LES – The Vanishing Scape

LES ( Lower East Side) –‘ Where the emptiness is not perceived as dearth, but as monetary value’. Todd Rouhe, Local Architect and Resident.

The research into LES (Lower East Side) voids and forgotten spaces, all of which makes part of the urban morphology of Manhattan – a vertical and fast moving city – has prompted a few questions. If the city voids at ground level are vanishing, where to and how does an island city expands? Vertically is the only way … the streets present scarcities of empty spaces, its inhabitants are grasping for air and elbowroom.

The impossible stairs – as an object that portraits time, movement and acts as a spatial connector. It provides extension and access – leading to and from. The same way, in which the fire escapes in the tenement houses in the LES provide an extension to the outside, they are not only a safety feature. It’s a way to gain access to a few remaining empty voids in this vertical city – its roof spaces, which are underused and highly sought after in this city where you can only build up and higher.

The LES has seeing an increase in the number of proposals for new high-rise developments, and this include several cases of air rights being transferred between plots.

Who has the right to this ‘air’? What are the boundaries of these expansions, vertically and horizontally?

Cantilevering over other properties? Does this presents the issue of ‘sun rights’, its inhabitants will see less of it, as the city grows and intertwines over this voids enforcing darkness?

This New York Time article, although slightly outdated is an indicative of how much air space can cost in Manhattan.

The price of air has gone up in Manhattan.

It’s now $430 a square foot.

Two New York City developers have agreed to pay a record-setting amount for “air rights” so they can build a 35-story apartment tower with views of Central Park from the high floors


Im still drawing and finishing my site axonometric, in addition to that I wanted to create a view over a cluster of roofs (voids) and provide an insight of how they are currently used…

As discussed Tuesday, I will try and create a catalogue of roofs in the LES, establishing a price guide for them, as an estate agent would. Im looking into the restrictions and planning laws regarding the use and transfer of air rights, boundaries and limits.

The image below is a work in progress, adding the textures and activities to the area – showing the life at ground level and on the roofscapes.

I quite like this collections of NYC Real State Brochures  fro early 1920’s to 80’s. I may look into developing something like this for the site research brochure and voids catalogue.


Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 19.33.17

Cris L.




One thought on “LES – The Vanishing Scape

  1. We love the idea to make a real estate brochure for the roofscape and airspace of the Lower East Side. This is a nice set of imagery from the roofs of New York: http://ontheroofs.com/new-york-city/ also this books captures the different types of programme that we currently find up there: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1670099/exploring-new-yorks-most-hidden-spaces-its-rooftops
    The drawing is really coming along and in terms of the advertisements for this type of space, the recent AA lecture given by Elmgreen and Dragset was interesting where they spoke about the apartment they constructed for a fictional failed architect inside the V&A. To promote their installation, they erected a real estate billboard outside the museum which strangely enough attracted lots of attention and even a few potential buyers: http://old.theartnewspaper.com/imgart/FRZ13-e1-diary-lb-ED-01.jpg
    Lots of potential here – looking forward to seeing how it progresses on Tuesday but dont forget to work on the exploration study as well!

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