Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

New York City’s two biggest design stories of 2019 are also design failures

Photo by Max Touhey.

I’m angry that the two biggest architecture stories of New York 2019 are fuckups. The hollow grandeur of Hudson Yards and the evacuated spaces of the Hunters Point Library in Queens have turned what could have been triumphant moments for planning and design into queasy spectacles, albeit of different sorts. It’s difficult to get people to pay attention to architecture any other way. Our national addiction to drama extends to million- and billion-dollar projects that will shape the waterfront for the next 50-plus years.

At Hudson Yards, the failure is forever. Manhattan’s new neighborhood, master-planned by Kohn Pedersen Fox, is a bewildering forest of glass and granite, with too little green and too little seating and too little easily accessible food, centered around a piece of public sculpture that is as useless as it is massive. If Thomas Heatherwick Studio’s Vessel—a carnival ride that everyone wants to photograph, yet no one wants to take a spin—were temporary, I might be able to live with it, but it is hard to see how it could ever go away.