Video> Shanghai Talks: Toronto city planner James Parakh talks skyscraper design, sustainable urbanism
Last September the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism.”
I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Toronto City Planner James Parakh.
After Hurricane Sandy swept through the east coast, it left Water Street, a sleepy corridor in lower Manhattan, even more deserted. But now, Department of City Planning (DCP) has proposed a zoning text amendment to enliven the quiet downtown stretch by allowing for seating, art installations, food trucks, concerts, and other such events and amenities on privately owned public spaces (POPS). Sprinkled throughout the city, POPS are unique public areas that are maintained by developers for public use in return for more floor space in their development.
[ The AN editorial team is on hand for Zoning the City conference, now in progress at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. We’ll be live blogging and tweeting @archpaper with hashtag #zoningthecity throughout the day, so check back and follow us on twitter for updates! ]
In a wrap-up conversation moderated by Kayden, a panel brought together Thom Mayne, A.M. Stern, and Mary Ann Tighe to investigate a few non-planning factors, though of course it rounded back to planning within moments. The exchange was peppered with A.M. Stern wit, Mayne theory, and Tighe pragmatism.
Remarking on the more than 4 billion square feet of undeveloped FAR in New York City, Stern remarked, “That’s a lot of development–even for Related!”
Tighe said that zoning remained necessary, at the very least, for developers’ peace of mind. “I think we need some boundaries,” she said. “Things that will allow capital an amount of comfort that it’ll need to move foreword.” Tighe, who heads up New York’s real estate board, provide an audience full of zoning wonks and architects an investors voice, “What we keep forgetting after the vision is that the money has to come, the as-of-right things are needed.”
Stern replied no spoon full of sugar was needed to let this medicine go down. “Architects complain, they always complain,” he said “But they do their best work with difficult clients, financial constraints.”
Mayne broke through the realm of brick and mortar. “New York is inseparable from its intellectual capital, that’s it’s certainty and predictability.”
Matthew Carmona of University College London played to a re-caffeinated crowd, using humor to diffuse a very complex approval process for zoning London’s 32 different boroughs. With each borough weighing in with their own distinct processes and opinions, plus the mayor putting his two pence in, and even the secretary of state having a say, its amazing London plans as well as it does. The process looks more nightmarish than a West Village community board debating a university expansion. One intriguing aspect was the specificity of the Views Management Framework, which include river views, linear views, townscape views, and panoramas. But it was left to Loeb Fellow Peter Park, paraphrasing Goldberger, to best describe London’s beautiful mess. “Some of the greatest places in the world were built before zoning,” he said. “There’s an element of serendipity.”
Last week, The New York World, a website produced by Columbia’s Journalism School, along with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show completed a crowd-sourced survey of New York City’s privately owned public spaces (POPS). The World consulted Jerold Kayden’s 2000 tome, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, as a guide to gauge whether the private entities were keeping the public parks truly public and user-friendly. Kayden, who is co-chairing tomorrow’s Zoning the City conference with Commissioner Amanda Burden, has been the go-to expert on subject since Occupy Wall Streeters took over the world’s most famous POPS, Zuccotti Park. All told, nearly 150 sites out of 391 around New York City were visited and commented on for the survey.