Work title: Unbounding (0000701536)
By the year 2020, many retailers have gradually stepped away from the storefront and have found their refuge on the World Wide Web. Vacant windows and quiet concrete paths along the street point to a bygone era of citizens taking to the sidewalks with purses full of cash ready to spend it on the latest goods. The ground plane – the interface with the public, as well as the point of dispersion to a multiplicity of program-activities in the interior realm – no longer serves its purpose.
New York City, the place where the first masterplan for a city’s development was laid out in 1916, came up with yet another strategy to redefine the way the city would develop. Acknowledging the death of the retail sector and the rise of service-based businesses, New York City decided to revamp the zoning ordinance to allow for the creative architecturalization of the service-based economy. The municipality saw the opportunity to construct complete sensorial experiences within a locale. This complete sensorial experience is derived from the amalgamation of service-based businesses operating in close proximity to each other. To capture this opportunity to reinvigorate the metropolis, the municipal government decided that based on intricacies involved in its 1961 Zoning Resolution, it would simplify the zoning ordinance by removing all existing building types and reintroducing a building type that had been essentially put out of commission since December 15, 1961. It was the boldest move that any municipality had ever done in the history of the world:
ARTICLE V: Non-Conforming Uses and Non-Complying Buildings
Chapter 5 – New Construction: 54-00 General Provisions
Under the agreement of all adjacent properties and the city council, a property’s owner may build from the property line as he or she chooses.
The 2020 Zoning Resolution allowed property owners to take advantage of recent technological innovations in building construction to break free from the Manhattan grid and its resulting subdivisions to create larger zones of activity. Through economic means and agreements between neighbors, property owners now had the opportunity to work together to construct new ground planes high above the ground and deep into the soil to capitalize upon the growth of the service sector. The new ground planes provide for higher densities of related service-based businesses within a locale and also greater opportunities for larger program-activities to flourish within the intricate fabric of the city.
These new ground planes would be constructed from a combination of several strategies that the 2020 Zoning Resolution would open up. First, the 2020 Zoning Resolution allows for the creation of an image of centrality out of an edge condition, namely the two sides of a street. It allows for the possibility of bridging across the street between two properties. Secondly, the new zoning resolution provides the prospect of a vertical weave between two properties, creating a delicate dance of towers in the sky as they twirl around each other and converge at some points.
The first manifestation of the 2020 Zoning Resolution was recently designed on the formerly bustling corner of Canal Street and Elizabeth Street, a partnership between three developers who had each purchased a small subdivision near the corner. Through intense collaboration among the architects involved, the three developers each received what neither of them could have accomplished alone. Together the three small properties became a fully-functional project that combines living, working and research towers with opportunities for its occupants to engage in a complete sensorial experience through the highly specialized services offered between the towers. Although only a foretaste of the possibilities inherent in this new ordinance, this project heralds a new era of construction that may just reinvent the entire Manhattan skyline.