by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined Related Companies Chairman Stephen M. Ross and architects from Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, David M. Childs, FAIA and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, along with Rockwell Group, to break ground on the 26-acre Hudson Yards development. Construction started yesterday on the KPF-designed South Tower, a 47-story tall, anticipated LEED Gold tower with 1.7 million square feet which will house the world headquarters of Coach Inc.
Steve Ross started the ceremonies with a short speech noting that the Hudson Yards “is the defining development of the 21st century.” He praised Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in creating a legacy for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, saying, “no mayor has done more than Mayor Bloomberg for the City of New York,” and “No other accomplishment will be more visible or more impactful than Hudson Yards.” Related is well-know in New York as the developer of the 2.8 million-square-foot Time Warner Center, and is an industry leader in green building.
The Mayor shared credit with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saying, “Breaking ground for the first commercial building at Hudson Yards is a wonderful thing,” and that the site was “one of the largest private developments undertaken.” He noted that the $3 billion in public infrastructure investment has unlocked even greater private funding, and praised the “dynamic architects” present for creating a place for innovation for the arts and destination for community events.” Describing the program and plans, the Mayor said that “in the race for global competitiveness, New York stands alone.” He quoted a description of New York’s skyline which embodies “grace, swagger, creativity, and hard labor.”
Speaker Quinn also shared credit with the Mayor, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, and the Chair and Members of Community Board 4. She remembered that back in 2004 and 2005 the project was “difficult and contentious” but that those involved “kept searching for the things we could agree on.” The project was realized, she continued, because “we all stayed in the room, believing there was a better use for this space than a rail yard.” Job creation is at the heart of the project, which will also create, in her words, “affordable housing, parks, and culture.” She concluded by saying, “We yelled ’til we all agreed, and we made something happen, setting a new standard.”
KPF was represented by, among others, Gene Kohn, FAIA, Bill Pedersen, FAIA, and Jill Lerner, FAIA – whose inauguration as AIA New York 2013 President takes place on Tuesday, 12.11.12. Pedersen noted: “During my entire career, I have focused on bringing urban commercial buildings into interactive relationships with their context. No building should stand in isolation, and every building should link to the fabric of the city.” He added that “I consider Hudson Yards to be the most important test in my career of this philosophical position. The relationships between buildings are facilitated and encouraged by our desire to create structures that gesture and defer to one another.”
Before the groundbreaking ceremony the West Side was overcast and shrouded in a light drizzle. With the podium speeches and photo-op whirring of site engines, the sun came out and the future of the site seemed clear indeed.