Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Fixing South Street Seaport: Is New Architecture Enough?

Among the first essays I wrote for DO was a meditation on the festival marketplace, in January 2009. “Rebooting the Festival Marketplace” was inspired by my work with Jane Thompson on Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes and my new knowledge about her and husband Ben Thompson’s pioneering work with adaptive reuse, waterfronts, and curated retail, long before that was a cliché. It was also inspired by the debate of the previous fall over then-South Street Seaport owner General Growth Properties’ plans for the uplands and Pier 17, designed by SHoP Architects in a medley of contemporary maritime references (hulls, sails, joists). Here’s an Architectural Record story on that plan from 2008.

I argued then that the festival marketplace was not a flawed concept, but that New York didn’t need one. New York acts as its own fair generator. In a later essay, “When Shopping Was Sociable,” I expanded my definition of Ben Thompson’s contributions to retail, and pointed out how and where I see his version of marketplace recurring.