Saturday, December 07, 2019

Tall buildings are leaving cities in darkness – These architects have a radical fix

As blogged on, at 4 p.m. on a bright spring day, if you’re positioned along the High Line, you’ll feel the sun’s rays beating down on you. This makes sense—the High Line is an elevated outdoor park exposed to the elements—but sunshine isn’t a guarantee here. The High Line cuts through the heart of New York City’s booming westside development, bookended by high-profile buildings like Renzo Piano’s Whitney Museum of Art and the gleaming towers of Hudson Yards with lots of new construction in between to block the sun from the popular pedestrian walk.

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Bound by water on all sides, New York City has always been forced to grow vertically; but this stretch of land along Manhattan’s West Side Highway is becoming a fortress of glass and concrete as developers eye its waterside proximity. At this particular location along the High Line—between 13th and 14th Streets—the park is mostly boxed in by glassy towers. The park’s gardening zone, the Washington Grasslands and Woodland Edge, is filled with light-loving prairie grasses and perennials like little bluestem and coneflower that increasingly don’t see the sun.

“We’re pretty sure that all the plants there would have died if we had done the as-of-right massing,” says Weston Walker, design principal and partner at the architecture firm Studio Gang.

He’s telling me this on a cloudy spring afternoon while standing at the eighth floor windows of the firm’s newly opened office building, 40 Tenth Avenue. In front of us, the High Line snakes past The Standard Hotel and cuts between two tall glass buildings. Like its neighbors, Gang’s 10-story structure is built from steel, glass, and concrete, but as Walker hinted, there’s something noticeably different about it.

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