(Illustration by Guy Parsons)
The Hudson Yards Culture Shed, a yet-to-be-built arts and performance space at 10 Hudson Yards, just might wind up being the Batmobile of buildings. Dormant, it’s a glassy fortress. Animated, it will be able to extend its wings so-to-speak by sliding out a retractable exterior as a canopy.
The design is a window into the future of New York City construction — and the role technology will play. This isn’t to say that a fleet of moving buildings will invade New York anytime soon, but the projects of the future will be smarter, more adaptive and, of course, more awe-inspiring.
“I think you’re going to start having more and more facades that are more kinetic, that react to the environment,” said Tom Scarangello, CEO of Thornton Tomasetti, a New York-based engineering firm that’s working on the Culture Shed.
For example, Westfield’s Oculus, the World Trade Center’s new bird-like transit hub, features a retractable skylight whose function is more symbolic than practical: It opens only on Sept. 11.
As a whole, developers are moving away from the shamelessly reflective glass boxes of the past, instead opting for transparent-yet-textured buildings as well as slender, soaring towers à la Billionaires’ Row.
They are already beginning to experiment with different building materials, such as trading steel for wood in the city’s first “plyscraper,” which is being planned at 475 West 18th Street. And, sources say, developers will continue to find new ways of using a building’s “skin” to do some of the expensive work of heating and cooling, partly by allowing buildings to “breathe” through ventilated facades.
New York’s future buildings will also take less time to construct and design — through 3D modeling — with the click of a mouse.
On the most basic level, these innovations are being driven by a necessity to deal with the city’s aging office stock. Much of Manhattan’s office space was built before 1970, a fact the business community argues puts New York at a disadvantage compared to other global cities such as Hong Kong and London.
In addition, many of today’s aging buildings have antiquated heating and energy systems.
In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would aim to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050, building on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s goal of 30 percent by 2030.
From a marketing standpoint, it’s also increasingly difficult for outdated office inventory, usually featuring low ceilings and intrusive interior columns, to compete with today’s modern buildings. Companies — whether they’re law firms, banks or media firms — are often looking for high ceilings, open space and ample natural light. The buildings that will dot New York’s future skyline will incorporate these qualities, through new design and innovation, but some experts predict they will also return to old-school prewar aesthetics, like brick and operable windows.
“There’s a desire for these buildings not to be hermeticall[……]