|Hudson Yards proposal. Picture from Curbed NYC|
"If you love nature you shouldn't live in it. Instead of driving an S.U.V. to go camping, take the subway to a skyscraper."In essence, Chakribarti is telling New York that the road to sustainability is not to cut back but to continue doing what it has always done best, grow bigger and bolder. Recession or no recession, grow up instead of out. Mitchell Joachim, another Columbia professor, has a similarly big ideas, to move America's more populous city toward complete self-sufficiency, a strategy ranging from growing sufficient quantities of food in vertical farms to solar energy production on rooftops throughout the city. As provocative as these thinkers are, it's worth remembering how provocative something like the Empire State Building must have sounded in the midst of the Great Depression.
As I expressed last week, I have my reservations about the Manhattan model of density applying widely. Good urbanism has more to do with what happens at the street level, the connections between buildings and the human scale of the living environment, and less to do with the height of the buildings themselves. A certain degree of density is necessary, but it's not the whole show. Besides, central Paris, even with it's height restrictions, is just as dense as Manhattan. Matthew Yglesias and Beyond DC sparked this conversation a couple of months ago from a Washington D.C. vantage point.
While I have an open mind concerning all of the new design prototypes coming out for "eco-skyscrapers", I'd like to see more hard numbers about energy-efficiency (including the embodied energy from construction). I still tend to go back to Christopher Alexanders' famous four-story limit and a human-scale for architecture. Do we learn from traditional practices that evolved during a time when energy had to be conserved or do we forge ahead with technological solutions to environmental problems? Probably both strategies will be attempted, and I'll look to New York as America's laboratory for hyperdensity.