New York City has gained a reputation for its soaring towers thanks to unprecedented engineering technologies and New York’s air-rights policy, which permits developers to acquire neighboring unused airspace and construct large structures without any type of previous public review. But how are these super tall skyscrapers being accommodated? By replacing older existing structures. This out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new pattern comes as no surprise, as the “concrete jungle” is gradually being axed to make room for an even larger jungle.
The Grand Hyatt Hotel, originally known as the Commodore Hotel, was designed by Warren & Wetmore in 1919, and housed the “most beautiful lobby in the world”. The once Beaux-Arts style architecture, with its brick and stone facade, was renovated and run by Trump Organization and Hyatt Hotels in the early 1970s, and clad with reflective glass and metal, concealing the structure’s original design. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the structure will undergo an even bigger renovation, as it will be completely demolished, to be replaced with a taller structure of 2 million square feet.
The hotel is not the first project to suffer demolition on the account of erecting a newer, larger one. JPMorgan Chase’s 270 Park Avenue Office Tower will also be facing complete demolition within these two years to be replaced with a new 70-storey tower, built for the same purpose. L&L’s new 47-storey office building on 425 Park Avenue was also a result of a demolition scheme, however, old zoning roles in the city motivated the project’s developer to preserve 25% of the existing structure, in return for greater square footage.
Although the demolition of old buildings is not restricted by any official policy or regulation yet, it has already sparked the public’s uproar. DOCOMOMO (Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sights, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) was among the first to oppose the replacement of existing buildings, citing “sustainability” as the main concern. New York City’s Walther Collection will be hosting a photography exhibition titled: Destruction and Transformation: Vernacular Photography and the Built Environment, showcasing the city’s urban demolition movement.
The hyperreal r enderings predicting New York City's skyline in 2018 are coming to life as the city's wealth physically manifests into the next generation of skyscrapers. Just like millennials and their ability to kill whole industries singlehandedly, we are still fixated on the supertalls: how tall, how expensive, how record-breaking?