In the Center for Architecture’s latest exhibit, 5x5 Participatory Provocations, 25 American architecture firms were asked to create architectural models responding to themes like immigration, surveillance, globalization, and the growing income gap.
While half of the selected firms are from New York City, only two chose to locate their proposals within the city. All 25 firms had the option to choose from five different design prompts: “contemplating the future of drone deliveries, the consequences of the construction of extreme luxury high-rises as financial investments, luxury tourism on the moon, the fictional development of NSA community branches, and the potential construction of an anti-immigration wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.”
The New York City-centric projects both tackled the construction of extreme luxury high-rises, and both projects were also proposed for Billionaires’ Row.
P.R.O.’s (Peterson Rich Office) Siteless Tower is a model of a group of buildings sprouting up from the city’s alleys and backyards, rising atop extremely slender bases.
Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich, both founders and principals of the firm, explained that their project was inspired by the growing micro-living trend, and by architect Hugh Ferriss’s drawings of an imaginary NYC skyline, which in turn were created in response to the 1916 Zoning Resolution.
Their model is composed of a solid limestone base, brass stilts, and walnut towers atop these stilts. Petersen and Rich pointed to a growing number of projects with slender bases and massive structures on top (just think of DDG’s Upper East Condo, which drew a host of criticism for its “zoning gymnastics”).
Their model, however, is not a celebration of this trend, but a critique of it, and also an overarching critique of the rampant construction of skyscrapers in New York City.
As Petersen and Rich put it, “the prompt is dystopian and cynical.” They continue, “It calls for a critical project, and our project is deliberately critical of the development trends in New York City. It’s crucial that we think about it [NYC development] in a critical way, before it gets ahead of us.”
Alex Gil, the principal and founder of SPACECUTTER, was a little bit more on the fence. He said his project fell somewhere between a critique and architects’ love for skyscrapers.
His model, Diplomat’s Tower, looks somewhat like a rifle, with two base towers, one rising from the Plaza Hotel. His proposal would span two city blocks with a public entrance offered through the Plaza, and a private entrance offered through a floating lobby on 57th Street.
In this luxury tower’s imaginary future, residents would have diplomatic immunity; arrive straight from the airport on helicopters landing directly on the building; enjoy room service from the Plaza; have apartments with windows that measure 25 feet tall and 120 feet wide; and have access to amenities like a cinema, a restaurant, and a health club.
“I hope that an audience would see this as an imaginative and critical proposal,” Gil says. “The tower in many ways is preposterous in the amenities it offers and the many legal limits it would have to overcome, but on the other hand, with enough money, anything is really possible in New York City.”
The Center for Architecture exhibition will officially open later this evening with an opening reception scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. at the Center. The show was curated by Julia van den Hout, the founder of Original Copy, and architects Kyle May and Kevin Erickson.