Architecture should make us alert to the conflicts that shape the modern city rather than conceal them.
With that in mind, I’d like to bring your attention to two mixed-use (please don't get me started on the well intended but dismal failure of the concrete towers of the past) developments where architecture may be a small piece – quite small -- of the puzzle to help the turn around of decades of blight and urban decay. It was Nicolai Ouroussoff who recently told me about a development in Newark, NJ that was approved for construction.
It’s a four-block-long mixed-use development by the architect Richard Meir. It’s a complex for middle- and lower-income tenants to be known as Teachers Village.
The apartment buildings include small, open courtyards and outdoor terraces, bringing light deep into their interiors. In each building a ground-floor retail level is conceived as a glass band, imbuing the floors above with an air of weightlessness. This effect is reinforced by the irregular pattern of the apartment windows, which gives the facades a cubist feeling. The apartment buildings, which will serve teachers working throughout the city and range in size from 17 to 66 units, will extend from each end of this central group, like limbs reaching out into the neighborhood.
If the project succeeds in revitalizing Newark’s bleak downtown — or even if it simply manages not to be swallowed up by the decay around it — its most important impact may be to help open eyes again to architecture’s potential role in addressing complex urban challenges. Bravo Richard!
Secondly, after bumpy years of fits and starts, Harbor Point – the 80 acre mixed-use re-development project in Stamford, Connecticut that aims to re-connect a part of the Town to its waterfront long severed – is moving forward. If you don’t know, the plans for Harbor Point include 4,000 units of housing (400 affordable units), 400,000 square feet of retail space, office buildings, two hotels, a school, marina and more than 11 acres of parks.
Its first retail tenant, Fairway supermarket, is expected to open an 80,000- square-foot store in August and Starwood Hotels and Resorts will be moving 800 employees to new office digs.
The project, located within walking distance of the city's train station, is expected to comply with energy-efficient building standards. It has received a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's initiative called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development.
What do you think? What's happening in your town related to mixed-use development? How is architecture touching your life?