Screenshot 2019-07-29 at 12.56.34 PM.png
Posts in Built Environment
The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

Reviewed by Paul Ranogajec

Violette’s important book opens a new chapter on urban housing in architectural history and helps the reader understand a whole set of buildings—indeed, whole swathes of the cityscapes of both New York and Boston—that are prominently visible but often overlooked. Amplifying elite architects’ and reformers’ disdain for so-called tenement “skin-builders,” architectural historians have studied in detail bourgeois design but have paid much less attention to buildings built by and for the working class. The Decorated Tenement helps to correct the historical record, treating the immigrant-built tenement commensurate with its prominence in the two cities. It is a timely book for that, even if the author does not explicitly make the connection to today’s immigration debates.

Read More
Remembering George McAneny: The Reformer, Planner, and Preservationist Who Shaped Modern New York

Remembering George McAneny: The Reformer, Planner, and Preservationist Who Shaped Modern New York

By Charles Starks

The power to shape the built environment on a metropolitan scale is inevitably shared, contested, and compromised, especially in a city-region as large, diverse, and fragmented as New York has been for the last two centuries. Despite the fervent wishes of more than a few of its leading citizens, the city has never been friendly ground for would-be visionaries seeking to brusquely mold the city’s form to suit their wills—the tech mogul Jeff Bezos being only the latest to find himself chagrined by Gotham’s aversion to imperious planners.

Read More
Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, & Architecture in Gilded Age New York

Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, & Architecture in Gilded Age New York

Reviewed by Paul Ranogajec

Madison Square Garden was among the premier places to see and be seen in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. As Suzanne Hinman amply documents in her new book, this palace of popular entertainment was truly a modern wonder of architecture and spectacle. Like the old Penn Station (another McKim, Mead and White building that sadly no longer graces the city’s streets) the Garden helped define the aesthetic and social landscapes of New York in the years around 1900.

Read More
The Outcast: A Review of Wright and New York by Anthony Alofsin

The Outcast: A Review of Wright and New York by Anthony Alofsin

Reviewed by Fran Leadon

Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t care for cities. In his 1954 manifesto The Natural House, he advised prospective homebuilders looking for land to “go as far out as you can get . . . way out into the country—what you regard as ‘too far’—and when others follow, as they will (if procreation keeps up), move on.”

Read More
Schlep in the City: Forest Hills

Schlep in the City: Forest Hills

By Frampton Tolbert

Queens is a borough of enclaves, each distinct. While the borough was formed in 1897, development did not begin in earnest until the 1920s, when the population doubled to more than one million people.[1] For this increase in population, buildings were needed for people to live, work, go to school, and worship—and some of which were defining examples of early modern design. While people may think it was Manhattan where this architecture was focused, Queens definitely exemplifies this as well.

Read More
When Long Island City Was the Next Big Thing

When Long Island City Was the Next Big Thing

By Ilana Teitel

For about a hundred days this winter, Long Island City was in the spotlight as a neighborhood about to be transformed. Amazon was coming, the national media was running articles about the 7 train, and brokers were selling condos via text messages. The word was out about this patch of western Queens and its waterfront views, central location, cultural diversity, and overtaxed infrastructure.

And then, on Valentine’s Day, it was over. Amazon pulled out and locals began to debate whether that much change would have been good or bad for LIC. But, this wasn’t the first time that Long Island City was the neighborhood that almost, maybe, soon, was about to take off. Here’s a look at three other times that LIC was briefly New York’s Next Big Thing.

Read More
New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

By Kara Murphy Schlichting

In 1865 New York City park commissioner Andrew Haswell Green came to the conclusion that the city had outgrown Manhattan Island. In a report for the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, Green argued that the city’s future should include its mainland environs of Westchester County north of the Harlem River. He articulated a river-spanning future for New York. Green reasoned that lower Westchester was “so intimately connected with and dependent upon the City of New York, that unity of plan for improvements on both sides” of the Harlem was “essential.”

Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

Read More
The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections [Expansion] Myth #10: Example of Laissez-Faire Planning

The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections [Expansion] Myth #10: Example of Laissez-Faire Planning

By Gergely Baics & ​Leah Meisterlin

Not until 1916 did New York City acquire its comprehensive zoning resolution, the first in the nation. Through the 19th Century, the city’s land-use restrictions comprised a patchwork of fragmented and locally scaled public and private regulatory interventions, including nuisance laws, fire zones, building codes, and deed restrictions in the form of restrictive covenants. Although with this patchwork of caveats, it is fair to describe this early land-use regime as largely unregulated, at least by our contemporary standards.

Read More
Capital City: An Interview with Sam Stein

Capital City: An Interview with Sam Stein

In Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State, Sam Stein offers a theoretical and empirically grounded discussion of how gentrification became a generalized fact of urban life in the 21st century, and how we can not only stop it, but also build cities that work for all, not just the wealthy few. Centering his discussion around the contradictory and often hidden role of professional planners, Stein illustrates how the state has been central to the rise of real estate in urban political economies, leveraging state “police powers” to turn devalued urban land into a profitable commodity — the so called “spatial fix” that capital requires from time to time in moments of crisis. By bringing to life the diverse set of state and non-state actors responsible for turning the places we cherish into products to be bought and sold, Stein also reveals the contingencies and limits of real estate capital’s power over our lives.

Read More
Contested City: An Interview with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Contested City: An Interview with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Today on Gotham, Prithi Kanakamedala interviews Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani about the process of community-engaged pedagogy, collaborative public history, and advocacy around the Lower East Side's SPURA.

Read More