Does a developer have any obligation to undo the ills of the past?
That was the rather existential debate that took place at the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this month, as commissioners debated the merits of a proposal to transform Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. While the designs by SHoP Architects were roundly applauded, and ultimately won unanimous approval, many commissioners lamented the fact that the current mall was being replaced with a new one, rather than something less commercial or even nothing at all, just a wide-open public pier.
“There’s lots of proof in Manhattan that a shopping mall never works, but nevertheless, there’s a developer who insists they have the right formula for this shopping mall to finally work, so I guess within the context of that, then the question really is—is the architecture appropriate for the Seaport?” commissioner Margery Perlmutter said.
Commissioner Fred Bland felt so strongly about the issue, including the destruction of the notable-for-its-time Ben Thompson-designed mall, that he had composed his comments earlier that day, something he said had only happened twice before in his four years on the commission (for St. Vincent’s and “for the infamous mosque”).
Over the past two decades, SHoP Architects has succeeded through unconventional means. The downtown firm has invested in its own projects to ensure creative control, and not a little profit. It has partnered with manufacturers to create cutting-edge materials for its buildings. It has designed some of the more striking projects in the city, from the Porter House in the Meatpacking District to the East River Esplanade stretching from the Battery to the Upper East Side.
Now, looking to expand its practice beyond unconventional buildings into unconventional cities, SHoP has added a new partner to the firm, professor skyscraper Vishaan Chakrabarti. Chair of Columbia’s real estate development program, the Center for Urban Real Estate, Mr. Chakrabarti has helped transform the way many New Yorkers think about their city and others, and now he wants to get back in on the act of building them.
“SHoP reinvented the practice of architecture, and with my coming here, we’re going to reinvent urbanism,” Mr. Chakrabarti said in an interview this morning. “It’s about how a building meets the city, how it meets the grid, the transit system, public space, basically how a building meets the world.”
The news keeps trickling out about the redevelopment of the South Street Seaport, now that the Howard Hughes Corp. has spun off from the no-longer-bankrupt General Growth Properties. The new company, led by wily Bill Ackman, was created pretty much for the explicit purpose of redeveloping a number of nascent mixed-use projects General Growth Read More
General Growth Properties plans for the South Street Seaport appeared sunk when the retail giant filed for bankruptcy last year. All was not lost at sea, though, as lead architect Gregg Pasquarelli, of SHoP Architects, told The Observer back in September: “We assume the Seaport will be going forward at some point. We Read More
On the southwest corner of the intersection of Mulberry and Houston streets, a dapper golden toddler presides over the flow of cars and people, perched on the handsome Romanesque Puck building. For the last 20 months, his view has included the rising 290 Mulberry, a new brick creation that shares nothing Read More