Courtesy of Cooper Robertson
This yr marks the 40th anniversary of Battery Park City, one of New York City’s first built-from-scratch neighborhoods. Constructed on landfill at the southern end of Manhattan, Battery Park City is a singular improvement of residences, retail, public parks and waterfront. Untapped Cities Insiders just lately spent an evening traversing the neighborhood with the city designer who created it’s master plan back in 1979, Brian Shea of Cooper Robertson.
All through his career Shea has been instrumental within the improvement of numerous progressive city design plans and has helped shaped cities throughout the nation. After interning with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Shea made his approach to New York City for graduate faculty at Columbia College. From there he turned the primary employee of Cooper Roberson and has been with the agency ever since. We sat down with Shea before our Insiders tour, in entrance of Stuyvesant Excessive Faculty on the northern end of Battery Park City, to study more about his work and his take on urban design in New York City for our newest NYC Makers profile.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What’s your favorite Untapped spot in New York City?
Brian Shea: The forest in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It’s the place you could be in the center of nature but in addition within the middle of 2.8 million individuals.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What places are on your New York City bucket record?
Brian Shea: Each time Hudson Yards modifications. Hopefully the northern end of the High Line as it meets the convention middle. The new work out on Roosevelt Island for Cornell College. Let’s see…
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: Or locations perhaps you haven’t been in awhile.
Brian Shea: Properly, I all the time love Jacob Riis Park. It’s where you possibly can truly get to the ocean in New York City. My alma mater Columbia College, I haven’t really walked round so much where they’ve been expanding, just to see how it seems to be, how it’s doing. And the ever evolving Brooklyn riverfront, DUMBO, now it’s climbing up in the direction of the Navy Yard.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What makes New York City nice to you?
Brian Shea: Nicely, A, its variety, B, its measurement, C, its very difficult relationship with water. It’s in contrast to other cities, say in Australia, like Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. They’ve one massive concept concerning the water. Sydney is this huge harbor, Melbourne is that this monumental bay on the south ocean, and Brisbane is a few river. New York has tons of water and much of totally different waterfronts and since of that it has this unimaginable physical variety. I can’t really assume of one other city, you’ll be able to assume of Stockholm perhaps, that’s as spectacular in that approach.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: It’s fascinating to think about that as a result of I really feel like when individuals assume of Manhattan, they don’t necesarily assume of it as an island.
Brian Shea: Right, and whenever you take a look at the bridges, simply the positioning of the bridges, you’ll be able to see how it actually sets the plan, the street and block plan, of like half of Brooklyn. Simply because of the place the bridges are situated, how they are angled, where they go. The canal becomes Flatbush and takes you out to the ocean. It’s superb.
Shea on our Insiders tour explaining the distinctive curved design of the waterfront fences on the Battery Park City esplanade that permit for an unobstructed view of the waterfront whereas seated
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What would you modify about New York City?
Brian Shea: Quite a bit of outsized infrastructure on the waterfront makes it troublesome to get to it. They’ve been eliminating quite a bit these days. With that there’s going to be better methods to deal with flooding sooner or later aside from a six foot concrete wall, which wouldn’t be pleasant for anybody.
Anything to enhance the setting of the subway, ways right down to it, and once you’re down there, what it’s like on the platforms. Other cities have achieved an excellent job with integrating improvement or just penetrating lively daylight down into a subway. Additionally connections with different modes of transportation, that’s not so easy in New York. If I’ve to take a bus in from New Jersey, then what do I do? Or how do I get to the airport if I don’t have a automotive and I don’t need a $75 taxi journey? Infrastructure wants so much of work I feel, public transit.
I might additionally say New York City tends to be pretty conservative with its improvement practices and its constructing varieties. In the event you go to different cities they are much more progressive with the sorts of housing they construct, how they’re going to develop density however nonetheless in a low rise configuration, how they’ll combine totally different uses in one constructing. It’s very uncommon in New York to seek out an office building with housing on prime of it, nevertheless it’s state of the artwork in Chicago for example. We are typically quite conservative in how we construct. That’s as a result of we are developer pushed, sadly.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What tasks from the previous are you most proud of?
Brian Shea: Battery Park City is one. There are various gamers in Battery Park City however I was fortunate enough to be a master planner and designer from the beginning, working with Stan and Alex and others. It’s one of the highlights of my work in New York City.
One other one was doing a framework plan for all the Yale College and making an attempt to get the Yale office to think about Yale physically, fairly than academically or programmatically, however not give them a standard grasp plan. They needed a framework plan which they might use to inform future designs. It was actually nice to evolve a product that wasn’t a standard grasp plan however was extra in terms of framework which has helped us since with other faculties.
Let’s see. Stapleton. Denver had an previous airport, Stapleton Airport, which was one quarter of their metropolis in land area. It was seven and a half sq. miles. Once they opened the new airport additional east in the prairie, all of a sudden the town of Denver might refill the opening. It was very fascinating to work on the conversion of a business aviation facility, to see the completion of an evolving 20th century city and see the place the town meets the prairie. Very cool. That was an enormous one. It become all types of neighborhoods, public parks. We took the previous east-west runway and it turned one of the most important new avenues in Denver. There have been challenges like, if they have been to blast the concrete of the airport runways, it will be the most important quarry in the rocky mountain region. So we tried to figure out what to do with all the concrete. We also designed the primary prairie park within the midwest United States, we daylighted a lake once the runways have been gone and reconnected it to the Platte River. It was an enormous challenge that attempted to stability nature, with urban improvement and a means of creating a spot for work and residents. It’s still beneath development and we completed the plan in 2001, 2002.
Stapleton Airport Redevelopment Plan – City design and improvement plan for the nation’s unprecedented closure and conversion of a 5,000-acre, worldwide airport to non-aviation use. Courtesy of Cooper Robertson
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What have been some of the unique challenges in creating Battery Park City?
Brian Shea: One unique drawback was governance as a result of, Battery Park City Authority was not a metropolis company. It might override anything within the metropolis if it needed to nevertheless it had to work with the town. It was making an attempt to mix a brand new sort of design tips that may be adopted by the town as an alternative of traditional zoning. You additionally had three totally different heads of the Battery Park City Authority over time they usually every had their very own specific level of view.
In phrases of infrastructure, it was extraordinarily difficult. Any waterfront, derelict waterfront or landfill, from an infrastructure level of view, is absolutely troublesome. All the things at Battery Park City is on fill, so every part needs to be rigorously thought-about in terms of loading. All of the utilities for example are on piles. Each tree on the esplanade is in a tree pit on a pile above the river. The seawall had its challenges, to not point out that the PATH tubes of New Jersey come right via the business middle. The unique World Trade Middle, all its air con intake, all the things got here in from the river, so there have been tunnels in all places.
I might say probably the most difficult half was to make it acquainted to New Yorkers. It was deserted as a seashore for twelve years. The landfill was here however it was fenced off and inaccessible. So what do you do? There was an present plan in place however it was so difficult that no one might work out the right way to build it and no developer would contact it. Then the bonds have been coming due which funded the unique landfill they usually had to be paid back. There was nothing in place to pay them again with. We were given ninety days to provide you with a brand new plan so we might begin this thing. Doing a grasp plan in ninety days was difficult.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: And that was one of your first major jobs right?
Brian Shea: Yea, and this was before the age of the computer! The whole lot was ink on mylar, hand drawn.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: And you probably did it!
Brian Shea: We did it.
Plans for Battery Park City, Courtesy Cooper Robertson
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What tasks in the city are exciting to you right now?
Brian Shea: Hudson Yards. The brand new subway line underneath seventh avenue and the extension of the subway to Hudson Yards. The Brooklyn waterfront, Roosevelt Island, the southern end being developed by universities. Columbia’s new work. The new residential improvement around the High Line is pretty cool as a result of it’s the primary time we’ve accomplished something aside from conservative improvement and building varieties. The brand new buildings are pretty cool.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What makes those buildings totally different?
Brian Shea: They don’t seem to be afraid to attempt new development methods, materials, type and form. It’s fairly totally different than what you see right here [at Battery Park City]. These are all LEED rated buildings, however it’s nonetheless your commonplace brick and stone development. The High Line is one thing totally different.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What tasks are you engaged on right now?
Brian Shea: We now have an enormous mixed-use venture that is still within the planning process in New Jersey. A new approach of desirous about retail and a retail purchasing road. Fairly than a standard mall, it’s integrated with workplace improvement and residential. That’s being completed by a developer out of Atlanta and who has tried it in Atlanta and has been fairly profitable.
I’ve been engaged on a master plan for Georgia State University, which is in downtown Atlanta, and it’s now the most important college in the state of Georgia. It’s making an attempt to, on its own, be a catalyst for the development of downtown, to reactivate downtown Atlanta, and that’s fairly cool. The third one, I do quite a bit of campus designs, so we’ve just been ending, two plans, one is for Longwood University in Virginia, half of the University of Virginia system, and a small but actually revolutionary faculty referred to as Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. Totally needs to reinvent itself, bodily, academically, it’s pretty neat what they are making an attempt to do. That’s about it.
Plan for Drury College, The Master Plan accommodated future progress inside the present campus whereas additionally strengthening the material of the campus with the new Scholar Life Middle and residential quad because the core of the campus. Courtesy of Cooper Robertson
Untapped Cities: What recommendation would you give to individuals starting their careers at the moment?
Brian Shea: If you will be an urban designer, you must tolerate the truth that city design is an nameless art and in the long run you’re not going to be remembered for the plan, it’s going to be the architects who construct the buildings that get remembered. So don’t feel annoyed. It’s not a career for the ego-minded, urban design. Structure is a unique story.
I might say on this world as we speak, quite than tackle the money maker tasks and the identify recognition tasks, you have to be contributing quite a bit of time to fixing third world issues and social problems in an progressive bodily approach. There’s simply too much that needs to be achieved that may’t be ignored, it doesn’t matter what career you go into.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What guide are you reading proper now?
Brian Shea: Properly my other life is a musician, so right now I’m studying a philosophical and musical analysis of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. At the similar time, attending the Ring Cycle and getting it into my head musically. I revisit it once every 5 or 6 years. The Met placed on an ideal manufacturing of it this yr, very progressive set. In order that’s my other life.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: What instruments do you play?
Brian Shea: I play classical piano and I’m a composition novice. I do this along with, typically extra typically than, architecture apply.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: Have you ever carried out?
Brian Shea: I’ve had my works performed. I’m simply too hen to carry out them. Most of my work is just too onerous for me to perform.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: How lengthy have you ever been enjoying for?
Brian Shea: Piano since I used to be about six and I’m now 68. After finishing what I assumed was a reasonably good life within the architecture career I went back to music faculty and spent three years in Paris in composition faculty within the summers.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: Might you tell us one shocking thing about your self?
Brian Shea: Aside from I’m a composer?
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: We might use that!
Brian Shea: I’m additionally educated within the Hudson River Faculty of panorama painting which is a very particular method of portray and creating colors from oil paint. You’re only allowed to use certain colours and it’s a must to make your personal green. That’s cool. I’m a grandfather with Australian grandkids, and I’m also a farmer on the aspect. We now have a farm in upstate New York.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: I adore it up within the Hudson Valley and Hudson River Faculty work are my favourite type of artwork.
Brian Shea: We’re very close to Olana. We go there perhaps once each two weeks for a stroll. Relying on the climate, if we need to catch a sunset we simply drive up and go. I do lots of pro-bono work with Scenic Hudson. One undertaking I’m actually proud of, up the river from the Palisades, throughout from the Cloisters museum, it’s type of a national historic view, simply north of the George Washington Bridge. LG was going to build this disgusting ten, twelve story glass corporate workplace tower. Scenic Hudson came to me and stated, “Can we do anything to combat what they are about to do?” And I stated, “Sure.” So I took their square foot program and I researched traditionally that traditional Korean architecture is all based mostly on courtyards, so I stated, let’s do a courtyard corporate workplace complicated and never go above the tree line. So you then wouldn’t see it. You wouldn’t see it from the river or from the Cloisters. So I had to present it to LG they usually got here again with, “We can’t do that. It’s not in our corporate culture,” blah blah blah. Then we labored with Scenic Hudson, at that time Lawrence Rockefeller was on the board, and a yr later they come back and say, “We are going to build a three story courtyard scheme,” which is now beneath development. We saved the view. That was all pro-bono work. That’s what I mean about doing work that has some public benefit.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: I just went to Olana, Fredrick Church’s property, for the primary time just lately. I needed to go across to Thomas Cole’s home too nevertheless it was closed.
Brian Shea: That was my other pro-bono work for Scenic Hudson. I was requested to help develop the pedestrian connection between Thomas Cole’s home and Olana. I did these conceptual sketches and one of them I did was this pedestrian link and this new visitors rotary and open area design in the foot of the bridge. I didn’t present it but the head of the bridge authority introduced it to Cuomo and he stated, “I want to do this.” So he gave $10 million. The rotary is completed, landscape is completed. It was this ugly highway interchange on the bottom and nobody knew what lane to go in or where to show and it took up so much of area. So it’s all gone and now you’ll be able to stroll, there’s a cantilever walkway on the south aspect of the bridge, there’s bump outs for individuals to color, and we’re going to place up correspondence between Cole and Church along the walk, then integrate in the carriage trails that take you up to Olana.
Nicole Saraniero, Untapped Cities: That’s superb, I have to go back up and test it out. Thanks for sitting down with us!
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