Architects Robert A.M. Stern and Thom Mayne, along with real estate broker Mary Ann Tighe, closed out Tuesday's Zoning the City conference with a wide-ranging discussion that focused on New York, while acknowledging the changing skylines around the world.
Tighe, CEO of CBRE's New York Tri-State Region and chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, said the city should consider upzoning parts of midtown. After visiting China for the first time in 2005, she said, she realized that New York's heights were becoming antiquated.
We've become a 20th century romantic city, she said. Midtown defines that.
Mayne, whose firm Morphosis designed Cooper Union's striking new academic building in Greenwich Village, agreed that New York looked diminished when compared to China.
But Stern -- whose eponymous architecture firm has projects throughout the world, said that while other cities may have bigger buildings, everyone still comes to New York.
What is a city? it's not a bunch of phalluses on the skyline, he said, in one of many colorful comments.
Despite Shanghai's rapid growth, Stern added, its dense conditions and uncrossable streets made for subpar living conditions.
Let's be real. There's a lot of crap out there, he said. I'm happy to come home.
Although Stern said he liked tall buildings, he said that assuming taller is always better is questionable. (He was, after all, the architect behind the relatively modest-sized 15 Central Park West, which tops out at 35 stories, but has gone on to become one of the most valuable condos in the world.)
The panel acknowledged that the only future certainty was continued change - despite any restrictions from planners or preservationists. (Tighe characterized the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission's recent string of new historic districts as a rampage.)
Yes, the skyline is going to change, said Mayne.