New York - Designer floats iceberg idea for stalled sites

An international design firm with offices on four continents has come up with a cool fix for the plethora of unsightly stalled building sites that dot the city's landscape.

Woods Bagot New York is proposing filling each with an "iceberg," 100% recyclable structures that would serve as sort of architectural placeholders while developers struggle to regroup and restart their projects. The angular bright-white structures—which resemble the one that did in the HMS Titanic—are designed for quick and easy assembly and disassembly, once the real estate market revives. The iceberg interiors are seen as ideal for either retail or entertainment use.

According to Woods Bagot New York Principal Jeff Holmes, the inspiration for turning eyesores into something attractive came about from seeing so many stalled sites during his daily commute from Penn Station to the firm's former office in the Garment District.

"Owners and developers are spending money every day to cover these idle sites, and people are hesitant to build on them in the meantime," he said. "We wanted to make something high quality with a real presence to attract top-notch venues."

So, the firm is proposing flexible and modular spaces that can be put in the place of these vacant lots, but can also be quickly removed if and when the primary stalled project is resurrected. Woods Bagot created modular steel beams with a thin film of plastic stretched over them. The coating weighs less than one-tenth that of a typical roof structure much less glass curtain wall, but has high insulation qualities.

The firm, which was founded 141 years ago in Adelaide, Australia, has yet to build any icebergs, but it is in talks with several developers. Eventually Woods Bagot hopes not to have a few of them floating temporarily around New York but around the nation as well, where stalled sites are nothing if not more common than they are here.

"There are hundreds of sites through Manhattan," Mr. Holmes said. “It would be terrific if we could do a few around key sites.

Crain's NY


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