Brookfield Properties is beginning their $680 million platform over the existing Amtrak Hudson Yards, which will be home to Manhattan West, a development containing two office buildings, a residential building, and 1.5 acres of public space.
The internets are ablaze – mostly with scorn – over two different planned communities which have attracted attention after the Newtown, CT shooting: the Citadel and Glenn Beck’s Independence USA. The former is planned to:
…house between 3,500 and 7,000 patriotic American families who agree that being prepared for the emergencies of life and being proficient with the American icon of Liberty — the Rifle — are prudent measures. There will be no HOA (ed – Home Owner’s Association). There will be no recycling police and no local ordinance enforcers from City Hall.
While Independence, USA would combine Disney World with what appears to be Celebration, FL (also by Disney):
While Independence is very much a dream at this point, the proposed city-theme park hybrid would bring several of Glenn’s seemingly disconnected projects into one place. Media, live events, small business stores, educational projects, charity, entertainment, news, information, and technology R&D – all of these things would have a home in Independence. With the rest of the country and the world going away from the values of freedom, responsibility and truth, Independence would be a place built on the very foundation of those principles. A retreat from the world where entrepreneurs, artists, and creators could come to put their ideas to work. A place for families to bring their children to be inspired.
Some may scorn, but I say: more power to you.
America has a great and rich history of groups of people coming together to found communities which share their combined values. The various Shakertown’s – such as Pleasant Hill, Kentucky – which dot Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky are but one example of 19th Century utopia settlements founded by the Religious Society of Friends. Another great one is New Harmony, Indiana founded by a pietist, communal German religious group, known as Harmonists, Harmonites or Rappites in 1814. The Village of Mariemont, Ohio is a suburb of Cincinnati and was built in the 1920s by Mary Emery and exhibits English architecture from Norman to classic Georgian style. And you can’t forget any contemporary suburban gated community. Americans just love to build these things.
That isn’t to say these experiments are a always success. Only one or two Shakers remain alive today (since as part of their religion they decided not to procreate), and the Harmonists were really a band of indentured servants for leader George Rapp; who eventually sold New Harmony to move back to Pennsylvania. Mariemont is still a pretty little suburban town, and well, Trayvon Martin.
What is interesting in many of these cases, is the perceived need to isolate the group from the “other” in order to maintain discipline, security, or order. Also unsurprising, is the retro and nostalgic tone of both developments: both look to old Germanic town centers, and in the Citadel’s case explicitly showcase Rothenburg, Germany:
What is objectionable about the Citadel is their total lack of being prepared to run a corporation (which a town is): they claim to require no credit check, no background check, zero down payment, zero interest, and zero property taxes. This is not a way to operate a going concern, even if you want to maintain “Liberty-driven freedom derived by Thomas Jefferson’s Rightful Liberty.”
Services cost money, and people are greedy, lazy, and willing to look the other way. If you want to see what a libertarian playground would look like, head over to Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, India:
In this city that barely existed two decades ago, there are 26 shopping malls, seven golf courses and luxury shops selling Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs shimmer in automobile showrooms. Apartment towers are sprouting like concrete weeds, and a futuristic commercial hub called Cyber City houses many of the world’s most respected corporations.
To compensate for electricity blackouts, Gurgaon’s companies and real estate developers operate massive diesel generators capable of powering small towns. No water? Drill private borewells. No public transportation? Companies employ hundreds of private buses and taxis. Worried about crime? Gurgaon has almost four times as many private security guards as police officers.
Urbanity takes shared sacrifice which extends past ideology, right into your pocketbook and your daily actions. These experiments don’t even realize this, and will fail much like the hippie communes of the 1960′s/70′s.
The 45-story Torre David office tower in Caracas, Venezuela, was nearly complete in the early 1990s when a pair of events changed the building’s trajectory forever: First, the project’s developer, David Brillembourg, died in 1993. Then, the next year, Venezuela’s economy cratered. Torre David, about 90% finished at the time, was abandoned–as both a project and a property. Electrical infrastructure had not yet been installed. The lower stories were still missing finished flooring, sewage pipes, and paint. Large slabs of marble meant for a luxury hotel on the first six floors had been carted into the building but never installed.
As you all know, I’ve been obsessed about Peter Eisenman’s Aronoff Center for Design and Art Facade replacement project, which has ballooned to a $10 million facade renovation. So it’s nice that I can cyberstalk the DAAP building via webcam to see how they are fixing the facade. I think after total cost of initial construction and renovation, the university should have committed to a better facade construction system in the beginning instead of renovating the building every five years.
They should keep the building the grey, as shown in the above webcam capture.
Facebook wants us to know that its values are Gehry’s values. Further evidence of a creative mindmeld: Gehry works in a warehouse; later, we hear that this design that so shares Facebook’s values will be like a “warehouse.” Facebook isn’t just saying we really get along with our architect. It’s identifying the type of creativity that it takes to run and grow a successful social media company with the type of creativity it takes an artistically serious architect like Gehry to design a building. The comment about wooden models is also a gesture at the valuation of craft — a central part of the artist’s work – that puts it on par with “state-of-the-art” software. Why might Facebook want to associate itself with tactility, with craft, and with the physical world — all those things that the Internet has been accused of disappearing?
BigMediaMatt has a good tick-tock about The Logic Behind The $7 Billion Washington Union Station Renovation Proposal prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff | HOK (Union Station Master Plan Executive Summary):
The plan comes essentially from the conjunction of two separate issues. One is that way back in 2002, Akridge paid a considerable amount of money for the right to build a platform over a lot of these Union Station tracks. Atop the platform will sit a bunch of buildings, as well as a reconnection of the currently disrupted street grid. That will include a renovation of the existing H Street Bridge, which is currently quite old and in need of some form of replacement.
The money for all this work is separate from the Master Plan proposal and would all come from Akridge. But once this is done, it will become practically impossible to ever move the Union Station tracks.
Amtrak/MARC/VRE’s contention, however, is that moving the tracks would be highly desirable. Why? Because they want to make the platforms wider. Why do they want to do that? For starters, they say the existing 18 foot platforms aren’t compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act and National Fire Protection Association guidelines for safety. New train stations are normally constructed with platforms in the 25-30 foot width range. The practical transportation capacity issue here is that the current platforms are allegedly too narrow to let passengers be getting on/off of the tracks on both sides of the platform simultaneously. Wider platforms allow for simultaneous boarding allow for greater capacity.
Contra to Kevin Drum, this isn’t necessarily just about widening the platforms for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is certainly part of the project’s goals:
Queues of departing Amtrak passengers form a halfhour before boarding begins and routinely extend into the public concourse, blocking flows. Additionally, the tracks and platforms do not comply with modern design standards, including the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the emergency egress standards of life safety codes. The mixing of train servicing activities with passengers – both concentrated at the same end of the platforms – creates circulation bottlenecks that will worsen as passenger volumes increase.
The project’s goals are to increase capacity and reconnect the station with the surrounding neighborhood. Done correctly, and you get Grand Central Terminal, poorly and you get Penn Station. The estimated $7 billion (2012 dollars) is steep for what seems to be a project designed to allow a private developer to maximize profits and to increase capacity. I don’t see why the developer can’t chip in some of the cost of the overall project, as they are the ones who will reap the single biggest reward.
The biggest problem with this project is that for $7 billion you don’t get any additional capacity and speed between city pairs (DC-Baltimore, DC-Philadelphia, DC-NYC) isn’t increased at all. If I was king, I would spend that money on upgrading the Northeast Corridor in order to increase the overall train speed, including improving regional and commuter rail. This is also the problem withe Penn Station renovation plans: they are undoubtably very pretty, but ultimately less useful than making trains go fast.
My favorite buildings in Chicago are by Bertrand Goldberg, architect of slightly eccentric buildings throughout the Windy City including the Marina City Towers, River City and Prentice Women’s Hospital on Northwestern University’s Medical Campus in the heart of Chicago. A few years ago the university moved out of the building and it has sat vacant. Northwestern University has recently made rumblings about demolishing the building to make way for a newer – and probably more bland – building. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a Save Prentice Petition asking you to “Show Prentice Some Love.”