The latest news on New York architecture.

  • Hundreds Fret About Superscrapers' Shadows As Extell Rebuts

    Shannon Ayala reports for Curbed. 57th-street-towers The shadows that the so-called many "Central Park supertowers"-to-be will cast onto the city's venerated green lung have stirred up a debate about height limits for buildings. It's a heated topic, so naturally hundreds of people packed a hall at the 42nd Street library last night to hear arguments about what to make of the shadows—and what to do in light of them. Four of the towers are going up on West 57th Street, with three others set to rise nearby: 432 Park Avenue, MoMA's Tower Verre, and the Zeckendorfs' project on 60th Street that will be "like a 15 Central Park West." At the meeting, politicians suggested revising Midtown's zoning laws and making public commentary part of the mandatory review process through which each proposed skyscraper must pass. "The whole issue revolves around zoning," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Brewer built on her case, in part, by recalling her role in a successful campaign to scale down the Time Warner Center to reduce its shadows on Central Park 26 years ago.

    The shadow debate escalated when Community Board 5 organized a "Sunshine" task force late last year to consider them; it organized last night's packed forum. Gary Barnett, chief of mega-developer Extell, which is behind One57 and the Nordstrom Tower, defended his projects, emphasizing the economic returns and job creation the high-end buildings will bring to the city. "This is the wrong issue at the wrong time," he said. He added that the new towers will generally be skinny anyway. "It will be a long, slender shadow," he said. "It will only be for a few minutes." His argument deepened: the shadows won't impact the park's vegetation, and there are already trees that put the south park of the park in shadow during some of the day. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Municipal Art Society shows the longest shadows will stretch from 57th Street to as far as 67th Street across the park at 4pm in the fall. (Shadows are longest in fall and spring.) The report also shows the new shadows would more than double the length of the existing shadows that jut out from the southern end of the park. A landscape architect, Judith Heintz, pointed out that the same problem would not happen along Central Park North. Warren St. John, who wrote New York Times op-ed "Shadows Over Central Park" in October, made a personal plea on stage, telling a story about bringing his daughter to Heckscher Playground when a shadow seemed to make everyone there leave. "It was a very sort of lonely feeling," he said. "Shadows make the park less pleasant." Addressing responses that he was part of a NIMBY group, he explained, "This is about the backyard of New York City. Not any one person's private space." He also touched on a major theme of the night, that of the "select few," or super rich, who will live in these towers at the expense of park-goers who will be—literally—overshadowed. Barnett took offense at the jabs tossed around about the "elite." "We could be a little more inclusive," he said. "There's no reason for us to knock other people." Margaret Newman, MAS's executive director, brought up examples of anti-shadow codes in cities like San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale (warning: PDF!), where buildings at certain heights require shadow review. Architect and urban planner Michael Kwartler noted the NYC's laws  actually do require (warning: another PDF!) a shadow assessment if the shadow will impact a vegetated area. But, he equivocated, "shadows are temperate. They move. ... It depends on the situation."  

    Read more...
  • Playing it cool in New York

    Sharon McHugh reports for World Architecture News. A Brooklyn brownstone receives a successful Passive House makeover. Retrofitting older buildings for contemporary use is a vital part of architectural practice. In the book, Old Buildings New Forms by Monacelli Press (2013), author Francoise Astorg Bollack makes the case that today’s best innovations in architecture are not in new construction but in the reuse of older buildings.  By inserting, wrapping, and weaving new life into older structures one can get transformative results. The Tighthouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn is one such project that makes the case for the remarkable transformation that can occur by reusing older buildings. Designed by Julie Torres Moskovitz  of the environmentally-focused practice Fabrica718, Tighthouse is one of the greenest homes in America and the first certified Passivhaus in New York. In 2012, Torres Moskovitz transformed a 1920s brownstone into an energy efficient and modern machine for living by encasing the exterior walls of a rundown traditional 3-storey brick row house with a new high performance wrapper that has 20inch-thick insulation and an outermost layer of grey stucco, making the formerly 'leaky' house air tight. New triple glazed argon gas Schuco windows add to the buildings already aggressive energy performance while giving the traditional brownstoner a decidedly modern look and remaining sympathetic to the original structure in its detailing and the proportioning of the openings. Inside, each window on the parlor level is sealed with an Intello Plus membrane and Tescon Profill tape. Torres Moskovitz told Dwell magazine, which recently featured the house, that what she has done is akin to 'gift-wrapping'. The interiors of the house are sparse, in part the aesthetic choice of its 'iPhone' generation owners, but also because the construction dollars were spent on crafting the house’s energy efficient envelope. At the rear of the house are large north facing windows - generally an energy-loser in this part of the world - but the energy modeling for the house, which weighs options and trade-offs, allowed the windows to be used with no loss in overall performance and with the additional benefit of directing natural light deep into the core of the house, making for a cheerful interior. The house was completed in 2012. After the first year of occupancy the family of four’s annual heating and cooling costs ($512) are almost a fifth that of similar homes in New York. With Tighthouse, Torres Moskovitz pushed the envelope to deliver unprecedented energy performance in a region that is cold and dark for much of the year while her iPhone-generation clients pushed her to achieve these remarkable results. Prior to meeting her clients, Torres Moskovitz reportedly knew little about passive house standards. Now she is a convert and an expert - being one of the few certified Passive House professionals in North America and the author of The Greenest Home: Superinsulated and Passive House Design published by Princeton Architectural Press (2013).  

    Read more...

SEARCH

CONTACT US
1000 characters left