South Street Seaputz?

South Street Seaport's festival marketplace. (Wikipedia)

South Street Seaport’s festival marketplace. (Wikipedia)

Project to replace South Street Seaport. (SHoP Architects)

Project to replace South Street Seaport. (SHoP Architects)

SEAPORT1-blog480

Schermerhorn mercantile block. (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes)

Why does no one seem upset that the venerable South Street Seaport, in New York City, is about to be zapped and tricked out as a squat Miesian glass box, courtesy of SHoP, one of the world’s worst architectural firms? And a goofy tower will be added to boot. The Seaport should be preserved as an historic early example of the festival mall concept, developed by James Rouse in 1982. The building is not stellar architecture, perhaps, but it has a traditional feel with which it girds up the staying power of New York’s bedraggled waterfront. While it does not look as if the historic Schermerhorn mercantile row is at risk, just wait. The Seaport was damaged in Hurricane Sandy, and some shops had to close, but this was hardly a reason to poke New York in the eye with yet another inexcusable eyesore. Where is the outrage!?

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to South Street Seaputz?

  1. David, this is truly a tragedy. One step forward and two steps back. Thanks for the post. Dave

    Like

  2. C W Westfall says:

    What do you expect? It’s New York, which long ago lost the sense of what a city is. It has long been getting the architecture it deserves.

    Like

  3. Arnold Berke says:

    Surely you’ve learned by now that America is capable of great urbanism, but consistently throws such achievements away in the blink of an eye. We simply cannot leave things alone.

    Like

  4. Michael Mehaffy says:

    David – hear, hear! Among other things this looks terribly out of context, perishably trendy, and energy-wasteful, with its poorly insulated curtain-wall design. A good symbol of what is wrong with our green-washing profession. Not a good symbol of much else, I fear. (BTW Steve — reversible, yes — but how sustainable is that?? “The greenest building is the one you already have!”)

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  5. Steven Semes says:

    David, for what it’s worth…I AM OUTRAGED! The Rouse block is a successful example of a respectful modern addition to a historic setting and SHoP’s proposal is the de rigeur a la mode solution nowadays. One good thing about it: it looks eminently “reversible.”

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