New images of SHoP Architects' Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment in New York
The Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment project in New York has a long and tumultuous history. The original Domino Sugar Factory was constructed in 1856 and provided more than 50% of the sugar used across the United States. After a raging fire in 1882, the building was reconstructed in brick and stone as the historic landmark we see today on the banks of the East River.
As the demand for sugar started to dwindle the plant was closed and a series of redevelopment options arose from eager investors. Plans for a mixed-use development have appalled a number of parties such as Neighbors Allied for Good Growth in Williamsburg who believe that the Domino Sugar Factory should be retained as a national landmark, and the Save Domino group which is looking to keep the original building going as a public art museum. There are also concerns about the introduction of low-income housing and the effects that this may have on real-estate values in the area and the negative impact of a thriving new development on local transportation.
After shiny masterplans by Rafael Vinoly for the New Domino scheme - including 2,000 housing units (660 low-income), 4 acres of public parkland, a riverfront esplanade, 200,000 sq ft of retail, and preservation of the Domino Sugar Factory - were met with widespread complaint, fresh developers Two Trees brought in SHoP Architects to conjure up some new ideas.
SHoP Architects are a young New York-based firm who have secured some very high profile projects including the Barclays Center (home of the Brooklyn Nets) and the Harbor Commons development on Staten Island, and recently acquired a new partner in Vishaan Chakrabarti who is also Director at CURE, the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture.
Vinoly’s masterplan was rubbished by critics for being ‘ugly’, ‘generic’ and ‘crude, stark and - frankly - beneath his talents’. SHoP Architects have released images of their designs for the site which incorporate 60% more open space than the formerly proposed development, achieved by shifting the buildings back from their waterfront location to expose more public space. The plans also include a 1/4mile-long park, a wide public plaza where community events can be held and an ‘artefact walk’ where a display of objects salvaged from the Domino Sugar Factory can be showcased, retaining the history of the site.
Dominating this green development are a handful of ambitious buildings offering a mix of residential, commercial and retail units with an education facility. Two 55ft-wide towers set 120ft apart are connected at the top and incorporate a school at the base, already affectionately known as ‘The Donut Building’. Locals have requested that this be a Middle School or High School. Also in the plans is a pair of slim 60-storey towers joined by a skybridge at the top, permeable to both light and air.
Talking to Curbed NY this past weekend of the firm’s decision to create voids in several buildings and open up more public space, making up this lost volume by extending the buildings vertically, Chakrabarti explained: “If you’re standing next to a 400ft-tall building or a 600ft-tall building, you have no idea. But if a 600ft-building means that you get a park where your kid can graduate, that means something to you.”
WAN’s New York-based US Correspondent Sharon McHugh commented: “I think the Domino Development project is good for the city. The prior design, which relied on intensification of development at the site, culminated in a densely built-out scheme with three stacked tower clusters. The tower clusters themselves were a bit repetitive and banal and it wasn’t clear whether the green space would be for private or public use.
“This new scheme by SHoP architects vastly improves upon community amenity and green space. The taller buildings are more porous, more transparent, and more distinctive from a form-making point of view then those of the prior scheme and they have the effect of lightning up the massiveness of the entire development while also holding promise of becoming an iconic place at the water’s edge. Both in terms of its programme and its visual appeal, it’s off to a good start. But the jury is still out and it is very early in the game.”
SHoP Architects will only design two of the five buildings on the site but they will stay on as ‘curators’ for the project. Current plans are to only retain one of the existing buildings at the designated site, the original Domino Sugar Factory, which will be a complex adaptive reuse project, re-imagined into office space for the creative and technology industries. In total the scheme is estimated to cost $1.5bn and will take between 10 and 15 years to complete. It is hoped that work will begin onsite in 2014.