New York City, NY, United States, 2007
PROGRAM: master plan mixed-use project
CLIENT: Extell Development Company
SIZE: 11,300,000 sq ft
STATUS: competition
Steven Holl Architects have designed a cohesive master plan for both the Eastern Rail Yards and Western Rail Yards in Manhattan that is both physically and technologically integrated. Extell Development Company proposes to transform the Eastern Rail Yards and Western Rail Yards into a world-class, mixed-use, vibrant neighborhood that features world class architecture and inspiring public spaces designed by Steven Holl Architects, that is in harmony with the surrounding environment, and that both minimizes interference with LIRR operations and returns considerable financial value to the MTA. This last large undeveloped Midtown Manhattan site provides an unprecedented opportunity to create a new urban paradigm for the 21st century. While offering a high mixed-use density of 12 million square feet; the proposed suspension deck design maximizes public space and creates a porosity and openness for the site from all sides and approaches, connecting Midtown, the Chelsea Arts District, and the convention center with a grand public park open to the Hudson River; and its innovative structural system for spanning over the Rail Yards will minimize the impacts of development on the Caemmerer Yards and allow it to offer more for the right to develop.
'Steven Holl presented a more radical design for Extell Development, placing all towers on terra firma instead of the platform; suspension-bridge technology, not columns, would economically support 19.5 acres of parkland instead of the specified 12.'
– Bill Millard, Architect
'For those who place urban-planning issues above dollars and cents, the Extell Development Company’s proposal is the only one worth serious consideration. Designed by Steven Holl Architects of New York, the plan tries to minimize the impact of the development’s immense scale. Most of the commercial space would be concentrated in three interconnecting towers on the northeast corner of the site. The towers’ forms pull apart and join together as they rise — an effort to break down their mass in the skyline. Smaller towers flank the site’s southern edge, their delicate, shardlike forms designed to allow sunlight to spill into the park area. A low, 10-story commercial building to the north is lifted off the ground on columns to allow the park to slip underneath and connect to 33rd Street. The plan’s most original feature is a bridgelike cable structure that would span the existing tracks and support a 19-acre public park. According to the developer, the cable system would reduce the cost of building over the tracks significantly, allowing the density to be reduced to 11.3 million square feet from 13 million and still make a profit. The result would be both a more generous public space and a less brutal assault on the skyline. It is a sensitive effort to blend the development into the city’s existing fabric'.
– Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times
'Extell Development's submission, by the architect Steven Holl, could have the unity, character and potential beauty of a Rockefeller Center, and it is unique in this respect. The scheme flies in the face of the current cant about pluralism and diversity and proves once again that architecture is about vision and ideas. While the other proposals include a massive truss over the yards that is meant to support the new construction, Mr. Holl substitutes a suspension deck. (The trains will continue to run underneath.) This bridge-like deck carries the lesser weight (and expense) of a park, while the structures surrounding it, handsomely grouped for views of the Empire State Building and the Hudson River, can be built on solid ground. You have to admire Extell's courage in going with a single gifted architect and putting all its chips on design.'
– Ada Louise Huxtable, Wall Street Journal
‘Perhaps most dramatic is Extell’s plan for three towers to be connected by a sloping sky lobby.'
– Bradley Hope, New York Sun
'Extell's design by Steven Holl Architects lines up its buildings on firm ground and suspends its "cupped" park on a cable structure.'
– Patrick Arden, Metro New York
'This move, which is truly brilliant, would save hundreds of millions of dollars and allow Extell to build slimmer, shorter buildings on the solid ground at the site's edges, leaving 19.5 acres as open space.'
– Alexandra Lange, The Architect's Newspaper
'Extell is the only company to propose using suspension bridge technology to span the railyards on both sides of 11th Avenue. The suspension system would be strung across the yards, without interrupting train service below. An undulating park would sit atop a suspended deck and run down the middle of the site (...) The proposal would transform the High Line into a park and walkway, with a pedestrian bridge across the West Side Highway just south of 33rd Street leading to a new floating pier'.
– New York Times
'Extell's proposal (...) aims to maximize green space, with 19.5 acres at its center "surrounded by a variety of architectures," all built on terra firma and joined by a span with suspension-bridge technology. (...) Holl's speech was sprinkled with such architect's poetry as when he cited "the idea of ferocity connected to the transit system."'
– Chelsea Now
'Extell President Gary Barnett said his project is unique because the buildings would not be on top of the rail yards. "Our project essentially builds almost all of the structures on terra firma surrounding the yards (...) essentially building suspension bridges," he said'.
– Newsday


  • architect
    • – Steven Holl Architects
      • Steven Holl, Chris McVoy (design architect)
      • Nick Gelpi (project architect)
      • Sofie Holm Christensen, Ayat Fadaifard, Runar Halldorsson, Rafael Ng, Ebbie Wisecarver, Christina Yessios (project team)
  • landscape architect
    • – Olin Partnership
  • construction
    • – Bovis Lend Lease
  • survey engineer
    • – Langan
  • traffic engineer
    • – Langan
  • geotech engineer
    • – Langan
  • environmental engineer
    • – Langan
  • civil engineer
    • – Langan
  • MEP Engineer
    • – ICOR Associates
  • site sustainability consultant
    • – Transsolar
  • security/bridges
    • – HNTB Corporation
  • outages
    • – LTK Engineering
Press Contact

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