñoly’s office also designed an intertwined scissor stair that reduced the stair area 10% and generated “luxurious” floor-to-floor heights of 15' 6". The stair, together with the developable air rights that developer Harry Macklowe pieced together from adjacent buildings, accounts for the tower’s breathtaking height.
Willis clearly admires the building: “Everything about it is guided by a logic that has a mathematical purity,” she says. She points to its expressive structure, in the exposed concrete grid; to the nearly 10-foot-square windows, at the bleeding edge of glass engineering; and to the recessed wind baffles, which break up the building mass every 12 stories.
View of 111 West 57th Street and Central Park. Image: DBOX
But the 15:1 slenderness of 432 Park Avenue has nothing on SHoP’s 111 West 57th Street, which zips upward from the courtyard of the historic Steinway Building at a ratio of 23:1. With feathered setbacks at its peak to conform to the zoning envelope, Willis likens it to a feather quill set in an inkwell. The model included in the exhibition towers above my head, almost high enough to brush its reflection reaching downward in the ceiling.
A south view of Steinway Hall at 99 Church Street. Image: DBOX, courtesy of Silverstein Properties, Inc.
I ask Willis whether she expects to see many more of these super-slender buildings, but she says not many. They result from very specific, very limited site conditions. So many cluster around 57th Street because the zoning allows tall buildings there, and the Central Park views appeal to luxury buyers, encouraging developers to aim for loftier heights. 99 Church Street, a Four Seasons condo-hotel designed by Robert A. M. Stern, the architect of 15 Central Park West, and the condo tower 50 West Street, by Helmut Jahn, both fall within one of Lower Manhattan’s high-rise zoning districts. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Tower D will be located in the Hudson Yards insta-neighborhood.
A rendering of the "Corset Tower" in the Hudson Yards. Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
And Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street, an anomaly in predominantly low-rise Tribeca, used up the air rights from New York Law School next door. With a shiny, derivative bean wedged next to the entrance, the targeted buyer is clearly the art collector who has no taste—and it’s working. As I write this, all but five units are under contract.
A view of 56 Leonard with The Woolworth Building in the background. Image: Corcoran Sunshine Marketing
“All these things work together,” Willis says, meaning land price, zoning, air rights, celebrity architects' fees, engineering and construction costs, views, art, and the number of apartments per floor. “The logic is exclusivity, but it’s supported by a simple math.” In a way, she's simply extending the analysis of her excellent 1995 book Form Follows Finance: given certain conditions of market demand, zoning, and engineering, the basic shape of a skyscraper is almost a fait accompli. Don't like it? You might as well rage against the tide.
And bemoaning the height of these buildings as anti-urban blight misses an important fact about the transfer of developable air rights: “These buildings use up the low space—they use it up forever.” That is, relocating the stratospherically wealthy into the stratosphere, paradoxically, brings more light and air down to the rest of us.
“I think these really add enormously to the city,” she says. “All these buildings end up being one more chapter, one more card in the deck of the extraordinary type that this city spawns.”
It was 50 years ago today that demolition began on the New York icon that evokes intense nostalgia and mourning even today: the old Pennsylvania Station. To honor the day, Atlantic Cities rounded up some beautiful photos of the transit hub in its prime, but Curbed has opted to immerse us all in sad images of the de-construction process, as plans for Madison Square Garden loomed ahead. After all, it was the painful ripping apart of the soaring archways, domed ceilings, handsome columns, and more that lit a fire under the arse of the coalition that eventually made New York's landmarks law a reality. The extensive demolition porn of yore comes to you courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York's wonderfully extensive photo archives. Below, you'll also find a handful of photos of Penn when it was still gloriously intact, which kinda intensifies the grief a little. While the site's future remains uncertain—could we feasibly see a bonkers starchitect-designed railway station in our lifetimes?—the past is, sadly, a done deal.
Here now, what the pretty station looked like before the wrecking ball descended.
Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect's Newspaper.[Images Courtesy SHoP.]
Manhattan’s 57th Street continues its ascent as New York City’s new gold coast with a skinny skyscraper unveiled by SHoP Architects and JDS Development. SHoP most recently celebrated the groundbreaking of another skyscraper for JDS along the East River, but has now been tapped to build a lean, luxury high-rise on West 57th Street that could climb to a whopping 1,350 feet tall.
If built, the condo tower would stand 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building. The Wall Street Journal reported that while developers JDS Development and Property Markets Group will not comment on whether financing has been secured, they have already presented plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Stepping back from the street as it rises, the quarter-mile-high skyscraper will emulate steps and be clad in bronze-and-white terra-cotta stripes. SHoP partner Vishaan Chakrabarti told the Journal that the materials would create an effect that “sparkles during the day and has a soft glow at night.” The developers were able to add height to the building by purchasing air rights from other properties in the vicinity.
Elsewhere on 57th Street, BIG is building a pyramidal “court-scraper,” Raphael Viñoly has designed the 1,380-foot-tall 432 Park Tower, Christian de Portzamparc’s One57 tower is nearing completion, Cetra Ruddy has designed an ultra-skinny 51 story tower, and SOM’s Roger Duffy is planning a prismatic, 57-story tower. Chicago’s skyscraper experts, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, have also been tapped to design a skyscraper near 57th and Broadway, but no design has been released.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission just gave JDS the green light to build its sinewy tower. The building will be set back to respect its landmarked neighbor, the Steinway Building. JDS will also take over a portion of the adjacent lot belonging to the historic structure.
Another proposed development on 57th Street, the Smith + Gorden Gill-designed tower, has been met with resistance from local residents. The Commission decided to approve the controversial project, much to the chagrin of the local community board and several historic preservation groups. Opponents of the building have expressed their concern that the cantilever tower will over shadow the French Renaissance style Art Student League.
JDS said it hopes to break ground by 2014.
Sharon McHugh reports for World Architecture News.[Images: Snohetta and Doug & Wolf.]
These days libraries are so much more then repositories for books and information. They are also vital community hubs where neighbors gather to discuss important topics of the day or just to see one another. During Hurricane Sandy, New York’s Far Rockaway Library in Queens served as a refuge from the storm and was the ‘go-to place’ to receive critical updates on neighbors and friends.
Taking its cue from the idea that a library is a catalyst for community transformation, Snohetta’s newly revealed design for the Far Rockaway Library envisions a more encompassing progamme than a typical library with more community services planned.
The new library will replace the existing one and double its area. The simple 'tent like' structure is clad in fritted, colored glass with a gradient of color reminiscent of the sky off the coast of Long Island. The transparency and translucency of the facade provides an awareness of the activities within while offering the occupants a good degree of privacy. Entry is at the corner though a tall pyramidal opening.
The interior spaces are organized around an inverted pyramidal atrium that allows light to penetrate the ground floor whilst providing a view of the sky from within the building. The clear entry and the building’s transparency help orient the visitor to and through the building. In response to Hurricane Sandy the building is sited at an elevation exceeding the new FEMA flood zone guidelines.
The project, which is currently in design development and is designed to meet LEED Silver Certification, has received the Public Design Commission of the City of New York’s recognition for outstanding public projects, the Annual Award for Excellence in Design. As part of New York City’s Percent for Arts programme, Snohetta will be collaborating with an artist to create a site specific artwork within the library.
Editorial by World Architecture News.[Images: White arkitekter.]
White arkitekter, ARUP and Gensler have been announced as the winning team in a two-stage international competition for the resilient redevelopment of an 80+ acre site on the Rockaway Peninsula, Arverne East in New York. The competition was launched in April 2013 following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy which ravaged the area in October 2012, leaving many people without adequate housing. The other shortlisted firms included Ennead Architects, Lateral Office and Seeding Office.
The competition was hugely popular, gaining 117 entries from around the world, and a public exhibition of the finalist submissions will go on display this November at the AIA New York Center for Architecture. The brief given by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development was to create innovative ideas for resilient development strategies with a blueprint for future redevelopment further along the coastline. The competition was posted by WAN’s Business Information Service.
Project Architect at White arkitekter Sander Schuur commented: “Arverne East is a place with a strong identity. Thousands of residents of Arverne East lost their homes during Hurricane Sandy. But the disaster also led to a stronger sense of community in the area. The essence of White’s proposal is to channel the resident’s involvement and provide them with new tools to act and react in the community’s interest. With our Scandinavian approach, we believe we can strengthen and enrich the community and provide the opportunity for the community to realise their dreams.”
Rather than a static approach, White arkitekter’s winning concept melds to the forces of nature ‘like a surfer to the waves’, reacting organically to unpredictable weather conditions. The team proposes a series of active interventions at small scale such as artificial islands which will absorb wave impact, interacting with nature rather than attempting to counteract these extreme conditions. Also included in the successful plan are residential developments, retirement communities, landscaped parks, and public and commercial opportunities.
The Far Rockaway Library by Snohetta is currently in design development.
Named for one of Manhattan's first roads, The Greenwich Lane is a 200-unit condo project in the West Village that's hoping to do a few big things: revitalize the block between 11th and 12th streets off of Seventh Avenue, be environmentally friendly, combine historic structures with new construction, and offer, to verge into brokerbabble territory, "an unheard-of level of character and service." Sales haven't quite begun, but we expect the launch will happen within the next few days, because the building has just unveiled its full website, with lots of renderings and building details to explore.
The Greenwich Lane, where prices will range from around $2 million to $20+ million, is probably hoping to replicate the sell-out of 130 West 12th Street—both projects consist of buildings that were once part of St. Vincent's Hospital and have gone condo after an epic battle over preservation. The Greenwich Lane is a bit more complicated than 130 West 12th Street, though: it consists of five apartment buildings and five townhouses spread across West 11th and West 12th Streets for a total of 200 units, 1BRs through 6BRs. The five townhouse are new construction, as is apartment building 155 West 11th Street. The other four apartment buildings have preserved and/or restored facades with new construction innards, and while FXFOWLE designed the whole project, each of the four dates from a different period and thus has a different aesthetic. (160 West 12th Street, for example, claims "Bauhaus-like details," while 150 West 12th Street has a more European look.) The interior design is by Thomas O'Brien.
The building is big on its green qualifications, which include a pre-certification of LEED Gold status, according to the website. The eco-obsessiveness extends into the realm of amenities, with electric vehicle charging stations and a system for collecting storm water to be reused for cooling systems and irrigation within the building.
As for the non-environmentally-focused amenities, they include a shared landscaped garden, designed by M. Paul Friedman & Partners, between the buildings, a fitness floor with a golf room and 25-meter pool (among other offerings), "a suite of social and entertaining rooms," underground parking, playroom, catering kitchen, and screening room. There's hardly a need to interact with the outside world.
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed.
Architects Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel have completely reworked their plans to transform the Brooklyn Cinema into a four-story mixed use building since the Landmarks Preservation Commission sent them back to the drawing board almost a year ago. The new designs, in an effort to appear more contextual within the neighborhood, are much less glassy. They also involve disassembling the Cinema, turning the painted bricks around, and reconstructing the one-story building with an additional four stories of ductal concrete on top. The movie theatre will now be housed on the ground floor instead of in the basement, as was previously proposed.
The Commission, which, last time around, was unsure whether or not the existing building was worth saving, finally came to a consensus—it's not. "It's painted white and just looks like ... nothing," said commissioner Michael Devonshire. Commissioner Michael Goldblum clarified that the Cinema is "beloved as an icon due to its functional history," not its architectural merit. As for the new designs, the commissioners viewed them as a clear improvement, but still weren't completely sold. Commissioner Fred Bland remarked, "[This is] such an aggressive building," and criticized the top portion as trying to respond to the reconstructed base "in a tortuous way." Commissioner Diana Chapin advised, "If you're going to take this base, let's make a cleaner top, with less detail." The architects will have to rework their plans and present to the Commission at least one more time before they gain approval.
Curbed.[The High Bridge and Harlem Bridge, pictured in a 1867 issue of Harper's Weekly]
The Bronx side of the Harlem River in Highbridge is a park-starved neighborhood, dominated by concrete expressways and desolate industrial lots, but soon a long-closed link will reconnect the area to greener pastures on the Manhattan side of the river. Construction crews are working to restore the 165-year-old High Bridge, the great architectural and civil engineering marvel of the Harlem River Valley that's been closed and crumbling since the 1970s, cutting off the South Bronx from Highbridge Park. Officials broke ground on a $61 million restoration earlier this year, and by next summer the landmark will reopen to the public, bringing with it a renewed interest in the waterfront area.
When the bridge first opened in 1848, 35 years before the Brooklyn Bridge, it was hailed as a marvel of civil engineering. Designed by engineer John B. Jervis, who worked on the Erie Canal, the bridge rises 138-feet tall and stretches 1,450-feet long, making it the longest bridge in the United States when it was completed.
Modeled after a Roman aqueduct, the bridge cost $950,000 to build, and it was part of the Old Croton Aqueduct System, built to provide the growing metropolis with a vital supply of fresh water from Westchester's Croton River. Concern about the spread of disease, notably the repeated cholera epidemics, and memories of the Great Fire of 1835, which ruined most of lower Manhattan, also served as motivating factors for its construction.
The water traveled about 41 miles from the Croton River in Westchester across the High Bridge into Manhattan, moving entirely by gravity through pipes that were constructed below the bridge's walkway. The iconic fortified-looking High Bridge Water Tower, which dominates the adjacent Highbridge Park and overlooks the Manhattan end of the great span, was completed in 1872. It served to pump water uptown to residents living at the higher elevations of the island.
[Circa 1905. Photo via MCNY]
At the time of the bridge's construction, Mayor Robert H. Morris predicted to New Yorkers that this nineteenth century descendant of Roman greatness would "endure for ages, would bear record to these ages, however distant, of a race of men who were content to incur present burdens for the benefit of a posterity they could never know." Indeed, the High Bridge became the crown jewel of the Old Croton Aqueduct System providing New York City with its first successful access to a reliable supply of fresh water and marked the beginning of a more sophisticated and progressive city.
The High Bridge, however, was much more than simply a piece of public infrastructure. It also was beloved for transforming the area into a favorite destination of Manhattanities seeking an escape from the crowds and concrete of downtown, and it served as a vital crossing between the Bronx and Manhattan for nearby residents. None other than Edgar Allen Poe found the pedestrian bridge a favorite route to get across the river to and from his Bronx cottage.
Throughout the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, the High Bridge and Harlem River waterfront were two of northern New York City's great attractions. People enjoyed the nearby restaurants and Fort George Amusement Park atop the bluffs of Highbridge Park, and regattas drew crowds of spectators, as did the riverside walkway and carriage path, which later became the Harlem River Drive. In 1899, Jesse Lynch Williams of Scribner's Magazine wrote: "There is a different feeling in the air up along this best-known end of the city's water-front. The small, unimportant looking winding river, long distance views, wooded hills, green terraces, and even the great solid masonry of High Bridge...help to make you feel the spirit of freedom and outdoors and relaxation. This is the tired city's playground."
[Famed photographer William Henry Jackson, known for his images of the American west, documented the High Bridge in the 1890s]
Writers and artists made the trip uptown to record their interpretations of the valley's sights and sounds, and the High Bridge even made a cameo in Edith Wharton's 1913 novel, Custom of the Country, in which the heroine, Undine Spragg, rides uptown to attend a dinner party.
[The High Bridge in 1929, with the new steel span. Photo via MCNY]
Despite the continued popularity of the High Bridge as a travel destination, by the 1910s concern had grown about the danger its piers posed to river traffic. Its mighty granite arches were viewed by the Army Corps of Engineers as a serious impediment to shipping. Calls were made to remove some of the center piers, then they decided to petition for the complete demolition of the bridge. After a long and contested public debate, a compromise was reached in 1927, and the city approved the removal of the five center arches. A single steel arch with a 360-foot wide lateral clearance replaced the masonry arches. When the bridge reopened with its altered appearance in 1928, the Times wrote: "High Bridge, decked with flags and echoing with speeches, was opened to traffic again on Saturday. But what strange traffic! No other bridge about the city carries any just like it: waters from the Old Croton Aqueduct, pedestrians crossing to the Bronx, promenaders taking advantage on a summer's evening, as they have for almost a century, of the cool breezes and fine prospect, couples arm in arm. No clanking cars, no honking motors! . . . As the steel span symbolizes the future, so the old arches stand as a link with the past."
[Overgrown High Bridge in 2009. Photo by Barry Yanowitz/Curbed Flickr pool]
Things started to go south in the mid-twentieth century. Increased industrial activity had polluted the river, and the construction of the Major Deegan Expressway and Harlem River Drive all but eliminated public enjoyment of the waterfront by the 1950s. The following decades saw increased rates of poverty, unemployment and crime in northern Manhattan and the southern Bronx. The decline in public consciousness and interest in the High Bridge was not helped by the fact that the great span itself ceased to provide fresh water to the city by 1958; new supplies of water from the development and expansion of the Catskill and Delaware aqueduct systems replaced the Old Croton system. The city lacked both the funds and interest to maintain and police it, so access to the pedestrian walkway was closed in 1960, and the span itself was closed in 1970, the same year the bridge was landmarked. In 1972, the bridge and water tower were both placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the bridge continued to decay, and arsonists destroyed part of the Water Tower in 1984.
[View of the High Bridge from Highbridge Park in 2012. Photo by Duane Bailey-Castro]
The 21st century brought a new era for the bridge. In 2001, the High Bridge Coalition was founded to focus on the rehabilitation and reopening of New York City's oldest bridge. The group also sought to cleanup and expand neighboring parks and improve public access to the Harlem River waterfront. The coalition formed partnerships with the Parks Department, which owns the bridge, and the Department of Transportation, which conducted early structural assessments of the span as well as offered preliminary estimates of the cost to restore it. The city's political leaders began to lend their support, and in 2001, the 130-acre Highbridge Park was renovated for $739,000. The first federal funds for restoration were secured in 2006, and the following year, Mayor Bloomberg committed to the restoration of the High Bridge as part of PlaNYC.
[Photo by Duane Bailey-Castro]
In January 2013, ground finally broke on the long awaited restoration, which includes structural improvements, dust and soot removal, the repainting of the steel arch, the resetting of its brick deck, safety fencing, and new lights for evening use. A member of the Parks Department recently told the Times that the bridge is "really the centerpiece of the Harlem River corridor" and exemplifies how much the city is committed to revitalizing the waterway and surrounding neighborhoods.