Gallery: Steven Holl’s Proposal for the Hudson Yards


We can’t help but love Steven Holl, so when we saw his design proposal for the Hudson Yards in NYC, we once again marveled at how good he is at creating responsible, human, and sustainable design that is just as wonderful and intriguing as the best architecture out there. Granted, this design is a proposal, but alas, we can still marvel at the beauty of great design.

The site is located right at the Eastern and Western Rail Yards and, essentially, is the last undeveloped site in midtown Manhattan. As part of an attempt to revitalize the area, Mayor Bloomberg and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opened the site to proposals for the air space on top of the rail yards themselves. Therefore, Extell Development Company selected Steven Holl Architects to put forward a proposal that would give them the rights to the site.

The site poses serious challenges, chief amongst them is the fact that the rail yards, where the trains are stored at the end of their daily service, must be kept operational during and after the construction of the site. Holl’s proposal calls for using the areas that aren’t covered by the rail lines themselves. It’s these filled sites where the development of the residential, retail, commercial, and educational components will be located.

What’s surprising about this proposal is the idea of covering the entirety of the rail yards with a suspended roof garden, which will be landscaped in a manner similar to that of New York’s Central Park. This park will not only serve as much needed green space within the development and the city, but will also contain a water strip that will collect and purify the rainwater from the site. The location and orientation of this park will ensure that it will have generous light and wonderful views of the city’s skyline. It will also contain an outdoor amphitheater and a performance hall for public events.

Building-wise, the project calls for a mixture of residential, retail, and commercial spaces, as well as a performance arts school. Of note are the six residential towers to the south side of the Western Yards. These oddly shaped towers aren’t designed just on the whims of the architect. Rather, they are designed according to a rigorous sun angle study, with the intent of bringing and lighting different areas of the park throughout the day and the years. The entire proposal will also make use of geothermal exchange, gray and storm-water recycling, a cogeneration plant, and high performance buildings. But it’s the park that’s expected to bring the most benefits to the development, creating a microclimate on the site and reducing the energy demands of the railways below.

This proposal was created to achieve the goals set out in the PlanNYC project in New York City. Other proposals have been submitted for the site, and you can see them if you are in Manhattan at the northwest corner of 43rd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

+ Steven Holl’s proposal for the Hudson Yards


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  1. cb January 1, 2008 at 8:06 am

    @mr yanos.

  2. Christopher Yeanos December 26, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    When one travels the world and witnesses the skylines recently developed in Dubai, Shanghai and Berlin, a project of this scope and magnitude is sorely needed for the NYC skyline.

  3. Samina Ali December 16, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Nice try but if he is really trying to maximize the solar gain in all his buildings and the park, he should have had less high buildings on the south side and taller solar slice buildings on the north side. this way all the buildings will get significant solar gain.

  4. wlai December 15, 2007 at 5:17 am

    oops. that should say: “a project can’t be built unless it’s economically feasible, and so i’d imagine building 3 stories structures on the lot is going to work.”

    also, look at the pdf, there’s alot more information there, before everyone jumps in criticizes. graywater/storm water recycling. wind turbine on top of skyscrapers. using the river to cool. green roofs. 50% less energy demand. adding alot of planting and removing a giant baking island of heat in the railyards today.

    and there’s also information on why they build fewer but taller towers, vs. another design to build many smaller buildings. basically you can’t build it and have the rail yards working, which is a precondition.

  5. wlai December 15, 2007 at 4:58 am

    i think you are taking the design illustration too literally. the illustration is not a operator’s manual. the building is illustrated as light on dark background because it makes the building’s design stand out.

    also, you have got to remember that land use in manhattan is very different than most parts of the world. as the article suggests, it’s the “last undeveloped site” in midtown, and the land is going to cost alot of money. a project can’t be built unless it’s economically feasible, and so i’d imagine building 3 stories structures on the lot is going to work.

    i haven’t read anywhere that says they aren’t going to LEED certified, how they will be dealing with grey water, etc. deducing all that from two pictures is perhaps premature. skyscrappers have their own tradeoffs that are different than smaller buildings. and putting alot of people in the city can be more green than having urban sprawl taking over the countryside, not to mention the energy savings of having population that can use mass transit or walk to places, rather than have everyone drive in the suburbs and country sides.

  6. ian December 14, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I agree with lilleuldav. How can this be hailed as a great example of green sustainable development…? It doesn’t look like there’s much though to natural air conditioning, grey water recycling, self sufficient power generation, let alone the fact that once again it’s massively going to increase the light pollution… Why does no-one think about this? I look around (in Toronto, Ontario), and every morning & night I see swathes of office lights on with no-one in the office, massive plumes of smoke coming from the tops of the towers, too many cars, and lots of flat concrete roofs! Unless new projects actively start to tackle this, the re-conditioned units are never going to up their standards!

  7. la moda December 14, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I disagree with this project altogether. Giant towers spaced so closely together blocking lots of mid morning and afternoon sun will make the space in between absolutely dreadful.. natural light is a given in green work, but I’m afraid the ego has placed it second fiddle.
    And seriously, will there be operable windows in those things?
    I think it’s terrible.

  8. Ste December 14, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Yes, that is what stroke me as well.. nice design but that’s a lot of light pollution! All the light that makes the buildings shine is just energy wasted.

  9. litteuldav December 13, 2007 at 6:45 am

    This is a marvelous project

    But why leave all those lights on at night in offices ?
    Look like it is a corporate bad habit to forget switching some 1000’s Watt worth of lightning all night long … on your side of the Atlantic :-)

    RRR : 1st R is Reduce, Reduce energy consumption by switching off most of the lights in an empty office.

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