S K Y L I N E | NYRA’s (Least) Anticipated Buildings of 2023
Temples to Science, Wrapped Towers, Communist Pyramids, and More
Issue 99. With NYRA #33 launching next week, we’ll have published exactly three times as many newsletters as print magazines. Subscribe if you appreciate a perfect ratio.
It’s the end of January, we’ve broken in our 2023 boots, and the architectural mediascape has been properly saturated with forecasts of the year’s most anticipated project openings. You know the genre: nearly identical listicles lush with concept renderings and breathless effusions of anticipation for buildings that much of the Anglophone media might never actually see in person. To counterbalance the news cycle’s reproduction of visual and textual narratives fed to them by diligent PR teams, we’ve put together a list of our own (least) anticipated buildings. NYRA writers report from the ground on whether the hype is real.
— Anny Li
Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History by Studio Gang
As a kid, I loved the American Museum of Natural History. Exhibits were dark and mysterious and sometimes empty. The life-sized models terrified me, but with age they became entrancing. Yes, there were the problematic vestiges of older biases, which the museum has recently taken to dealing with. Even so, I can still remember feeling a true sense of discovery as I wandered through gallery after gallery, linked by the most confusing circulation.
By contrast, the main draw in the soon-to-open Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation doesn’t appear to be the exhibits, but instead the bright and seemingly empty atrium made out of gimmicky shotcrete. Designed by Studio Gang, the annex looks like Lascaux after a couple controlled explosions (required to facilitate skylight installation) and a generous coat of the landlord special. The project is dedicated to the public understanding of science, which the press materials stress is in grave danger. A motif of transparency is especially pronounced: the curvy central space (to be named in honor of Republican billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin) allows for views in the round and into a “storage area” where scientists will supposedly be working. Less honestly, the smooth cornerless walls are meant to look organic.
In his 2015 appraisal of the initial design, Times critic Michael Kimmelman called it “part Dr. Seuss, part Jurassic Park,” which is apt, I think. Some fantastical thinking is clearly at work in the project, which, after all, peddles a simplistic view of science in order to win over the juries of architecture awards, or to host a Bloomberg Philanthropies–sponsored climate summit.
Almost an inverse of the old, pre-renovation Hall of Gems, which had plenty of places to sit, hide, climb, and glance from, the new annex is shaping up to be a yawping, do-nothing lobby to process you onto the rest of the museum. Nothing to see here, the science is settled.
— Michael Nicholas
Pyramid of Tirana by MVRDV
A dispiriting trend has taken hold in the Balkans of late. In Skopje, Macedonia, the former presidential administration dehistoricized the city’s stellar stock of brutalist buildings in a bid to cement a (fictive) national identity. Elsewhere, similar acts of whitewashing are predicated on a picture of Western “progress” with aims of retaining the youth. Consider MVRDV’s reworking of the Pyramid of Tirana, which was built in 1988 as a museum to Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. Within three years, the regime fell, and the complex was closed and left to decay. Children reclaimed the structural, sloped beams as a playscape of massive slides, where teenagers, too, would smoke and hang out. Now sterilized, these inclined surfaces are being covered in stairs that lead to a panoptic roof garden where the adults can easily survey and supervise. The Pyramid’s insides have been gutted to make space for haphazardly stacked baby-blue boxes containing computer and media labs where the next generation of entrepreneurs will be incubated. A neoliberal shrine to productivity rises to civilize the Balkan youth and assimilate them into the global tech bro-dom. Inside, you might just as easily be in Shanghai, Vienna, Seattle, or New York.
— Melanija Grozdanoska
The Genesis Collection at Wolf Ranch by ICON and BIG
For decades, high housing demand and little growth in affordable housing supply have forced many out of Austin and into Georgetown, Texas, now the fastest-growing city in the US. Tech start-up ICON and architecture office BIG have just completed one hundred 3D-printed homes in the Wolf Ranch master planned community, just west of Georgetown. With marketing copy boasting misleadingly low labor and construction costs and ASMR-inducing explainers of the building process, the development is catnip for the SXSW tech crowd that’s more excited by the speculative scales of robotics than they are about the future health of humanity. ICON’s claims to sustainable construction while relying on cement and energy-hungry machines are a stretch. Prospective residents should beware: Wolf Ranch sits in the heart of some of the most environmentally harmful architectural material production in Texas. Just a few miles away lies a branch of Martin Marietta (the largest ready-mix concrete producer in Texas), an Alamo Concrete Plant, and the state’s largest limestone quarry: the massive 7,500-acre Texas Crushed Stone Company. Despite the PR spin, the robots aren’t building houses — they’re receiving orders from iPads to squirt out walls that will eventually be finished and fitted by skilled laborers. A $450,000 starting price is hardly disruptive, either, in a state where the minimum wage is still $7.25. Ultimately, BIG’s conception of “contemporary Texas ranch style” homes fits perfectly in Georgetown’s already unimaginative and mass-produced sprawl. Robotic indeed.
— Anahita (Ani) Bradberry
New Brooklyn by M3H Architects
Nearly 400 years after laying the foundations of Breukelen on the East River shore of present-day Long Island, the Dutch have finally turned their gaze back on themselves. Expanding the city of Almere with 1400 new dwellings, New Brooklyn is set to welcome its first residents this month. The promotional copy promises a “hip and happening” place “where something is always going on—just like The City That Never Sleeps.” The highly polished renderings in its brochures confirm the imported sentiment: bustling street scenes are set against a cityscape of four-story brick townhouses fitted with corresponding stoops, bay windows, and cornices. With its borrowed authenticity, I can’t help but think of New Brooklyn as a brick-and-mortar embodiment of an “I <3 NY” t-shirt. It’s all come full circle.
— Vincent van Spaendonk
(W)rapper by Eric Owen Moss Architects
Los Angeles, CA
An anachronistic exoskeleton design first conceived in 1999, resurrected in 2006, and now looming over the Expo line, it’s impossible to look at the baroquely formalist (W)rapper tower without gagging on certain circumstances surrounding its rise: an evaporating market for any office space much less the lofty double- and triple-height ceilings on offer and ERIC OWEN MOSS’s tenure as SCI-Arc director and the inflated high six-figure salary he pocketed. (W)rapper encapsulates architecture not as autonomous form but as a succubus that extracts everything from tuition to natural resources.
— Mimi Zeiger
SOHO — “You drew all this by hand?” an attendee marveled aloud during the Q&A. CAROLE LÉVESQUE responded in the affirmative. At the closing event of a83’s Parallel Rules exhibition, the second in a series on architectural drawing, Lévesque, GALO CANIZARES, and duo AELITTA GORE / DANIEL HALL presented their hand-rendered, screen-printed, and collaged work to an audience riveted by the technical virtuosity on show. Each drawing rewarded prolonged looking: Lévesque’s massive compositions capture kilometer-wide swaths of architecture and wildlife in stunning pen-hatched textures; chunky pixels of silk-screened color appear to combine and separate in prints of Canizares’s pixel/painting .gifs, and Gore & Hall’s to-scale section was composed of detailed photographs, down to grass root systems and cracks in dimensional lumber. The drawings on the walls and the questions in the room kept their distance from the practical realities of building, and yet they registered less as academic speculation and more as a kind of mourning. For this audience member, the fixation on drawing’s laborious production was tinged with a melancholic resignation to the fact that for many architects, architecture is out of reach.
— Tim Cox
1/25 : Plantation Plots
HOUSTON, TX — “We are living in the science fiction future of the plantation logic,” declared K. WAYNE YANG, professor of ethnic studies at UC San Diego and opening speaker of Rice Architecture’s spring lecture series. As he unpacked the migratory nature of the plantation system across the geography of U.S. empire, Yang quoted architectural historian FABIOLA LÓPEZ-DURÁN, who happened to be in attendance. Surprised, Yang thanked her for her work. These unexpected moments of call-and-response punctuated the lecture. At three different points, Yang asked those in the audience to turn to the person next to them and respond to prompts, a gesture designed to repeat the cycle. (“What is the architecture of refuge, of fugitivity? Of Indigenous sovereignty? Of Black Indigenous futurity?”) Yang concluded his talk with an exhortation about reconnecting architectural practice to the land, asking “What are you plotting?” The individual answers weren’t audible, but chatter filled the hall.
— Nathaniel Garone Leazer
NYRA ON THE TOWN
A Chance at Intimacy
LOWER EAST SIDE — Minutes before doors opened at 7 pm, OFFICE PARTY planners were testing a custom fog and light display. “Are these parts from…McMaster-Carr,” someone asked. “Oh, definitely,” came the response. By 8 pm, the tiny venue was packed chockablock with people who had gathered for the launch of Disc Journal’s second issue. A DJ was stationed in the back of the shop, readers were hunched over stacks of the spiral-bound publication, while others were busy assembling BDSM rope flowers (instructions could be found in special “stuffed” issues). Editor IAN ERICKSON made the rounds among architecture groupies who’d filtered in from all along the East Coast, trading gossip and thrills of being in print. “Keep flipping,” contributor ELSA MH MÄKI told a guest trying to find her and artist ANI LIU’s piece on deer hunters and multi-species hormonal intimacy. “It’s the hunting one!” By 9 pm, just as many people were out on the sidewalk as were inside. Not long after, the stack of seventy-five issues sold out.
— Angie Door
EYES ON SKYLINE
Last week, readers were most interested in Kate Wagner’s distillation of the gas stoves debate.
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IN THE NEWS
...the New York Times took a deep dive into the dismal ubiquity of 5-over-1s and what they say about the health of urban environments across the country…
…Grand Central Madison, fka East Side Access and New York’s latest overdue infrastructural boondoggle, finally opens…
…Cooper Union postpones its Vkhutemas exhibition over (dubious) claims of Russian nationalism…
...Steelcase gave us more reason to continue to WFH with a debut collection of home office furniture, inspired by archival Frank Lloyd Wright designs...
…contra the memes and online haters, Bostonians said you have to see the MLK sculpture in person…
...the city of Copenhagen will try to stave off rising sea levels with a controversial artificial peninsula...
...and Universal Studios Hollywood’s Super Nintendo World wowed the Guardian’s architecture critic.
— Anna Gibertini
In the week ahead…
Unionization in Architecture with Andrew Bernheimer, Andrew Daley, Jennifer Dorning, Kolby Forbes, & Andrea Lamberti
6:00 PM EST | AIA New York | Center for Architecture
François Dallegret: Beyond the Bubble 2023 Opening Reception with Justin Beal & Kara Hamilton
6:30 PM EST | Yale University School of Architecture
Wolff Architects with Ilze Wolff, Mario Gooden, & Lindy Roy
6:30 PM EST | Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
LANDPROCESS: The Global and Local Climate Adaptation Design with Kotchakorn Voraakhom
6:30 PM EST | Harvard University Graduate School of Design
ASSEMBLE:ELBMESSA with Mary Anderson, Owen Lacey, & Jerome Haferd
7:00 PM EST | The Architectural League of New York
For Those Who Will Come: A Conversation with Shumi Bose, Lev Bratishenko, Alice Covatta, Yasaman Esmaili, Antigone Kotanidis, Wenke Schladitz, & Christoph Wagner
12:00 PM EST | Canadian Centre for Architecture
Professional Circle Talk: Retrofitting Ontario’s Concrete Heritage with ERA Architects
1:00 PM EST | New York Landmarks Conservancy
Design/ing in the Apocalypse with Liz Ogbu & Neeraj Bhatia
5:00 PM PST | California College of the Arts Architecture Division
Digesting Metabolism with Casey Mack, Nader Vossoughian, Ken Tadashi Oshima, & Daniel Abramson
6:30 PM EST | New York Review of Architecture & Head Hi
Land, Law, Labor with Lucia Allais, Brenna Bhandar, & Mabel Wilson
12:00 PM EST | Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation & Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture
Our listings are constantly being updated. Check the events page regularly for up-to-date listings and submit events through this link.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
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New York Review of Architecture is a team effort. Our editor is Samuel Medina. Our deputy editor is Marianela D’Aprile. Our editors-at-large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny, and Alex Klimoski, and our publisher is Nicolas Kemper.
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