Street Fighters Too
Ever get lost in the city before? Of course not! You’re a real New Yorker.
But according to the city’s Department of Transportation, one out of 10 of us gets lost every week based on department surveys. “And those one the ones who would admit it to us,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told The Observer. The department also found that one in three New Yorkers couldn’t say which was was north and one in four out-of-towners could not say which of the five boroughs they were in when asked.
To help with this confusion, the city will begin installing 150 wayfinding signs in four city neighborhoods starting in March. Midtown, Chinatown, Long Island City and Prospect Heights and Western Crown Heights will all be getting the new signs, which include major local landmarks and destination, all streets and estimated walking times, since the focus is on helping pedestrians get around town.
Street Fighters Too
Michael Bierut is one of the most renowned designers in the world. As a principal at Pentagram, he has created logos, identities and campaigns for everyone from United Airlines to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Citibank to New York and The Atlantic, Saks Fifth, Princeton and Yale, even Walt Disney and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for which he designed an updated “doomsday clock.”
Still, one of the greatest typographical minds of our time could never make sense of the city’s parking signs.
“On the occasions I drive and try to park on the street, I tend to get as confused as anyone,” explained Mr. Bierut, who lives in Westchester and normally takes Metro-North into the city. “I have received many tickets and been towed twice. I am so paranoid now that I will park in a garage for even a 15-minute errand.”
Perhaps now he can start parking on the street again.
At today’s press conference unveiling the new and improved parking signs for Midtown, quite a few reporters questioned the actual need for redesigning the street signs. Both Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and City Councilman Dan Garodnick said they had received complaints about the old signs and agreed they required “a PhD in traffic” to decipher.
Among those flunking out on their TCATs? None other than the brilliant Louis C.K.
2012 in review
It has been an exciting year for architecture in the city, with bold projects unveiled and getting underway: the new Cornell tech campus by Thom Mayne and SOM, a vastly re-imagined (and boldly so) Hudson Yards and modular housing getting off the ground at Atlantic Yards.
But in terms of actual new, completed projects, 2012 has been a lean year. This is largely the fault of the recession. Downturns tend to stifle development generally, but especially when the heart of the slow down is a real estate bubble. Design can actually be at its best just after the bubble bursts, and the gaudiest visions are getting wrapped up. And so, there are no Frank Gehry towers or Diller, Scofidio + Renfro cultural confections this year.
Best Laid Plans
In this week’s Observer, we take a look at two proposals to widen the Park Avenue median and turn it into a pedestrian promenade. One is from SHoP Architects, one SOM, both presented at last month’s MAS Summit. Part High Line, part art walk, the hope is it would create an entirely new destination on the East Side of Manhattan, providing much needed open space along the way. Take a stroll for yourself and decide.
If King Kong were to swing into New York sometime this decade, he might actually have a hard time figuring out where to go.
In the original 1933 black-and-white classic, King Kong famously scales the two-year-old Empire State Building, cementing it in the conscience of the world as arguably its most famous skyscraper. Four decades later, the giant gorilla set his sights higher, standing astride the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Today, perhaps he might climb atop their succesor, the new 1 World Trade Center. But one gets the sense that King Kong is given to gigantism, so only the city’s tallest tower will do.
Until a few months ago, that would have been 1 World Trade. But since 432 Park Avenue began to rise skyward in April, the 1,397-foot condo tower developed by Harry Macklowe and CIM on the old Drake Hotel site would have claimed the skyline crown. It beats out its downtown rival by 29 feet, so long as one ignores the silly 400-foot sorta spire atop 1 World Trade. Should King Kong arrive sometime in 2014, this slinky tower would probably be his choice.
But a year or two after that, and he might turn his gaze further down 57th Street, past the already striking 1,005-foot One57 tower, Gary Barnett’s billionaire bauble nearing completion despite that crane accident. There it would settle on another tower being developed by Mr. Barnett, at 225 West 57th Street, just one block from what was already going to be the city’s tallest apartment building when it opens next year. The new tower’s height, according to building permits filed last week: 1,550 feet.
In this week’s Observer we go inside City Hall’s quiet program to create a new disaster housing model to house New Yorkers displaced by the next superstorm or some other unforeseen catastrophe. Because of New York’s dense urban environment, any disaster housing would have to be big, in order to accommodate lots of residents, but also compact, since there is not much room to build these things.
The city has so far hit upon the novel idea of using shipping containers to house the displaced, stacking prefabricated modules one on top of another. It is an innovative model the likes of which are untested worldwide, but already one company has built a prototype in South Jersey, and the city is prepared to test out some version of it as early as next year. So please, step inside what could be your apartment for a year or two after the next big one hits.
The MAS Summit has been going on for the past two days, and it has been a cornucopia of delights for the city-obsessed, full of zany proposals for affordable housing, green buildings, starchitecture, community-based development and a giant floating doughnut hovering over Grand Central. But so far the most thrilling moment was deliver by The Times‘ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman during a discussion capping day one with the Municipal Art Society’s president, Vin Cipolla.
The two of them basically meandered through a bunch of Mr. Kimmelman’s columns from his first year on the job, and the first question was about Penn Station, when the critic had the audacity to tell the Dolans to scram. He still believes it is one of the most pressing planning issues in the city all these months after he wrote the piece. “I think there’s a hunger to do something about this site, which I think is a blight on millions of people’s lives every single day,” Mr. Kimmelman explained.
Silicon Alley U
When technology changes at the speed of a microprocessor or the flicker of a screen, in the time it takes to type in a password or hit send on an email, how can buildings be created to contain all this light-speed innovation? That is the quandry confronting the architects designing Cornell and Technion University’s news campus on Roosevelt Island.
“Google didn’t exist 25 years ago, Facebook didn’t exist 25 years ago, even AOL didn’t exist 25 years ago,” Andrew Winters said on a recent afternoon. The director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech, he was giving a preview of the the school’s proposed Roosevelt Island campus in a large conference room inside the Wall Street offices of SOM, the master planners for the 12.5-acre project. Thom Mayne, the Pritzker Prize-winning L.A. architect designing the first academic building on the campus was also present, along with a number of other Cornell construction executives.
“The challenge,” Mr. Winters continued, “is how do you create a tech campus today that is still flexible enough to grow and evolve for the next 25 years?”
on the waterfront
Last week, +POOL, that brilliant, crazy, possibly over-designed, possibly perfectly designed project that places a floating, self-filtering pool in the East River announced it was going to try and raise $1 million in the next six months to make its aquatic dreams come true. It is a prospect, which makes The Observer giddy with child-like joy. Swimming in the river, in river water no less.
That youthful excitement is infectious, especially when talking to Dong-Ping Wong, one +POOL’s founders. “It’s a simple idea that didn’t really come from anywhere,” he explained in an interview. “As for ‘Why the idea?’ It was a combination of a few things, a hot and sweaty summer looking at the water, taking the train over the water, and riding my bike over the water but never really seeing it at all. I’m from San Diego, we use and view water very differently than we do from here.”