Has New York built too tall?

Has New York built too tall?

At the beginning of the month, the CTBUH and ICE collaborated to host a debate among their respective members. Held on the East Side at the 11th Street bar, guests enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to network alongside some lively discussion. The debate was moderated by Richard Giffen, Associate Principal at Arup, and was structured in an Oxford-Style with participants aiming to sway the audience to their viewpoint with each speech. The divisive topic up for debate was “Has New York Built Too Tall?”

Guests enjoyed a spirited debate in an informal setting

Arguing for were Adam Friedberg, Associate Principal at BuroHappold & Ilkay Can-Standard, Founder at GenX. They began with a point everybody in the room could agree on - transport infrastructure in New York is at breaking point. This creates a need for building outside the city, not on top of it. Using groundbreaking examples of technological innovation, such as Falcon 9, they argued that it is possible to build better, greener and more affordable transportation that negates the need for more skyscrapers in the Central Business District. Furthermore, the land needed for tall foundations could be used for other infrastructure improvements such as stormwater retention or creating community areas. It was suggested that the advantage of these tall buildings goes only to its inhabitants, many of whom are not even inhabiting the apartments they own. 

The discussion then moved on to highlight existing problems with tall structures, such as health issues of residents, including motion sickness and depression, as well as the lack of nature that a high-rise apartment affords. This impacts not just the residents but the entire community, with shadows covering parks and lack of sunlight affecting circadian rhythm. Tall buildings are not just bad for our infrastructure, it was argued, they are bad for our health.

In a broader sense, Ilkay and Adam spoke about the loss of community and connection in tall buildings and how important this is for the health and integrity of a neighborhood. They used the opposing structural dynamics of innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley, Cambridge and Chelsea, with skyscraper ‘canyons’ commonly found in Asia to cement their point that progress is sparked from street-level interactions, allowing people and ideas to combine and leading to start-up companies and new innovations.