Saturday, July 19, 2014

Long Island City, Land of Storage

According to the website of Storage Deluxe, the company has two facilities (of six total) in Long Island City, with two "coming soon." Their map shows a cluster of locations (3, 4 and surrounding) in a relatively small area:
[Location map from Storage Deluxe]

To give you an idea of the architectural "merits" of their buildings, here is the one at 38-01 47th Avenue:

[Photo from Storage Deluxe]

And here is the building at 39-25 21st Street:

[Photo from Storage Deluxe]

But what bugs me, and prompts me to write this post, are the two coming-soon facilities, one of them right next to the N train at 30-19 Northern Boulevard:

[Photograph by John Hill]

And one of them just a few blocks south of the 21st Street building, at 2115 Queens Plaza North:

[Photograph by John Hill]

I've noticed these buildings as steel frames for a while, but just recently their cladding has started to be tacked on, their solid and colorful panels making it clear they aren't residential or office buildings. Instead these are the buildings that serve New Yorkers otherwise incompatible tastes for lots of stuff and small apartments.

But a closer look at the construction site at 2115 Queens Plaza North (sign on the construction fince above) reveals it will serve Uovo, which specializes in fine art storage. Here is their rendering of the facility, looking southeast from 21st Street (the Queensboro Bridge can be seen in the distance):

[Rendering from Uovo]

A look at the floor plan indicates the 280,000-sf building has Managed Storage ("Uovo's open storage area is optimized for large and small artworks [in a] proprietary management system [that] maintains precise location, condition, packing and object history details."), but also Viewing Rooms ("Fully customizable, viewing rooms range from intimate 300-square-foot spaces to New York City’s largest commercial viewing room. The latter, with its 1,600 square feet of gallery space lined with 19-foot ceilings and reinforced walls, is ideal for the display of monumental works.):

[Floor plan from Uovo]

A rendering of a Viewing Room shows some museum-like conditions:

[Rendering from Uovo]

Founder Steven Guttman decided to build in Long Island City "so it would appeal to all of Manhattan. After scouting locations, it seemed that Long Island City was the most convenient, only two subway stops from the city—it’s close to Chelsea, it's close to the Upper East Side, and it's obviously close to Midtown. So that's where we chose to build." Not to mention that according to Uovo's website, "our facility is strategically located outside of the most recent FEMA flood zone."

He points out in the same article at Artspace linked above that the building is technically two buildings (note the poché wall running up and down in the floor plan above): "It's for insurance reasons—insurance companies don’t want too much art in one place."

[Rendering of reception from Uovo]

While the concept of Uovo makes sense – offering a service for art collectors in Manhattan – I can't help but think about the large-scale intrusion of it on the urban landscape of Long Island City. At 6-to-8 stories and devoid of windows, Uovo and the other building under construction by the N train are monoliths that do little to work with their surroundings. I guess this shouldn't be surprising, since the two coming-soon facilities are designed by Butz Wilbern, an architecture firm based in Falls Church, Virginia, that has completed over 45 million square feet of self storage buildings in 20 years. Yes, they designed a facility to match McLean, Virginia's streetscape standards, but here they have failed to take account the fact these two buildings are located in a city, not on a lot adjacent to an airport or some other industrial zone.


  1. I think it's great that there are more self storage facilities opening up in Long Island. Scary, but that means that business is doing well. Anyway it's no secret that Americans love to keep things so self storage on the rise is really no surprise.

    1. Sure, it's no surprise, but that doesn't mean the buildings devoted to them shouldn't be better, more suited to their context. That's the gist of my argument.


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