NYC Vertical Neighborhood?
By Tiffany Chu / Published by Dwell

As architect and Axis Mundi founder John Beckmann explains, "Instead of disguising the rich potential of towers that have a mix of uses, we looked for a way to express that diversity." The title of his scheme: Vertical Neighborhood.

With enough facade articulations that would make the stacking-boxes camp jump for joy, the building is intended to be porous and full of irregular vertical fissures to bring in light, breezes, and encourage neighborly socialization.

It also champions flexibility and an "emerging reality for tall buildings as collections of domestic elements: dwellings, neighborhoods, streets." The flexibility is also manifested in the "SmartBlock" ring units that allow for mixed use and many floor plan varieties.  Structurally, I am not sure exactly how the malleabilty of these units would work out -- apparently, they can "shift in and out, adding rich texture to the surface" -- does that mean they are reconfigurable for each new resident, as in, a constantly transforming facade?
With a full smorgasbord of mosaic-like patterns and textures, the renderings make the spaces feel quite alive: 

Although the concept of a Vertical Neighborhood may be fresh to New York, it is not nearly as spanking new in the international scene--especially in Asia where 16 of the 20 densest cities in the world reside. Singapore, seen by many as the leader in high-density urban design (and where 85% of the population lives in public housing), has churned out similar schemes. All have vertical, multi-layered organizational concepts with a 'live-work-play+throw in some vegetal walls' mentality, to move ground level activities higher and create a communal 'sky village'. (See Pinnacle@Duxton, Dawson Estate.)

While Jean Nouvel's existing proposal of a soaring, lustrous spire would most certainly augment the historic (and slightly homogenous) New York skyline, Axis Mundi's vision would probably speak more individualistically to the surrounding neighborhood and its activities at a human scale, while being more reflective of the city's exploding diversity as a whole. MoMA and Hines...what'll the verdict be?


Tiffany Chu


Besides writing and designing, Tiffany Chu's passions include photography, cartography, and all things Scandinavian.

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