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Critical Round-Up: Hudson Yards

Critical Round-Up: Hudson Yards
Critical Round-Up: Hudson Yards, Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

New York City’s Hudson Yards has opened its doors to the public, and the reviews are flooding in. Built on Midtown Manhattan’s West Side, the project is New York’s largest development to date and the largest private real estate venture in American history, covering almost 14 acres of land with residential towers, offices, plazas, shopping centers, and restaurants. A host of architecture firms have shaped the development, including BIG, SOM, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Rockwell Group, and many others.

Read on to find out how critics have responded to Hudson Yards so far.

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford + 15

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

“It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 percent.” – Michael Kimmelman, New York Times

Following the same interactive style review of the Whitney back in 2015, New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman discusses why Hudson Yards has become a gated community in Manhattan. Among the many apparent problems he highlighted, from Heatherwick's "waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere" and towers that appear as "crowded perfume bottles vying for attention in a department store window display", Kimmelman touches on the role of urban design and how the success of a neighborhood comes down to what’s happening at street level.

A relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid. From a distance the project may remind you of glass shards on top of a wall. It offers 14 acres of public open space in return for privatizing the last precious undeveloped parcel of significant size in Manhattan. But the open space looks like it may end up being mostly a fancy drive-through drop-off for the shopping mall, a landscaped plaza overshadowed by office towers and, for the coming western yards, a scattering of high-rise apartment buildings around a lawn — in effect, a version of a 1950s towers-in-the-park housing complex, except designed by big-name architects.

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

“Behind the scenes, this city-within-a-city is designed like a fortress.” – Peter Grant, Wall Street Journal

Peter Grant, Wall Street Journal's editor in charge of commercial real estate coverage, looks at how Hudson Yards is designed with natural and man-made disasters in mind. He touches on how developers learned from past events to create resilient design elements, including a power system that that could withstand a citywide blackout, a rainwater collection system, and underground “submarine doors” that could be sealed to protect against storm surges.

The $25 billion project on Manhattan’s west side features office towers, thousands of apartments, a giant mall and green spaces designed to attract people with light and airy architecture. But behind the scenes, this city-within-a-city is designed like a fortress. The developers incorporated lessons from recent storms, terrorist attacks and freakish occurrences in New York and around the globe. Hudson Yards’ gatekeepers have devised a plan to keep out the bad elements, whether criminals or acts of nature.

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

“No weirdness, no wildness, nothing off book. The megaproject was built by an all-star team of designers, but in the end, it’s impossible to tell the difference between the corporate and the artistic.” – Alexandra Lange, Curbed NY

Architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange takes a closer look at the actual buildings and designed elements (or lack thereof). She explores the development's funding and its influence, touching on how cities are letting systems of capital set urban terms. She hopes cities can plan their own megaprojects and let the developers fill them out—on the city’s terms.

For all the talk of Hudson Yards as being the first North American smart city, it doesn’t feel like the future, except for perhaps the video screens that advertise, offer touchscreen wayfinding, ticketing, and—surprise!—enclose cameras that watch your every move. The majority of innovations called out on the press packet sheet labeled “Engineered City” are largely under the hood: A constant stream of inputs monitored by “operations managers” will allow Hudson Yards, the sentient being, “to monitor and react to traffic patterns, air quality, power demands, temperature and pedestrian flow to create the most efficiently navigated and environmentally attuned neighborhood in New York.” Think of it as the next generation of contested public space.

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

“The physical space Hudson Yards has created is ostentatious and energizing, but the social space it has created is illusory and inauthentic.” – Ellis Talton and Remington Tonar, Forbes

Contributors Ellis Talton and Remington Tonar take another stance on Hudson Yards, advocating the importance of space and what Hudson Yards means for New York City. At the heart of Hudson Yards is the idea of spectacle, and Talton & Tonar looked at this in regards to both the Vessel and the larger development.

Spaces that separate or isolate reinforce division and disunity. Spaces that welcome all but aren’t actually for all only mask this dissonance. They create the illusion that we’re all equal because we inhabit the same space. Yet, simply being in a space doesn’t mean you can afford to enjoy it—and what’s the point of shared spaces if not everyone can participate? Our physical spaces should add value to us as individuals and as a society. They should create connections, foster community and challenge us to encounter new people and ideas. If the principal value you extract from a space is the spectacle, if your role within a common space is that of a spectator not a participant, then the space isn’t serving the common good.

Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford
Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

“The decision to hold user data indefinitely has sparked alarm among surveillance and data privacy watchdogs.” – David Jeans, The Real Deal

Setting up Hudson Yards as a larger system of data and surveillance, David Jeans explores the technology used to make the development more of a smart city. As he explains, Related hasn’t yet determined exactly what it will do with data it collects from people in the neighborhood, or movements its cameras record. Jeans looks at how pedestrian traffic could be tracked from the No. 7 subway, or how a “data lake” could be created around the Hudson Yards development.

Though Related doesn’t currently have any plans to sell user information to third-party companies or government entities, the private developer could do so in the future. The city said it currently does not have a data-sharing agreement with Related, nor are there any city laws regarding data collection that would apply to the real estate company. With the Hudson Yards kiosks, data will be collected and stored en-masse.

New York City's Hudson Yards Is Finally Open to the Public

New York City's long awaited Hudson Yards has finally opened its doors to the public for the first time. Built on Midtown Manhattan's West Side, the project is New York's largest development to date and the United States' largest private real estate development, covering almost 14 acres of land (more than 56,000 sqm) with polished residential towers, offices, plazas, gardens, shopping centers, and restaurants, all designed by some of the world's most iconic architects.

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About this author
Cite: Eric Baldwin. "Critical Round-Up: Hudson Yards" 18 Mar 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/913390/critical-round-up-hudson-yards/> ISSN 0719-8884
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Hudson Yards. Image Courtesy of Related-Oxford

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