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