The New York City Cantilever: If You Can’t Go Up, Go Out

35XV Residences. Image Courtesy of

’s notoriously space-hungry real estate market is converting the cantilever – perhaps made most famous in Frank Lloyd Wright’s floating Fallingwater residence of 1935 – from a mere move of architectural acrobatics to a profit-generating design feature. Driven by a “more is more” mantra, developers and architects are using cantilevers to extend the reach of a building, creating unique vistas and extended floor space in a market in which both are priced at sky-high premiums.

SOHO China’s Zhang Xin on Balancing Design and Commercial Viability

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The list of architects that have collaborated with Zhang Xin’s development company, SOHO China, reads like the roster of an architectural dream team (which includes Zaha Hadid, Yung Ho Chang, Bjarke Ingels, Kengo Kuma, Kazuyo Sejima, Herzog & de Meuron, Thom Mayne, David Adjaye, Toyo Ito and others). So it’s no surprise that the self-made billionaire lectured to a packed house at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design last Thursday. Xin spoke about her commitment to and love of design, explaining that her company’s mission is to bring a variety of architectural languages to China. And though SOHO’s projects are certainly experimental, Xin contends that her developer mindset actually helps meliorate the architect’s propensity to take the experiment too far—all without sacrificing the impressive and iconic forms of SOHO’s building portfolio.

Watch Zhang Xin link her practice in real estate to larger global issues and catch a glimpse of two Zaha Hadid-designs currently under construction: Wangjing SOHO and Sky SOHO.

Is NYC “Landmarking Away” Its Future?

Midtown West; Courtesy of Flickr User David Boeke, Licensed via Creative Commons

A recent study by the Board of New York (REBNY) concluded that by preserving 27.7% of buildings in Manhattan, “the city is landmarking away its economic future.” REBNY is challenging the Landmarks Preservation Commission, arguing it has too much power when it comes to planning decisions, and that by making business so difficult for developers it is stifling the growth of the city.

Yet not three days before releasing this study, president of REBNY Steve Spinola said in an interview with WNYC that “if you ask my members, they will tell you [the twelve years of Mayor Bloomberg's tenure] has been a great period of time for them”. The conclusion of WNYC is that the past decade has actually been a period of increased growth for developers, rather than a period of stagnation.

It would be easy to echo the opinion of Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, who believes the actions of REBNY come down to greed, even comparing its members to Gordon Gekko, the anti-hero of the film Wall Street. But is greed really what’s behind this attack on the ? Find out after the break.

Local Economies Suffer as Foreign Investments Dominate London and NYC

Belgravia, one of ’s priciest and most deserted neighborhoods © Herry Lawford

An interesting phenomenon is taking place in London: the priciest tiers of its housing market are increasingly being driven by overseas investment, primarily from the Far East. The most interesting – and perhaps most concerning – aspect of these investments is that at least 37% those who buy property in the most expensive neighborhoods of central London do not intend to use that property as a primary residence. This results in upscale neighborhoods and residential properties that are largely abandoned and contribute almost nothing to the local economy of the city. Parts of Manhattan are experiencing similar behavior, leading us to ask the question “what is happening to our cities as they become more and more globalized and how will this trend affect city economies around the world?”

Read more after the break…

Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City Planning?

.GOV – Department of Planning

“Let’s dump the word “zoning,” as in zoning ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but zoning increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.” - Roger K. Lewis 

Zoning, a concept just over a century old, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth.  Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that city planning is pushing a zoning transformation that reflects the current and future goals and needs of city building.  To determine how zoning and land use needs to evolve we must first assess the intentions of future city building.  

Planners, architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and livability.  For example, the AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. New York City has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution. In addition, Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens and it is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.  

So what is it about current zoning codes that makes it so outdated?  Follow us after the break for more.

KA-CHING: New Thoughts on the Value of Green

Harpoon House, a simple efficient home in that’s expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The 28-foot tall home has one bedroom, one bathroom, a root cellar, and a roof garden. Photo by Matt Kirkpatrick at www.idwellingdeisgn.com.

PORTLAND–A recent study by Portland-based Earth Advantage Institute reveals that and LEED certification for new and existing homes not only saves money but might also raise resale value. The study, conducted over four years in the six-county Portland metropolitan area, found that newly constructed homes with third-party certifications for sustainability and energy efficiency sold for 8% more on average than non-certified homes, and existing homes with certifications sold for 30% more. A similar study was also conducted Seattle, showing 9.6% price premium with certification. While the results are inconclusive, they are compelling.

From the Washington Post Writers Group VIA Los Angeles Times:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/28/business/la-fi-harney-20110828