The Skyscraper's Museum exhibit SKY HIGH (& the logic of luxury) in New York City presents the recent proliferation of residential towers and their rise in Manhattan.
A Spring visit to Downtown New York's Skyscraper Museum left me with less hope for the city's chronic affordable housing dispute. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s future plan includes the preservation and construction of 200,000 affordable residential units, and an end to land distribution to ruthless developers who consume what little is left of New York City’s undeveloped space. SKY HIGH, the current exhibition running through mid-June, showcases the work of famed architects SHoP Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Zaha Hadid Architects, Herzog and de Meuron, and Rafel Vinoly Architects amongst other esteemed companies.
How can we see the light of this vision through until the end of the tunnel, when gentrification rampantly roams our city streets? Gentrification has spurred a population migration, displacing those who can no longer afford already-high rents and implementing a wider social schism between the wealthy and poor. Moreover property values promote business competition and the ‘fame’ greedy developers and architects chase after, to build the city’s next admired marvel.
SKY HIGH is perhaps a prime example of the developers’ soaring ambitions to dominate the cityscape, a documentation of the recent propagation of super-slim towers. Featured in the exhibit are such projects as the Hudson Yards development, three of the 57th street towers- 432 Park Avenue, One57, and 111 West 57th Street- 56 Leonard tower of downtown Manhattan, and the Four Seasons at 30 Park Place. These modern super-slender structures seem to spiral seamlessly towards the sky, achieving 90+ stories of steel
These towers may provide the glitz and glamour of luxurious living, undoubtedly with pretty panoramic views and a perch of privacy looking out to the glorious city. But with prices as high as $95 million for these ‘sky-rise penthouses’ wouldn’t you expect more than the issues that will undoubtedly rise for most of New York City’s denizens? Cost figures that we cannot attain in a lifetime of work… these resources are drained upon private spaces when nearly half of New York City’s populations spends over 30% of its income on its housing? What sort of lifestyle is New York City advocating by accepting such commissions on the territory of ‘opportunity for all’?
The exhibit presents the most ‘famous’ of projects as revered objects of allure and appeal but fails to capture the history or preservation efforts of these sites. Indisputably tourists will appreciate the ‘ever-changing’ city with its attraction of the world’s most esteemed builders. What one may perceive SKY HIGH as the skillful engineering of such tall feats and the clever maneuvering around air-rights and other zoning regulations, I would call a deceitful manipulation of HUMAN rights and a game by real estate tycoons to scramble furiously to the ‘top’.
As a song lyric states, “You’ll never fly, if you’re too scared of the heights.”
Yes, I am afraid of the social consequences of New York City’s towering tremor. As a resident of New York City in this case, however, I would prefer to keep my feet firmly grounded to the real solutions of New York City’s housing crisis.
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Click image below to scroll through gallery, photo credit: Moammar Sanchez.