Collected New York: A Proactive Manifesto for Manhattan

  • Jacob Cohen, M.Arch. 2017
  • Hometown Montreal
  • Class ARCH 6509 Special Topics in Visual Representation II: Drawing City Manifestos (spring 2017)
  • Instructor Leslie Lok

The seminar focused on city manifestos as precedents for analysis and design provocation in order to elicit alternate resonances between urban attributes and imagery. The course focused on representation, drawing of cities, abstraction of cities, and the development of short manifesto texts. The following is a city manifesto utilizing the theoretical underpinnings of Rem Koolhaas's Delirious New York:

"The needle and the globe represent the two extremes of Manhattan's formal vocabulary and describe the outer limits of its architectural choices. The needle is the thinnest, least voluminous structure to mark a location within the grid. It combines maximum physical impact with a negligible consumption of ground. It is, essentially, a building without an interior. The globe is, mathematically, the form that encloses the maximum interior volume with the least external skin."
~Rem Koolhaas

Once the culture of congestion and Manhattanism as we knew it ran its course, the city succumbed to capitalist pressures and so began the onslaught of the needle tower. With the rise of the needles came the fall of the public sphere.

The supertall skyscraper and needle towers represent the height of privatization and commercialization. Their verticality allows for little interaction amongst their inhabitants and minimal communal spaces. As buildings' footprints got smaller, fewer users were accommodated per floor and the more individualized life became. In a search for light and air, the needle towers raced higher and higher leaving the ground below covered in shadows.

"The needle's shadow alone reduces rents in a vast area of adjoining properties, while its vacuous interior is left empty at the expense of its neighbors. Its success is measured by the destruction of its context. The time has come to subject this form of architectural aggression to regulation."
~Rem Koolhaas

As Manhattan gets consumed by the dollar, the needle towers become the bank vaults of foreign investors. Many floors become "a guarded bank vault of immobilized wealth." If the culture of congestion was the culture of the 20th century . . . the culture of vacancy has become the culture of the 21st century.

On each floor, the culture of vacancy has arranged identical human activities in standard combinations. With the rampant rise of the empty needle, Manhattan faced the complete loss of congestion and its public sphere. The needles became so tall and skinny no one was left living in them at all.

It is with this bleak reality that this proactive manifesto begins. A call to save the city from the privatization and reintroduce the collective nature of the globe. As with all manifestos, its fatal weakness is its inherent lack of evidence, that which will be created. What does exist is a problem and this manifesto explores proactive solutions as opposed to retroactive speculations.