High Rise
August 27, 2018 8:54 AM   Subscribe

“Gentrification is not quite the right word for what’s happening here. Midtown is no derelict precinct primed for an influx of the affluent. What’s emerging instead is a vision of where development is headed next: toward a culture of the secessionist city. The techno-libertarians, machine fanatics, and psychopaths of Silicon Valley have long dreamed of an exit from regular society, through colonization of the seas and the stars. In the form of the supertall, they may have found, for themselves and others like them, an elegant solution: one that gives them a society apart, a realm of perfect exclusion and perfect control, but nevertheless leeches off the encircling polity while entrenching the political influence of the rich.” The Needles and the Damage Done (The Baffler)
posted by The Whelk (81 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
the bigger they are, the harder they fall
posted by chavenet at 9:03 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


> ...Hudson Yards, this bum’s rush of steel-and-glass suppositories fingered to the heavens.

Nice.
posted by ardgedee at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


See also: Survivial Of The Richest.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:13 AM on August 27, 2018


No one will actually inhabit these buildings anyway.
posted by slkinsey at 9:15 AM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


One step closer to launch arcos.
posted by mdash at 9:16 AM on August 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


I remember reading an essay years ago about a city (somewhere in South America but I forget where exactly) where the upper classes were increasingly living in high-walled compounds. It made the same points as this article - that the architecture was metaphorically turning its back on the city as a whole, blotting out the city's existence for the compounds' residents while presenting the city's other inhabitants with nothing but long stretches of blank, broken-glass-topped walls meant to keep them out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:17 AM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


toward a culture of the secessionist city.

It's already happened (and Trump was one of many people who helped it along).

As a cynical teen made to read By the Waters of Babylon, I assumed that the story was just an exaggeration, but these days I wonder.

No one will actually inhabit these buildings anyway.

Yes, it'll be one apartment of twenty owned by some super rich person. And there will be no community or neighborhood, but that won't matter because the retail taxes are being collected.
posted by Melismata at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


> The architects’ renderings of these new superstructures were charged with all the clichés of the genre...

There's a gigantic luxury high-rise going up directly across the street from the library I work at in Toronto; the advertisements featuring the architects' renderings prominently featured a pool/spa area that I joked made it look like it was designed to be a zoo which would house rich people in a humane facsimile of their natural habitat.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


The recent SF show Altered Carbon did a great job portraying this future, by the way. Here's the city near the ground level, and here's where the rich people live.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2018 [19 favorites]


Of related interest, the San Francisco Bay Area's urban planning think tank, SPUR, just released their Four Future Scenarios report: "Will the Bay Area of 2070 be a Gated Utopia, Bunker Bay Area, Rust Belt West ... or New Social Compact?"
posted by PhineasGage at 9:21 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I remember reading an essay years ago about a city (somewhere in South America but I forget where exactly) where the upper classes were increasingly living in high-walled compounds.

This could be lots of places in the world, from Djakarta to Istanbul, but it does literally describe São Paulo, where the lines are drawn sharp and the affluent get from one secured tower to another via helicopter. I often wonder if SP, just one or two notches shy of Parable of the Sower, isn't a preview of what we're going to get in the States if current trends continue unabated.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


A bit surprised the Baffler article didn't mention J.G. Ballard's High-Rise, either the original book or the recent movie version.
posted by PhineasGage at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


This paragraph is amazing:
Price was the kind of architectural eccentric, rumpled and erudite, that architects themselves love—a man so uncompromising in his beliefs he succeeded in building practically nothing over the course of his four-decade career. Many of Price’s lectures survive on YouTube, where you can watch him—wine glass in one hand, cigar in the other—ruminate on the tyranny of construction and the need for architects to leave space alone. Were he a young architect rising up through the ranks today, I doubt anyone would take him seriously; he’d be dismissed as abstruse, a utopian, a dilettante, a drunk. Dead and irrelevant, however, the renegades of the past can be commercially useful to us.
That so purely describes the cult behavior of architects (or at least architecture students) that I wonder if the author crashed out of architecture school (like I admittedly did).
posted by fedward at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


Oh: also: fuck Hudson Yards right in the eye. I lived on 30th Street for some eight years of my life, and it's the first piece of New York City that isn't any part of the New York City I know. It's more an exclave of global capital than anything else, psychically more contiguous with Doha International and the Dubai Mall than it is with the very streets that open onto it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:27 AM on August 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


Extremely good: "a bland corporate plaza built for smoking breaks and quiet moments of self-hatred"
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:28 AM on August 27, 2018 [15 favorites]


Extremely good

C'mon, that can't even hold a candle to "man is born free but everywhere is in salad chains." Heh.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:30 AM on August 27, 2018 [18 favorites]


That was actually the other one I was debating quoting!
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:31 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember reading an essay years ago about a city (somewhere in South America but I forget where exactly) where the upper classes were increasingly living in high-walled compounds.

I had a roommate in college who grew up in Venezuela in this exact set up
posted by supermedusa at 9:31 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I few months ago I spent nearly a month housesitting in a friend's apartment in one of the new, super modern building right next to Amazon while they were in the hospital.

It's one of those places advertised as some kind of vertically integrated "community" with lots of cute brand-name-chef run restaurants and some quirky businesses and even something useful like a bike shop.

On paper it all looks great. In practice it's a vertical ghetto of total strangers. In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation despite my very experienced attempts at starting them. I never saw anyone talk to anyone else, either, unless it was a work related conversation.

People also seem to treat the entire building as something disposable, that they are entitled to mistreat because... I guess because the rents are so high, it's made mostly out of drab concrete, and it's not their job to take care of it? I don't know, but the inhabitants generally seem to mistreat it like a cheap dorm hall despite rents being in the 2.5-3.5k USD range for a roomy one bedroom with a tiny balcony. The common spaces were hard used for a building that was barely a couple of years old.

All of this mistreatment was best illustrated to me when I first visited the "recycling" room. Keep in mind this is advertised as a green or Leeds certified building or something, and they talk it up a lot in their literature.

I feel you can generally judge the community health of a building by it's facilities, especially the trash room, laundry room and the like.

The recycling room looked like something out of Mad Max. I'm not exaggerating here at all. I opened the door and about forty pounds of raw, still box-shaped cardboard spilled out from near the top of the door. It could have been much more, but thankfully the wall didn't collapse. Somewhere in there were bins, as I could see corners and edges of them through the weirdly nested, chaotic pile of crap. Amid all the thousands of ubiquitous brown delivery boxes was... furniture, clothes... dozens of cheaply made swiffers or other floor/house cleaning appliances in lurid day glow lime greens like high performance sporting goods for cleaning your bathroom as fast as possible without actually touching it. I saw a couple of ludicrously large broken TVs wedged in there, electronics, shoes, furniture.. I found a pretty great hat and saw a bunch of perfectly good new things being thrown away for unknown reasons. Expediency? Who cares, it was cheap online and I'll get a new one after I move to my new job and tower apartment?

I know we need dense, efficient housing solutions but this is horrible, nightmarish shit.
posted by loquacious at 9:33 AM on August 27, 2018 [30 favorites]


Hudson Yards looks like what the entirety of downtown Toronto is in the process of transforming itself into. Behold all these "exciting" skyscrapers!
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:36 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


first piece of New York City that isn't any part of the New York City I know

Battery Park City had this problem when it was first built, and it’s still pretty cut off.
posted by q*ben at 9:37 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Makes me think of Metropolis.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:44 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Toronto mayoral candidate Jen Keesmaat (who used to be the city's chief planner, and is certainly my pick) is talking about putting up 100K residential units on city property, targeting the lower end of the market, though obviously they would not all be downtown.

My partner and I just moved to Maitland and Jarvis, kind of at the border between detached houses and the ultrahigh developments that are creeping east. Our building is a mere 20 storeys, built 30 years ago, and actually has a good community; people talk to each other in the elevators, I know the names of a few neighbours on my floor. It's mostly owners in here; there's a lot of pride in the building (also a lot of queers) and its place in the local community.

I think it's possible to build at scale but also have it be part of a vibrant neighbourhood; I think a lot of it comes down to people being raised not to be fucking assholes -- to give a shit about themselves and their spaces -- which doesn't really follow on with a lot of the tech-bro culture, where everything they need is spoon-fed to them by an employer and all they are seeking is a place to sleep and a garage for their sports car that they drive once a week.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:46 AM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


"In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation despite my very experienced attempts at starting them"

Was this in Massachusetts?
posted by kevinbelt at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Though I think that tech-bro spoon feeding culture is probably also a response to bullshit rents making it impossible for people in Silicon Valley to have a community at home, because there's simply no room for anything but a bedroom you can still barely afford. So their offices become their community. It's a feedback loop, at least somewhat.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


On paper it all looks great. In practice it's a vertical ghetto of total strangers. In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation despite my very experienced attempts at starting them. I never saw anyone talk to anyone else, either, unless it was a work related conversation.

This is basically the crux of the Robert Moses v. Jane Jacobs urban planning debate. One side was enamored with large, dense buildings as the most efficient way to house humans and another looked at those buildings and noted how terrible they were for communities. If the 'street' of your home is a windowless corridor that just exists to funnel you from your personal vehicle to your apartment, you will never see it, care about it, or do anything about it or anyone you encounter in that street.

And, on one hand, I do believe that the point and importance of having thriving streets and communities still holds and continues to be important, even if that less dense setup leads to housing affordability problems; but on the other hand, I don't know how sustainable that is given the way that we do need denser housing and given the way that ecommerce has been destroying bricks-and-mortar retail. The new urbanism philosophies that undergirded our walkable, mixed communities aren't going to survive into the next decade, and it's a challenge to see what will succeed them.

Also, as a former resident of Manila, I also co-sign how this segregation of rich into exclusive enclaves is not unique to America. If nothing else, this will always happen when the separation between rich and poor and the disappearance of the middle class is very much a thing.
posted by bl1nk at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2018 [23 favorites]


So their offices become their community. It's a feedback loop, at least somewhat.

Don't forget that they're all single, childless, and working 55+ hour weeks, so they go home to sleep and not to socialize. They may not even cook or eat at home because they can get meals on campus. There's a lot of coded language in job listings that excludes people with spouses or children. The stuff about working hard, playing hard, having beer in the office, and so on is meant to appeal to people who neither have nor want lives outside of work. Hiring for "culture fit" reinforces this. Also "unlimited vacation time" comes with release schedules that mean you never actually get to take it, and you might expect to be punished (or at least shunned from the cool office clique) if you do.
posted by fedward at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2018 [18 favorites]


Oh: also: fuck Hudson Yards right in the eye. I lived on 30th Street for some eight years of my life, and it's the first piece of New York City that isn't any part of the New York City I know. It's more an exclave of global capital than anything else, psychically more contiguous with Doha International and the Dubai Mall than it is with the very streets that open onto it.


there is unrest on the west side
there is trouble with the trains
for the new-techs want more sunlight
and the towers dismiss their pain

(doodleydoodleydoodleydoodleydoo-doo-dooo)
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


On paper it all looks great. In practice it's a vertical ghetto of total strangers. In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation despite my very experienced attempts at starting them. I never saw anyone talk to anyone else, either, unless it was a work related conversation.

What this world needs is mandatory dog ownership. Nobody ever knows anyone in a condo tower until they get a dog, and then they know everyone.

(I'm exaggerating slightly. My condo tower back in Toronto is actually notable for its strong sense of community, but people still liked me a lot better when I had a dog.)
posted by jacquilynne at 10:07 AM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


Cant stand those tacky needle high rise places. They look like shit and I can only imagine the type who would occupy it (or leave it unoccupied in order to flip it later).
Did someone already make the joke about these "needles" popping a real estate bubble?
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:15 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Everytime I contemplate anyone living in a tower above about 20 stories, I have Towering Inferno flashbacks - and I never even saw the Twin Towers fall. Grenfell Tower was only 24 stories.

If I can't jump out of a window to safety / fire trucks can't reach me, I really, really don't want to live there.

On a more prosaic level: I have lived with too many broken elevators to ever want to live more than 5 stories above ground. I know these places are much fancier, but power-outages still happen.
posted by jb at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


To be fair, one of the reasons we're getting so many stupid high towers is because of NIMBYism from owners of detached and semi-detached houses that are RIGHT IN THE CORE. That shit should all be torn down and replaced with mixed-use midrises. Just put your grandma up in a hotel for six months and move her back into a lovely, accessible flat with a nice community garden on the roof, shops at street level, and beautiful parks and walkways threaded throughout. Oh, and no visible parking and narrow streets with wide sidewalks and bike lanes...

Dreaming. i'm just dreaming.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:32 AM on August 27, 2018 [21 favorites]


The spectacle of an art school entombed, facing a future in which students will paint in the dark

fantastic article. the future looks so glum I gotta wear a black armband or something...
posted by supermedusa at 10:37 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


From the article:
I detected no sign of the supertall’s inhabitants. In the place of residents were bodyguards marking time, and doormen, and fleets of black SUVs: a whole apparatus designed to shield the building’s residents from contact with the city. The residents, I surmised, were all up there—right at the top, perhaps, or ensconced in the tower’s twelfth-floor private restaurant, where a Michelin-starred chef serves important food that looks like it’s no fun to eat.
Emphasis mine, because I think this is wrong - the "residents" are most likely on paper only, and I wager are actually are off in their real homes in Dubai or Moscow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on August 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


I found a pretty great hat and saw a bunch of perfectly good new things being thrown away for unknown reasons. Expediency? Who cares, it was cheap online and I'll get a new one after I move to my new job and tower apartment?

Almost all the people I know who live in newly-built "luxury" condos around her report that in the trash/recycling rooms there are perfectly good items just sitting out because people throw everything away the second it doesn't suit their needs. You could pretty much furnish your whole life just from the trash room.
posted by xingcat at 10:38 AM on August 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


It occurs to me that if we ever get arcologies in cities, they'll be filled with just the worst sorts of people.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just put your grandma up in a hotel for six months and move her back

If development actually worked like this - with displaced renter residents getting first dibs on the new apartments at comparable prices to their old apartments - I think we'd all have much less of a problem with it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:43 AM on August 27, 2018 [26 favorites]


This is basically the crux of the Robert Moses v. Jane Jacobs urban planning debate. One side was enamored with large, dense buildings as the most efficient way to house humans and another looked at those buildings and noted how terrible they were for communities

Jacobs also noted (IIRC) that, with the way Robert Moses planned his terrible fucking “high rises,” you could just as easily lay the dumb things on their sides and still have the possibility of communities.

But any discussion of Robert Moses that doesn’t include racism and the deliberate destruction and destabilization of poor communities is probably incomplete.

I wondered why, as soon as people get rich, they seem to pay through the nose to isolate themselves. The obvious answer is fear, but like...with a functioning social contract, you wouldn’t have as much to fear. It’s always framed as fear of violence or theft, but I think in some very real sense it’s an acknowledgement that extreme wealth inequality breaks a fundamental social contract.

If you have hundreds of millions of dollars and there are kids in poverty a mile from you, you know you’re doing something wrong. So you’re afraid.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2018 [23 favorites]


It occurs to me that if we ever get arcologies in cities, they'll be filled with just the worst sorts of people.

This is pretty much the plot of The Water Knife.
posted by q*ben at 10:59 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


The inhuman use of inhuman beings
posted by thelonius at 11:00 AM on August 27, 2018


It occurs to me that if we ever get arcologies in cities, they'll be filled with just the worst sorts of people.

This is entirely the plot of Oath of Fealty. Of course that's not what its authors thought, mostly because they themselves were just the worst sorts of people.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:15 AM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


But any discussion of Robert Moses that doesn’t include racism and the deliberate destruction and destabilization of poor communities is probably incomplete.

Truer words never spoken, etc.

All the same, though, I confess to getting a frisson from Paul Rudolph's drawings of the never-built LoMEx megastructure he was working on for Moses. At that, I'd infinitely rather have that to contend with than 200% soul-free Hudson Fucking Yards.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:19 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think the discussion here is conflating "luxury" rentals aimed at yuppies and the flashy developments the article talks about, which are really aimed at foreign billionaires moving cash out of their home countries. There is a material difference between 432 Park Avenue (featured in the article), where 3BR units sell for $15 million and rent for $70000 a month, versus something like this new tower in Hudson Yards, which are ~$6000 a month for a 2BR (which is more like a 3BR because a whole lot of tenants are probably putting up flex walls). I mean, you might hate the tech and finance bros, but at least they actually live there.
posted by airmail at 11:25 AM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


Up or out. People gotta live somewhere. Better up into highrises instead of out into sprawling suburbia chewing up wildlife habitat and putting a more climate-wrecking cars on the road.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:30 AM on August 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


Almost all the people I know who live in newly-built "luxury" condos around her report that in the trash/recycling rooms there are perfectly good items just sitting out because people throw everything away the second it doesn't suit their needs.

I own a suite in a non-luxury condo tower and that was pretty true there, too. Even better would be to furnish your house based on stuff that people were giving away on the building's Facebook group. Large furnishings have virtually no second-hand value and they cost money to move, so they are readily available for the taking in nearly every income category. I'm sure the stuff in the luxury buildings was nicer, though.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:43 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


As an architect, I can only say I wish all architectural commentary were this insightful and well-written. Wow. I don't know New York well enough to understand every specific reference, but the central narrative rings true. Even in the world of design, this is designed by the <1% for the <1% for the further parking and accumulation of wealth.
I'm generally an advocate for urban density as a benefit for society and the environment, but these towers - are some other thing. I'm already looking forward to this passing in hopes that we get luckier with the next cycle.
posted by meinvt at 11:43 AM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


People gotta live somewhere. Better up into highrises instead of out into sprawling suburbia chewing up wildlife habitat and putting a more climate-wrecking cars on the road.

You're assuming that the people buying into these highrises are actually living in them, as opposed to living in the sprawling suburban developments and just keeping the highrise spot as a tax-writeoff or an occasional crash pad.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


What this world needs is mandatory dog ownership. Nobody ever knows anyone in a condo tower until they get a dog, and then they know everyone.

I don't know...the very first line in Ballard's High-Rise is "Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months."
posted by acidnova at 12:16 PM on August 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation

Conversely, as an introvert and part-time misanthrope, that sounds fantastic to me.

...I do not care to hear The Good Word. I do not care about your dog. I do not care about your mother. I do not care about your car. I do not care about the weather. I do not care about your recent bout of intestinal difficulties. I do not care about how awesome Trump is. I do not care about your thoughts on "the orientals". I do not care about your money troubles. I do not care about how you used to have a lawn. I do not care about your thoughts on the cashiers at the Buy-Mart. I do not care about your battles with dandelions. I do not care how much eggs used to cost...
posted by aramaic at 12:31 PM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


If the 'street' of your home is a windowless corridor that just exists to funnel you from your personal vehicle to your apartment, you will never see it, care about it, or do anything about it or anyone you encounter in that street.

In the entire month I was there, not one person said hello to me or tried to carry on a conversation.

I wonder, too, if overall density contributes to the perceived lack of friendliness/neighbourliness/chattiness in high-rise developments. When you're constantly surrounded by lots of other humans, personal space and privacy become more precious. The constant interactions one has with other humans in dense living situations aren't necessarily high-quality social encounters -- often they're not super-pleasant -- but by the time one gets off a packed subway or bus, navigates a crowded sidewalk, and gets to one's building, one might be pretty burned out on other humans and in no mood for elevator small-talk. All that unfulfilling being-around-large-numbers-of-other-humans can make one too tired for smaller-scale, actually-fulfilling socialisation.

On a more prosaic level: I have lived with too many broken elevators to ever want to live more than 5 stories above ground. I know these places are much fancier, but power-outages still happen.

This issue became quite apparent with Hurricane Sandy in NYC -- even those able-bodied enough to climb up and down those stairs had to do so in the dark, in many cases, thanks to the power outages which took out the elevators.
posted by halation at 12:34 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


If the 'street' of your home is a windowless corridor that just exists to funnel you from your personal vehicle to your apartment, you will never see it, care about it, or do anything about it or anyone you encounter in that street.

I've been trying to think about possible solutions for this. How can we do density without eliminating community? One thing I keep coming back to is the idea of a common room on each floor, or each [n] floors, that the residents actually have control over. (Maybe through a committee or something, to prevent total anarchy.)

Every apartment lobby or common room I've seen has looked and felt exactly like a doctor's office waiting room. Uncomfortable overstuffed ugly 'modern' couches, bland framed art on the walls, not much else. But what if the residents could decide what it ought to look like and furnish it themselves and make it an actually desirable and functional place to hang out and spend time? Put in a play corner for kids. Put in a dining table with leaves so that people can have group dinners or morning coffee in the common space. Etc.

I feel like the instinctive reaction to this will be "well, that sounds nice in theory but some bad actor would just ruin it." But I don't think that's a given.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


What this world needs is mandatory dog ownership. Nobody ever knows anyone in a condo tower until they get a dog, and then they know everyone.

Permission to keep a dog (and amenities like grooming facilities, gated runs, and carefully tended "pet areas" for them to relieve themselves without having to leave the gated complex) is one of the things that these kinds of buildings always seem to include in the lists of luxuries that they offer. The list of services for residents of 432 Park Avenue, for example, mentions "pet training, walking, boarding, and in-home grooming." Good luck getting permission to own a dog in other kinds of rental housing (at least here in the States).

(Not directed at you, jacquilynne - just processing the fact that this way of building community is actually on offer in these kinds of places already, and not always possible in less expensive housing. I'm still pretty bitter that we couldn't afford a place that would allow us to have a dog at all the last time we moved within LA.)
posted by Anita Bath at 12:55 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]



I wonder, too, if overall density contributes to the perceived lack of friendliness/neighbourliness/chattiness in high-rise developments


I doubt it. I barely know one of my next door neighbors and I live in a mid density (4000 people per sq mile), suburban area and I spend 3-5 months a year at my in-laws house in a moderate density area (6000 people per sq mile) and I've never met either of their neighbors either. Barely ever even seen them. And my commute is fine in both locations. And mostly I'm friendly. Some people just are interested in having their neighbors as their social circle and some aren't.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:59 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


One thing I keep coming back to is the idea of a common room on each floor, or each [n] floors, that the residents actually have control over.

Unfortunately, this was exactly the concept behind Pruitt-Igoe, a housing project that earned its architects design awards, for which they applied for a patent, and which also provided many of its occupants with proper plumbing for the first time in their lives (in 1954). Twenty years later it was completely imploded as an unsalvagable mess better to be replaced than fixed.

The idea may have merit, but the scars and echoes of distrust are still in the planning and policy world.
posted by meinvt at 1:10 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


The corridors in my condo are very anonymous but one thing I think that helps bind people together at least a little bit is the geometry -- our buildings are circular (well, based on nine pie-wedge shapes), and the corridor is also circular, orbiting around the stairwells and elevator shafts. Maybe 20 feet in diameter. Thus when you step outside, you're no more than a couple steps from your neighbour's doors.

That said, there are rules in the building about not decorating your doors and I think that's crap. I feel that there should be a bulletin board on each floor and/or door AND we should be able to personalize our entries as long as there's no hazard to navigation in the dark. I wouldn't require it but damn, it would lend a lot of neighbourhood character if we were "allowed" to add character to all of our little culs-de-sac. (Each floor has nine units.)

I get that not everyone wants to be social, but not everyone wants to be anonymous, either. One of our neighbours has two cats that he lets out into the hallway occasionally; another neighbour leaves their door open sometimes so the cats can visit. (Our gentlemen don't go out yet as they haven't gotten their outdoor shots yet -- we won't let them be exposed to other cats without being vaccinated.)

Is this on topic? I hope so. It's very relevant to my interests! Community building in high-ish-rises.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


(To be fair Pruitt-Igoe had a lot of problems not stemming from community rooms, like shoddy building materials good old fashioned American racism. )
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


I feel kind of dumb saying this, but I genuinely think the difference between getting to know your neighbors, or just being genuinely friendly out of necessity, is vertical vs. horizontal.

If you've got vertical density, the only time you see your neighbors is in places where there are (in the US anyway) strong cultural norms against interaction, because you are literally trapped: elevators etc.

Horizontal density: you walk by and see people all the time. The same people, often doing the same things, or just sitting on their stoops because it's nice out. Or playing music. Or dominoes. Or out with their dogs. Or or or. It's just more natural to make eye contact and nod, and from there there's a really natural progression.

I'm not friends with my neighbors yet -- I've been living in my current place less than a year, and that included a whole winter -- but I'm friendly with a few, and that's following the usual neighborly progression.

Vertical density really feels different to me. Like you can still become friends with your neighbors, but usually only for a good reason. Idk, maybe that's a New York thing.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:20 PM on August 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


Regarding Pruitt Igoe, the causes of its failure is mostly a false narrative. The linked documentary explores the issues well.
(too late)
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 1:21 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


Anyway, re: high rise socialization, tenants unions feel like a good stop gap in the meantime
posted by The Whelk at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Up or out. People gotta live somewhere. Better up into highrises instead of out into sprawling suburbia chewing up wildlife habitat and putting a more climate-wrecking cars on the road.

In context, this is utter and complete false-dichotomy free market bullshit.

We may agree that urban density is a desideratum, but North American cities are presently nowhere near the peak densities they supported at the turn of the last century, before the high-rise typology was available and before luxury flats on prime urban land were treated as an investment-grade asset (or "sky bullion" as we so-charmingly refer to the practice here in London).

The truth is that we have never yet seriously attempted to build safe, decent high-density housing at scale, and invest in it as a matter of high public purpose over the long term required, but the closest we came was during the Great Society years. I don't recall fingerling weenscrapers being a part of that vision.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:43 PM on August 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


I wonder, too, if overall density contributes to the perceived lack of friendliness/neighbourliness/chattiness in high-rise developments

I doubt it. I barely know one of my next door neighbors and I live in a mid density (4000 people per sq mile), suburban area and I spend 3-5 months a year at my in-laws house in a moderate density area (6000 people per sq mile) and I've never met either of their neighbors either.


Counterpoint: I live near center city in Philadelphia and I know many of my neighbors by name and have shoveled sidewalks, watered plants and held packages for them. They have done the same for us. Our part of the city is a mixture of owned homes, multi-unit market-rate rentals and Philadelphia Housing Authoritiy "scatter sites" which are city-owned subsidized affordable housing units. All rowhomes, 3 stories at most.

So maybe personal anecdata isn't very useful.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


In context, this is utter and complete false-dichotomy free market bullshit.

We may agree that urban density is a desideratum, but North American cities are presently nowhere near the peak densities they supported at the turn of the last century, before the high-rise typology was available and before luxury flats on prime urban land were treated as an investment-grade asset (or "sky bullion" as we so-charmingly refer to the practice here in London).


I strongly agree with this. That said, I recently visited the small provincial city of Aalborg, where they are building semi-high rise buildings on the waterfront. There, the city planner has managed to make a compromise, where the developers get to build some speculative luxury apartment buildings, but other sites are reserved for affordable and even student housing.
posted by mumimor at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


But what if the residents could decide what it ought to look like and furnish it themselves and make it an actually desirable and functional place to hang out and spend time?

Ever heard of homeowners' associations? The worst, pettiest, narrowest sort of people end up becoming powerful in those and leveraging that power to make their neighbors' lives miserable.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


We may agree that urban density is a desideratum, but North American cities are presently nowhere near the peak densities they supported at the turn of the last century, before the high-rise typology was available and before luxury flats on prime urban land were treated as an investment-grade asset (or "sky bullion" as we so-charmingly refer to the practice here in London).

The peak densities achieved at the start of last century were done in some pretty appalling ways, but I actually agree with this too. The quasi-public transportation realm in the US has always been oversized compared to the private homes which has prevented lower rise, higher density from being achievable like it is in other countries for the most part. So instead of narrowing roads, we build upward haphazardly.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:28 PM on August 27, 2018


The peak densities achieved at the start of last century were done in some pretty appalling ways

Nobody's arguing for a return to Old Law tenements. There's a whole lot of middle ground between the Lower East Side at peak density, though — 440,640 people per square mile at the 1905 census — and what we've got now, and a whole lot of that can be made up without needing to resort to supertall/megatall housing.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:39 PM on August 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Counterpoint: I live near center city in Philadelphia and I know many of my neighbors by name and have shoveled sidewalks, watered plants and held packages for them. They have done the same for us. Our part of the city is a mixture of owned homes, multi-unit market-rate rentals and Philadelphia Housing Authoritiy "scatter sites" which are city-owned subsidized affordable housing units. All rowhomes, 3 stories at most.
Having lived in Somerville, with its own set of triple deckers and is the most densely populated municipality in New England (18,000 people / sq mile), and having visited my wife when she lived in Center City, I get the density that you're describing and also the housing setup. I think part of what's been worth noting about these neighborhoods is that they are -designed- to foster relationships between neighbors and communities. They incentivize walkers. There are public spaces setup between residential and commercial areas so that people can see and socialize with each other outside of their homes. There's space for yards or stoops or porches for people to hang out facing the street and see their neighbors walking by. It's not "just" about density, it's about the design of the neighborhood and a high rise is inherently a poor design for a community.

To the earlier observation about how a high-rise laid flat would be a viable neighborhood, I think that's largely about how elevators and stairs are inherently isolating for someone to navigate a community, in the same way that building suburbs that emphasize auto travel also isolate people from their neighbors.

If one were to design a high rise that could foster community, you have to design something that encourages and rewards people for leaving their homes and having these sort of spontaneous connections with each other as they're going to work or doing an errand or grabbing a meal. That isn't going to be generated by just having a common room.

When I was visiting my wife in Philly, she used to take me to Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square (which Jane Jacbos also wrote about). Rittenhouse, in the very heart of Philly and in the nexus of several apartments, shopping areas, and office buildings, was thriving because people kept passing through it and lingering as they were going about their day. Washington Square is immersed in office buildings, so is just dead outside of the lunch hour, and basically feels decrepit and abandoned. Same designs, same furniture, but different locations and planning outcomes.

The high rise common room is a park and any park that doesn't exist in a network of journeys is going to be empty, dead, and sad. People who live in a high rise need to have a reason to travel within the high-rise (ie. have shopping or restaurants or libraries in different areas of the high rise) and then if you situate multipurpose/common rooms between these destinations and your residences then you'll likely see more success. It's not about how you furnish it or design it or manage it. It's how it exists with all of the other residents and amenities in your community.
posted by bl1nk at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


The high rise common room is a park and any park that doesn't exist in a network of journeys is going to be empty, dead, and sad.

Counterpoint: DJ Kool Herc founded hip-hop in a high-rise common room. I know, I know: the plural of "anecdote" is not "data," and so on. Nevertheless, it's hard to directly apply unimpeachably correct Jacobian insights about public space to shared interior environments.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:13 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sorry, anecdoodles.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:20 PM on August 27, 2018


It’s going to be interesting to see how all these extremely tall and thin structures fare when the next big hurricane hits NYC. It would be an occasion for schadenfreude, but for the debris raining down on the groundlings.
posted by monotreme at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2018


That isn't going to be generated by just having a common room.

One of the best features of the greenbelt town experiments (self link) was setting up the common laundry nearby the library and common green, so you could read or socialize while wapiting for washing to be finished. They wherewere built around the idea of the bike being the primary mode of transportation and having paths to necessary places go through parkland.
posted by The Whelk at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


All rowhomes, 3 stories at most.

So maybe personal anecdata isn't very useful.


Anecdata is problematic. But there is something about that middle - not high rise tower, but not spread out suburban - which does seem to help grow better neighbourhoods. Maybe it's because, as noted above, they encourage walking so much. They are denser than suburban areas, so one can walk to amenities, but they also have more greenery and visible sky and more interesting shapes at ground level to make that walking more pleasant. I'm a city walker (an hour or more isn't a big deal) - and when I think of the best places to walk, I think of dense low-rise and mid-rise areas (2-4 stories), with lots of trees on the backstreets and small shops on the main streets.

High densities can be achieved with low and mid-rise. It means everyone having less space than a lot of modern people would be comfortable with, like families living in 1000-1500 square feet instead of 3000, with tiny yards abutting on each other - or no yards at all, if you're in mid-rise. Of course, that's still more space than the typical condo.

But this kind of building doesn't bring in the big bucks as a developer, so it's not going to happen.
posted by jb at 4:03 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't know how sustainable that is given the way that we do need denser housing and given the way that ecommerce has been destroying bricks-and-mortar retail.

Get rid of a lot of the space allocated for car ownership, and the density requirements drop quite a bit. Replace them with a solid public transit system using trains, buses, and open-air trolleys in places where the weather will support it - and publicly-owned and operated rental cars for random personal errands, but not for commuting or regular shopping; those can be managed via public transit, if it's arranged well.

Push for more ecommerce - fewer local shops, only dealing in specific local needs and interests or last-minute purchases. Replace those places with social venues, some of which should be public; others would be privately-owned and operated for profit: clubs, bars, bowling alley, video game parlor for teens, cafes for conversation. Have several small themed libraries instead of one big one. Have some apartment complexes arranged in a circle around a courtyard garden so you see your neighbors, not as giant glass bricks so your only outside view is another giant glass brick. For rectangle apartments, build 1 or 2 "empty" units on each floor, and arrange them as social places instead of designing them for living, so that everyone has access to an area where they can host a dinner party, without needing a big enough dining room in their apartment. And so on. Or have one set as a "dining/visiting room" and one that's child-friendly so that families can manage their kids together.

It's not hard to plan for high-density communities with social aspects built in; you just have to decide, in advance, that that's what you want.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:04 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I feel kind of dumb saying this, but I genuinely think the difference between getting to know your neighbors, or just being genuinely friendly out of necessity, is vertical vs. horizontal. If you've got vertical density, the only time you see your neighbors is in places where there are (in the US anyway) strong cultural norms against interaction, because you are literally trapped: elevators etc.

I live in a brownstone; each floor is its own apartment. It is one of six brownstones all in a row. I have met each and every person who lives in my building; I was even given a nickname by the two daughters of the family on the 2nd floor ("Mrs. Upstairs Lady"). Other than that, the only neighbors I know by name are Terry, a dude in the building next door, and Nesta, the pibble who lives in a big house further up the street and always runs to the fence to lick my face when I say hi. But I recognize many faces, they recognize mine, and we all nod.

This kind of not-knowing-your-neighbors isn't a function of architecture as such, but of true occupation of a dwelling in a community - walking to and from the corner store, passing by the same faces again and again and again, being willing to actually say something encouraging to a neighbor if you see them schlepping a cat carrier to and from the vet up the street three times in a single weekend (that's how i met Terry - he was hanging out on the stoop a lot the summer my cat was suffering his last illness, and one day finally said "Gosh, I hope your cat gets better soon!"). It's recognizing that you belong to this place, and then noticing that all the other people in that place belong to that place too, and maybe since you're all in the same boat you may be able to do stuff for each other now and then because you're all humans sharing the same space.

But the first step is with you recognizing that you belong to this place; and if you never really see yourself as belonging to that place, then it's not gonna happen, whether you're on floor 28 of a 32-floor high-rise or in third-cottage-on-the-right in a small town.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 PM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


Who cares, it was cheap online and I'll get a new one after I move to my new job and tower apartment?

Isn't this attitude good, when we call it "decluttering" and claim that it is motivated by joy?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:28 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


US$82 million
*This floor plan depicts a hypothetical layout of Penthouse 95 and room dimensions that differ from the floor plan for the Residential Unit as currently offered and set forth in Exhibit 7 in Part ll of the Offering Plan for 432 Park Condominium. This floor plan is for information only. Sponsor reserves the right to charge a fee in connection with performance of the work necessary to deliver Penthouse 95 in the manner depicted on this floor plan and by this advertisement makes no representation in connection therewith.
posted by unliteral at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2018


It seems to me that residential spaces really suffer from being configured as high-rises, but offices don't. Maybe the solution is tall buildings, because that's admittedly an efficient use of space, but with different uses as you go up.

No reason, really, why you couldn't have low-rise townhouse style dwellings on the lower few floors of a buildings, or lowrise-style flats built around common spaces, and then put office space on top. Commercial office space tends to get more valuable as you move up in a building anyway.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:13 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


WOHA's Kampung Admiralty in Singapore has important implications for urban planning - "In a better world, America's aging boomers would be clamoring for replicating this style of development to reduce the helplessness and isolation that a sprawled, segregated built environment imposes on the elderly."

cf.
-In Apple's shadow, Cupertino housing project to replace Vallco mall moves ahead
-Cupertino: Vallco developer invokes SB 35, says it will build 2,400 homes
-Vallco project clears first hurdle under controversial new state law

viz. Revitalize Vallco

also btw!
Floor 210, anyone? The world's skyscrapers are heading for new heights
Mjøsa Tower, Brumunddal, Norway: Eco-friendly, fast to build and surprisingly safe, a new generation of wooden skyscrapers, or 'plyscrapers', is taking root across the world. At 262 feet (60m), Norway's 18-story Mjøsa Tower will be the planet's tallest all-timber structure when completed in March 2019. Designed by Voll Arkitekter, the $54 million (£42m) tower will be made from prefabricated cross-laminated timber, a sustainable material which is as strong as concrete when arranged in a certain way, and extra-speedy to assemble. The wood is also remarkably fire-resistant – in the event of a blaze, the timber chars rather than goes up in flames. Other wooden skyscrapers in the pipeline include all-timber or mostly timber towers in Berlin, Vienna and Tokyo.
oh and :P posted by kliuless at 6:06 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


That NYC penthouse unilateral linked above has monthly taxes and condo fees (nevermind the loan payments) that add up to more than I made in a year for a not-insignificant fraction of my adult life. Hell, the monthly fees are close to, if not more than, the all-in cost of cars that I'm looking at now, as a potential gratuitous-but-fun purchase that I will probably pass on so I can save and not be destitute when I age out of software in a few years. I'd pay that back over 60 months and it would be a moderate hardship. That's the taxes and fees for a month. Wut.
posted by Alterscape at 8:11 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of focus on the high (hah) end, but I'd be curious about the *typical* high rise apartment. My guess would have been that's its sold as "luxury" (because, why not), but that it's tiny. And that the main design constraint is just to pack as many people as possible onto the smallest possible footprint, for people that value being near something (probably work or school) more than they do square footage.

In cities with growing employment, local politics is still dominated by older homeowners. They are extremely sensitive to increases in taxes and fees. Especially in states where property tax increases are capped, this can make revenue insufficient to even keep up with infrastructure maintenance. New residents may be one of the only ways to increase revenue. It might make sense to spread the new residents throughout a larger area of the city in the kind of medium-height development that people on this thread like, but upzoning established neighborhoods is an incredibly difficult sell. So one of the only compromises available is very high-density development of the few other areas available. The homeowners don't like that either, but their opposition won't be the same as when development comes to their own neighborhoods--they won't form committees and hire lawyers and show up in mass to every single meeting and run opposition candidates whenever they lose a fight, all for a tall building on the other side of town.
posted by bfields at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


One advantages of access to the resident-only restaurant is that you can throw a dinner and give back to the community.
posted by unliteral at 3:13 PM on August 28, 2018


Let's face it, this article is mostly about aesthetics. Overall, despite hating the rich, I disagreed with it. However, this line is just delightful:
In the new city of the supertalls, man is born free but everywhere is in salad chains.
posted by latkes at 9:06 PM on August 28, 2018


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