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Vertical Factories in New York

By:  | March - 26 - 2015

Honorable Mention
2015 Skyscraper Competition

Stuart Beattie
United Kingdom

In the past few decades the world economy has seen a global shift of industry and manufacturing eastwards to the emerging markets of China and India purely for economic efficiency but not innovation. The rate at which urban populations are expanding will impact upon how we perceive the strategies of sustaining our cities with regards to supply and demand. The rise of global cargo shipping has seen the ability of local industries to move their production to areas of low labour, tax and land costs. However, the onset of rising labour costs in East Asia, higher transportation costs, a weaker dollar, rising U.S. productivity and cheaper energy are only enhancing the argument for more localised production that is closer to the consumer.

The population of New York City is forecast to grow by 12% to 9.4 million people in the next two decades resulting in a current city-wide acute affordable housing shortage. Manufacturing land in the city is perceived by planners as a viable outlet for the expansion of residential development, forcing a gradual decentralisation and extinction of local industries which are inherent to a wider network of urban ecologies within New York.

In addition to a declining manufacturing sector, not aided by recent re-zonings or passive policy measures, the pressure on manufacturers to relocate in the face of development-led socio-spatial conflicts will only grow exponentially with a burgeoning population and an ever increasing reliance on imports. Economically diverse cities such as New York, with a substantial inventory of old, functionally unsuitable factory structures have the capacity to look at the new innovative and flexible industrial methods to revive manufacturing locally and regionally. However, the assumption that the city’s manufacturers are a dying breed or an anachronism epitomises the enormous challenge that the sector faces.

This project investigates the possibility of an alternative to inefficient horizontal industrial sprawl by considering the prospect of a new vertiginous architectural typology in the form of a vertical factory devoted to the stabilisation and re-integration of manufacturing into inner city Brooklyn. These interventions aim to act as a compromise to residential development aspirations and the shortage of suitable industrial land. The new typological approach speculates the re-establishment of the once prominent manufacturing economy in the face of malign policy neglect and the City’s focus to sustain New York’s economy primarily through finance, insurance and real-estate initiatives.

Arrayed along the Greenpoint coastline and orientated to the formalised Cartesian street grid, the agglomeration of 21 towers are manifested as an archipelago of site-specific interventions which are encompassed by an essential infrastructural network of highways, trainlines and ports that aids the stability of the industrial ecology. Acting as a spatial clustering of industry, the proposal aims to incubate and augment current inter-urban relationships emphasising the importance of local knowledge on steady growth and innovation. Each tower can accomodate from 52 – 81 small industries providing a maximum of 103,950 sqft of manufacturing space and potentially more than 1000 jobs. Maximum spatial allowance and flexibility within the factory nodes are achieved through an exoskeletal structural system and column free floorplates served by exterior lift cores that provide lateral stability to the overall tower. The floorplate dimensions of the proposal are not designated towards any particular industry but serve to provide a series of intimate, generic industrial spatial volumes which local 21st century manufacturers can occupy. Although as an ideological interpretation, the scheme is intended to provoke discussion as to an alternate approach to retain the local manufacturing sector and how these small industries can be encouraged in the face of alternative urban, political and neoliberal economic imperatives.

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