Monday, May 29, 2017

Rogers to Plan revised Distrito Castellano Norte in Madrid

Model and rendering from El País, May 22, 2017

Rogers Stirk Harbour+Partners will design the urban plan for a major new expansion of Madrid known as Distrito Castellana Norte.

There is still very little information on this move, the latest in the long history of the proposal to cover the tracks of the Chamartín Train Station with a massive development of housing and offices.  But El País interviews Richard Rogers and his associated Simon Smithson on their basic ideas for their plan, still in an early stage (Smithson is son of Peter and Alison Smithson, and Project Architect for Madrid's Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport).

An earlier plan for the area by urban designer José María Ezquiaga was commissioned by the city of Madrid under former mayors of the conservative Popular Party (PP). This plan was on hold for many years due in large part to the economic crisis of 2008. But now the Madrid real estate market is returning to life, particularly in the area of prime office space, and the city wants to position itself to cash in on the fallout of Brexit, and make itself attractive to London financial institutions looking to relocate business inside the European Union.

The current city government, under a coalition of new left-wing parties, rejected the high density of the Ezquiaga plan. But it is under considerable pressure to get the project moving, and it is now in negotiations with the regional government of Madrid (PP) and the BBVA Bank, which controls the development rights for the project, for its revision. And this is the point where Rogers comes in.

Pablo Guimón
"El arquitecto Richard Rogers y su socio Simon Smithson, al frente del plan Distrito Castellana Norte, dialogan sobre la ambiciosa intervención urbanística en la capital"
El País, May 22, 2017

Comments received

Juan Manuel Fernández Alonso
May 31 at 5:44pm
David Cohn, la historia es bastante más extensa y con más actores. La densidad cuestionada no proviene del plan parcial Ezquiaga 2011 sino de la modificación del plan general en 2002, definida tras un primer máster plan de Bofill, destinada a sufragar infraestructuras urbanas adicionales a cargo de la operación. Entre medias hubo otro plan parcial 2004 sin tramitar. En 2015 no llegó a termino el plan parcial elaborado por RH arquitectos. Los tres tienen la misma intensidad edificatoria: 3'2 millones de m2 edificables con cerca de 17.000 viviendas. Entre medias algunas sentencias judiciales. Hoy se debate la intensidad que puede soportar el ámbito; las cargas infraestructurales asociadas a aquella y las que deben asumir los presupuestos de las distintas administraciones - autonómica, estatal y local- no los tejidos urbanos; la inconveniencia de prolongar la Castellana en el borde del casco histórico de Fuencarral; la posición del nuevo CBD en torno a la estación de Chamartín; la cualidad del nuevo tejido urbano y el modelo de gestión para una actuación de esa envergadura y duración. Veremos.

David Cohn
May 31 at 9:15pm
Gracias por tu explicación tan extendida. La verdad es que la entrevista no explica nada de nada. ¡Había olvidadao del primer plan de Bofill! El asunto merece un seguimiento más serio en los medios.

Juan Manuel Fernández Alonso
May 31 at 9:20pm
Es cierto. Es una operación muy compleja, con fuertes intereses cruzados actuando sobre la definición de nuevos tejidos urbanos en un contexto difícil. El largo tiempo empleado por todos los agentes participantes hasta ahora impide una mirada abierta para encontrar una buena solución de largo alcance temporal y territorial.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Billionaires' Row

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All photos DC unless noted

Pictures from a recent trip to New York

Rafael Viñoly's pencil tower as seen from 57th Street. I still like it. Well-resolved facades - direct, elegant, no nonsense, no shame. Looks good --or at least commands attention-- from all over town and the region. Very New York. A crowd of these? Art history teachers always liked San Gimignano, right?  And income disparity is nothing new in New York.

Another plus: it makes Trump Tower look small.

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Each window measures approximately 10 x 10 feet. Interiors by Deborah Berke:

Double-height technical floors are open to lessen wind loads, breezes pass through them. There is an elaborate system of dampers and floor slabs have added mass on upper floors to lower oscillating movement under wind pressure:

Portzamparc's tower on West 57th, with its fussy glass skin is, as Viñoly has said, "horrendous".
56 Leonard Street by Herzog & de Meuron
Herzog & de Meuron, 56 Leonard Street. Source: Dezeen

 A summary of star-architect designed projects underway in New York from January 2016, including three by Herzog & de Meuron and one by Álvaro Siza:

An inside look at the tower by Viñoly and Herzog & de Meuron's Leonard Street tower in Tribeca:
Justin Davidson
"Fancy Prisons for Billionaires Are Reshaping the Manhattan Skyline"
New York Magazine,  May 9, 2017

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Photo: Jeff English
 Bjark Ingel's West 57th Street rental block: I took a stroll with my friend Jeff around the finished building.  The impact from the street is brutal. You see how cheaply it is thrown together. On the back side on West 58th Street the ground floor is full of floor-height mechanical louvers, and on 57th the aluminum-framed storefront glazing isn't much better. Though at least this facade got some sunshine. A design for the distant view - and the media view.

The idea of living there isn't very appealing. Too much like a beehive, you imagine the warren of narrow corridors on every floor, and the little studios and one-bedrooms. Like an over-dimensioned college dorm or, inevitably, decks of a cruise ship.

The location is not attractive except for the river views for the best units, but that's nothing new on Manhattan's formerly industrial and fast-developing Hudson River environs.

More on this project in my blog entry of May 12, 2015

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Food truck in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Who needs art?

New Jersey skyline from Battery Park City. A mess. I wonder what walking around Hoboken is like nowadays.

Pier 32

Central Park Reservoir. The last time I was here (1980s?), the fence was chain link. The transformation of Central Park is amazing.

Posing for bridal photos in Central Park's Conservatory Garden. Future husband looks on.

Previous post on my New York visit:
Postcard from New York

Monday, May 1, 2017

Land-grab in Moscow

Source: CityLab / AP

El Pais recently published an article by their excellent Moscow correspondent, Pilar Bonet, on the plans of Mayor Sergey Sobyanin to demolish 8,000 housing blocks from the Khrushchev era and replace them with new buildings, re-housing some 1.6 million people.

Coverage of this story in the English-language press has not mentioned the fears that current residents have of being shortchanged – that they will lose the green spaces and good services they currently enjoy and end up in high-rise "anthills" on the periphery lacking basic services. Critics warn that the plans are being hastily pushed through with little control, and are open to abuses. Neighbors are currently organizing to protect their rights in this massive operation. 

As in China, a political-economic-military oligarchy feeds off the population, Matrix-style, using them at will to increase its fortune and power. A demented new Feudalism.

In London too, public housing estates are being robbed from poor residents by local councils and profiteers.

Are we headed in the same direction in the US (Trump, healthcare)? Or are we already there? When will the pressure of rising land values in New York tempt the local government to sell off and demolish its wealth of public housing?

A women watches as excavator and workers demolish a five storey Khrushchyovka building in Moscow
Demolition of a Khrushchev-era housing block last October. Source; BBC / EPA

Pilar Bonet 
El Pais, April 28, 2017 

Mark Byrnes  
CityLab, The Atlantic, March 8, 2017 

BBC News, February 22, 2017