2000s: Decade of Decadence or Decency?

As the decade comes to a close, many stories highlighting the architecture of the “aughts” seem to be focusing on starchitecture and a supposed era of design gluttony. Those stories claim that the 20-teens will bring an end to the big dreams and excessive indulgences of developers riding the coattails of Robert Moses. However, while I agree that there were plenty of large-scale proposals that could prove to change the face of future development — from the World Trade Center to the West Side Rail Yards to Atlantic Yards — many of those proposals have been put on hold, placed aside (temporarily?) and replaced by watered down compromises.

For me, the decade in NYC is defined more by the smaller-scale, community-driven projects that have sizably impacted public space. The projects that immediately come to mind are the High Line Park, by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro (See “High Line Opens With Design Appeal,” Editor’s Soapbox, e-Oculus, 10.23.09), and Times Square with the pedestrian mall and TKTS Booth and Environs, by Choi Ropiha with Perkins Eastman and PKSB (See “NYC’s Answer to the Spanish Steps,” Editor’s Soapbox, e-Oculus, 10.28.08). These projects both garnered enormous public support and continue to draw massive crowds. They exemplify the 2009 AIANY Theme, “Elevating Architecture / Design Literacy for All.” It is because of projects such as these that architecture and design has gained new (and positive!) respect among otherwise pessimistic New Yorkers. I hope 2010 will bring more neighborhood-conscious designs to the streets.