New York City, a city seriously lacking in space, may not appear to have much wiggle room when it comes to new building projects. From an architect’s eye, however, creativity and forward thinking come together to build amazing spaces that have purpose in the Big Apple. Sustainability remains high on the list of must-haves for upcoming architectural developments using solar technologies, low-energy building methods, and renewable materials whenever possible. The following architectural trends are paving the way for the future of New York City.
The “Skinny Scraper” is on the rise
SHoP Architects, based in New York, is working on a project in Midtown at 111 West 57th Street that will not only be one of the tallest buildings in the city, but one of the skinniest skyscrapers in the world. Set to be complete in 2018, this building will span only 58 feet wide and over 1,400 feet tall. Anything taller than 1,968 is classified as “megatall” and is not permitted in the U.S. Extremely skinny buildings like this one can help New York City’s housing shortage. Due to the decreased amount of space that a narrow building requires, New York can expect to see more of these in the future since the city has available lots of this compact size.
Creative use of unused space
Since New York is known for being one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, getting creative with unused areas is key for architectural success.
An underground terminal, located directly below Delancey Street near the Manhattan bridge, was originally opened in 1908 for trolley passengers until 40 years later when trolley service came to a halt. This space has been unused ever since. Co-Founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch saw this location as the perfect location for the world’s first underground park, Lowline.
Their vision seeks to provide locals and tourists with a tranquil space to take a break from surrounding dense, urban areas. This underground park will come complete with real greenery, places to sit and relax, and artwork. The use of strategically placed light reflectors, solar collectors, and fiber optic cables will provide natural sunlight to this underground environment. When natural sunlight is unavailable, artificial light will come in as the park’s back up lighting plan.
Transforming the 21st Century work environment
Open work environments are increasingly becoming the way to go for creative, collaborative companies. More buildings will be designed specifically with this contemporary need in mind focusing more heavily on how the building will impact its inhabitants rather than the actual building.
Dock72, a winner of the 2016 NYC Award for Excellence in Design, is a 675,000 square foot office building that will bring 4,000 tech and creative start-up jobs to the Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. The building’s design focuses heavily on flexible work environments that will increase employee interaction and allow them to share ideas. Aside from an ideal work environment, Dock72 will be an energy efficient building that aims to be LEED certified.
A wooden alternative
Around the world, skyscrapers are making headlines due to their unique composition. White Arkitekter, a Swedish Architectural firm, won an international design competition challenging contestants to design a mixed-use cultural center and hotel for the Swedish city of Skelleftea. Their submission won due their ability to pay tribute to the area’s timber industry as well as for the design benefits associated with using wood as a building material. The building will be 19 stories and will be the tallest wooden building in Scandinavia. This architectural concept appears in other cities around the world including Melbourne, Australia, Bergen, Norway, and London, England.
While the United States has been slow to this architectural style trend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Softwood Lumber Board created a competition to change that. Two winners will split the $3 million prize money: Portland, Oregon and Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Manhattan’s 10-story, residential condominium building, comprised entirely of wood will bring this innovative approach to the heart of New York City.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) has been the material of choice due to its lightweight and sustainable properties. Wood is significantly lighter than concrete, making transportation easier, while also using less energy. The construction process of timber buildings also saves time and money since pieces can be assembled in a factory ahead of time, then placed into position at the construction site. Rotting isn’t seen as a major issue with wooden skyscrapers since some of the world’s most beautiful, iconic buildings have been built with wood and have held up for 600-700 years.
New York City is often on the forefront of architectural design concepts, but many of these trends can be expected to pop up in other U.S. cities.
From the way city sidewalks are paved to the way parks and buildings are laid out, sustainability projects have changed the way New York City spaces are designed, built, and managed. Parks, in particular, are integral to the New York City landscape and strengthen the social fabric of our city. Established by the City Parks Department in 2010, the New York City Sustainable Parks Task Force is working to advance green initiatives involving 21st century park design and construction.
According to its mission statement, the City’s Sustainable Parks initiative aims to reduce the agency’s carbon footprint as well as “enhance the current and future livability of New York City.” Let’s take a closer look at three New York City parks which are beneficiaries of sustainable projects, some sponsored by the City Parks Department and others in the mold of work the department has accomplished.
Also, check out Natural Area Conservancy’s interactive map of New York City parkland.
The area between 30th and 34th Street overlooking the Hudson river is preparing to become a new landmark in NYC’s sustainable urban landscape with the $20 billion Hudson Yards Project emerging in Chelsea. Not only will the Hudson Yards be a huge project resulting in a complex of open spaces and modern buildings, it will also be a milestone in sustainable building in New York City.
Hudson Yards’ Sustainable Highlights:
→ “Daylight Harvesting” – The installation of automatic dimming technology ensures that artificial lighting in the park complements natural sunlight levels. This not only saves energy, but also creates a more natural lighting environment overall.
→ Occupancy sensors and timers turn off lights in the park whenever and wherever lighting is unnecessary.
→ Smart Energy Conversion allows Hudson Yards to utilize its existing resources more efficiently; eventually, buildings in the park will include elevators powered by permanent magnet motors, which can capture energy expended for braking before regenerating that energy back into the building’s electrical system.
Hunts Point Riverside Park
Hunts Point Riverside Park, a 1.4-acre speck in the South Bronx, opened a few years ago on what had been a filthy, weedy street end. Hunts Point Riverside Park exemplifies how community activism, supportive partners in local government, and thoughtful landscape design can positively transform a neighborhood. Hunts Point, whose development was spearheaded by Sustainable South Bronx, features the city’s only freshwater river in a neighborhood that has historically lacked parks and green space.
Bryant Park was recently cited as a prime example of urban sustainability by The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Over a century old, Bryant Park began deteriorating as early as the 1900s; further renovation attempts in the 1930s and 1940s failed to bring lasting change. Then, in 1979, the main branch of the New York Public Library (which is adjacent to Bryant Park) announced plans for a significant expansion which would include a renovation of the park. Thanks to this project, Bryant Park became an urban oasis once again. Notably, the park functions as the roof for an underground storage area for the NYPL. The park acts as a green roof, reducing energy costs and greenhouse emissions for the building below.
Bryant Park’s Sustainable Highlights:
→ Durable, natural and recycled materials are utilized throughout Bryant Park’s entire design.
→ Paths in the park are paved with salvaged stones. Statues in the park were constructed with salvaged, sustainable, and recycled materials.
→ The park uses two 300-foot-long planters with perennials and evergreens. In addition to adding aesthetic value to Bryant Park, the botanicals function as natural insulation for the New York Public Library’s underground storage facility which sits beneath the park.
Like the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting or Radio City Rockettes, New York City’s impressive window displays are a vital part of the holiday experience. Here in the city, the holiday season doesn’t officially begin until the city’s biggest retailers unveil their annual displays. Since Macy’s debuted the tradition in 1883, the department store window setups have become more intricate and spectacular in their technical design.
In recent years, more retailers have taken advantage of innovative technologies to power their window displays. In 2015, for instance, Barneys New York featured live ice-carving inside their windows, and other high-end retailers have upped their game, too, like when Swarovski used LED technology to mimic diamond jewelry adorning storefront mannequins in2015.
Considering how these displays have evolved into elaborately-planned technological feats, it is especially fitting that the history of department store holiday windows stretches back to the days of the Industrial Revolution. It was then, during the late-1800s, when plate glass became widely available, that store owners were motivated to build large floor-to-ceiling style windows spanning the lengths of their shops.
As a tribute to this New York City tradition and in anticipation of the most wonderful time of the year, let’s take a closer look at famous window displays from New York’s past.
By 1914, Saks Fifth Avenue stirs public intrigue at their flagship location by staging ‘unveiling events’ for their holiday display window. Displays at this time incorporated hydraulic lifts beneath the windows, which allowed teams of artisans to work on new designs out of public view.In 1938, Lord & Taylor eschewed the traditional method of presenting store merchandise in favor of a purely decorative display. The department store hangs gilded bells that swing in sync with recorded sounds of sleigh bells.
In 2015, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology debut a new kind of transparent display technology, which they developed by embedding nanoparticles in glass screens. If the product is marketed to retailers, New Yorkers can expect to see a new class of spectacular display windows in the years to come.
As a nexus of commerce, history, and culture, New York City has no shortage of sites worth visiting. Though they aren’t iconic like the Statue of Liberty, and less traveled-by and touristy than the Freedom Tower, among NYC landmarks, these destinations are among the most underrated.
MoMath – The Museum of Mathematics
The Museum of Mathematics provides a rich sensory experience, showcasing the creative aspects of math as a discipline. MoMath opened in 2012, following the closure of the Long Island Goudreau Museum of Mathematics. The interactive museum is dedicated to a subject that is often discussed, though rarely represented via visual display. Instead of boring visitors with complex formulas and algebraic mumbo-jumbo, MoMath offers a sensory experience of what mathematical abstractions look like in real life. The space is as intellectually stimulating as it is visually mesmerizing.
Frick Bowling Alley
Who knew the Frick had a hidden bowling alley? Built in 1914, the bowling alley is closed off to public because it only has one exit (which is against city fire codes). This gem of NYC features mahogany paneled walls, maple and pine bowling lanes, and a gravity-driven ball return system that is reminiscent of a marble run.
New York Academy of Medicine Rare Book Library
This hidden library of everything physiological contains centuries worth of knowledge about the human body. Created during the mid-1800s as a centralized resource base for NYC doctors, most of the items in the Library’s sprawling catalogue date back to the 15th – 18th centuries. Among the rich leather volumes and brittle papers are rare works by Sigmund Freud, historic works on disease and obstetrics, and famously, a pair of prototype dentures made of real teeth.
Fort Greene Park
Fort Greene Park is considered to be Brooklyn’s First Park. Located at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, the history of the lush, 30-acre park dates back to its use as a Continental Army post during the Revolutionary War. As both the formal burial site of nearly 12,000 American soldiers and a bustling green space for residents of surrounding neighborhoods, Fort Greene Park may be the closest thing to “sacred space” among the chaos of New York City.
New York Botanical Garden
Incorporated by New York State legislature over 100 years ago, The New York Botanical Garden is a major horticultural institution. Founded in 1891, the garden is home to the only freshwater river in the city (the Bronx River), the largest pressed plant herbarium collection in the western hemisphere, and a renowned botanical research center.
City Hall Station, which first opened for public use on October 27, 1904, was New York City’s first subway station. Although subway service to this historic station was discontinued in 1945, interested visitors can still lose themselves in the fine architectural details and glossy aesthetic which adorn the City Hall station. Although the City has stopped offering tours of the historic station due to budget constraints, 6-train riders can still catch a glimpse in passing of the grand tunnel and elegant chandeliers.
Despite what many people think, architects and developers don’t need to compromise their artistic sensibilities in order to construct a sustainable project. Concerns about a building’s environmental impact often take priority over an architect’s own artistic vision of what a building should look like–its form, aesthetics, and spatial design. But this doesn’t have to be the case. These days, more architects, developers, and designers are leveraging structural form to accomplish their sustainability goals. A new cohort of spatially and formally unique projects has emerged; these ‘green’ buildings neither perform or look like anything the real estate industry has seen before.
These days, sacrificing architectural design and style is completely unnecessary; when it comes to aesthetics and sustainability goals, real estate professionals don’t have to compromise. Whether you’re an architect, developer, interior designer, or merely interested in the topic, here are four tips to keep in mind when it comes to constructing beautiful and environmentally-friendly designs.
Work With A Team You Trust
Whether an architect, developer, and contractor work well together can make or break a project. Per a common misconception, architects and designers are concerned primarily with the image and appearance of a building and developers (per the same misconception) don’t appreciate the innovation and design involved in building. This oversimplification is totally false. Increasingly, due to the growth of urban planning and sustainable development, the two roles are intertwined, with sustainable architecture and construction relying on holistic approaches to work projects. To ensure your project achieves its sustainability goals in an intentional way, check in with team members to ensure all are on the same page.
“Passive Design” Strategies
One building trend that’s gaining more attention of late is the use of passive design elements. So-called “passive design” strategies, such as the inclusion of solar chimneys, trombe walls, overhangs, and the orientation of a building for solar concerns, rely on intentional arrangement and placement–as opposed to technology–to complement and respond to their physical environment. Other passive design techniques include the use of adjustable openings (to create a pressure differential) to encourage cross-ventilation and designing structures with U-, E-, and H-shaped plans and tall ceilings.
Depending on the climate and weather patterns of a building’s location, innovative insulation and construction materials can be leveraged to accommodate extreme conditions. In colder regions, for example, some new buildings are creatively using glass blocks that contain opaque thermal mass to create new forms of day-lit office space.
Embrace Mother Nature
Mother nature has a lot to teach us when it comes to sustainable form and architecture. Biodesign, an exciting new discipline which integrates functional ideas that are present in nature, zeroes in on the natural world for sustainable inspiration. Biodesign projects are re-imagining the relationship between buildings and nature. Design strategies that are already mainstream–such as landscaping and extensive planting–could also double as a climate change-mitigating action. Incorporating nature into sustainable architectural design shows a lot of promise and potential when it comes to engineering sustainable building solutions.
Historic buildings add character, history, and aesthetic value to cities. Fifty one years after New York City created its groundbreaking 1965 landmark law to preserve older structures (the law was a response to the razing of the original Penn Station), historic preservation continues to be a relevant topic in New York City.
Many people don’t realize that older buildings can be just as sustainable, if not more so, than new ones. By leveraging new technology and the human imagination, older structures can be adapted in ways that increase their energy efficiency while preserving their historic value. From functional design strategies to lighting and insulation upgrades, here are three strategies and ideas for developers who are interested in sustainable preservation to explore:
Make a concerted effort to incorporate new technologies that are multi-functional. Air conditioning and heating systems which are connected to the Internet can provide useful feedback can save money and energy energy in the long run. Before installing new plumbing fixtures in a building, research your options. These days, the market is flooded with new fixtures and systems that are designed with water conservation in mind!
Strengthening the connection between nature and the built environment is a recurring theme in sustainable preservation. Implementing green design elements within an historic building is easier than most people think. Consider outfitting your building’s roof with natural vegetation, or a rooftop garden; installing a green roof not only improved your building’s energy use, it adds natural beauty to your building structure, too.
Make intentional choices when it comes to selecting source materials and ensure measures and processes are in place to keep waste generation to a minimum. It can be counterproductive to use extraordinary amounts of new materials to construct energy efficient buildings.
The idea of sustainable preservation is not new, but the subject continues to be relevant as urban populations increase. It’s important for those in the real estate and development industry to understand to consider the intrinsic value of historic places and how that value can complement environmental and social landscapes of cities. When historic communities maximize their energy efficiency potential, everybody wins.