31 in 31: #25

This is a series for August 2010 which documents my on-the-ground -- and on-the-webs -- research for my guidebook to contemporary NYC architecture (to be released next year by W. W. Norton). Archives can be found at the bottom of the post and via the 31 in 31 label.

Nehemiah Spring Creek

It was the end of last year that I drove around Nehemiah Spring Creek, the largest affordable housing development -- as planned -- in New York City; phase one is complete with phase two's construction underway. A recent NYTimes blog post by Jayne Merkel on the "Irrational Exuberance" of the last couple of decades mentions the project located in East New York, Brooklyn and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, and it spurred me to include it here. Merkel uses the development as an example of how "interesting housing" is not limited to luxury condos in Manhattan, like Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue and Herzog & de Meuron's 40 Bond. Comments on the post tend to be split into two camps: those opposed to contemporary modernism and those who embrace it. Not surprisingly the former's comment are terse and opinionated, the latter more explanatory; never the twain shall agree.

Nehemiah Spring Creek

Comments on Gorlin's project (Merkel says little about it) focus on its materiality, its prefab construction, it being built atop a landfill, and speculations on how it will evolve. The project needs to be looked at also in terms of the larger development of which it is a part. Gateway Estates includes a 625,000-sf retail center, in addition to the 800 homes in Nehemiah Spring Creek. These photos illustrate that living and shopping don't mix, which is a bigger problem than any architectural quibbles. These houses may technically reside in New York City, but they are suburban in their segregation of uses. This leads to a reliance on driving, the real difference between this development and the luxury housing at the city's core.

#1 - Phyto Universe
#2 - One Bryant Park
#3 - Pier 62 Carousel
#4 - Bronx River Art Center
#5 - The Pencil Factory
#6 - Westbeth Artists' Housing
#7 - 23 Beekman Place
#8 - Metal Shutter Houses
#9 - Bronx Box
#10 - American Academy of Arts and Letters
#11 - FDR Four Freedoms Park
#12 - One Madison Park
#13 - Pio Pio Restaurant
#14 - Queens West (Stage II)
#15 - 785 Eighth Avenue
#16 - Big BambĂș
#17 - Event Horizon
#18 - Murano
#19 - William Lescaze House
#20 - Morgan Library and Museum
#21 - MTA Flood Mitigation
#22 - Wilf Hall
#23 - Yohji Yamamoto
#24 - NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Life


  1. I think architects should always strive for the best possible design outcome in any project, regardless of brief or budget.

    If this is the best that Alexander Gorlin Architects can produce, they should be ashamed. I'm not sure how this qualifies as "interesting housing", since there doesn't seem to be anything interesting at all about this design.

    As the song goes "little boxes made of ticky tacky".

    Architecture students would do a better and more creative job of designing low-cost housing than this.

  2. The brooding and overbearing scale of those cantilevered portions - which don't even rise to the level of being, say, oriel windows in which one might imagine a window seat. The outsized delineation of the cladding also totally - well - sucks.


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