Keynote Speech: Jay Cross

Thursday 10 Oct 2013

“Density is good for cities, but sometimes comes with a price tag”

Any discussion about housing the next generation (the theme of World Architecture Day 2013) undoubtedly faces challenges and controversies. In New York, one can find both in development plans for the burgeoning Far West Side. Once complete, Hudson Yards, the planned mixed-use public-private development, will add millions of square meters of office space, housing, and retail, but most importantly will dedicate almost half of its land to public space.

Jay Cross of Related Companies, the management group for Hudson Yards, spoke as the first keynote speaker at World Architecture Day in New York on 7 October. He began his talk by reading a scathing press review of the proposed Hudson Yards project in order to show just how important it is for the development to meet the already high expectations.

Many of these expectations centre around the need for housing that is affordable to a wide array of New Yorkers, in addition to the creation of usable public space. Obviously, creating density is important in trying to add space for millions more people to an area, but as Cross notes: “Density is good for cities, but sometimes comes with a price tag.”

In this case, the price tag stems from the specific zoning requirement for the development: 50% open space. Thus, to accommodate the desired density the buildings must effectively be twice the normal height, driving up construction costs. This tension to ‘provide middle class housing when…faced with premium class cost constraints’ is one challenge Cross says his team faces.

Another concern, however, is how to create public space that works on the human scale when surrounded by such ‘supertall’ buildings. With eventual connections planned to Moynihan Station and the Highline, the 1,115 sq m (12,000 sq ft) public space at 32nd Street and 11th Avenue in Hudson Yards will undoubtedly have high volumes of pedestrian traffic. Cross hopes future use of the space can include New York cultural events, such as Fashion Week and opera performances.

This marriage between housing and public space represents a change in thinking for development and design that has positive implications for housing the next generation. 

Emily Bowe

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