Without much fanfare — and as quietly as a construction project can be — a new neighbourhood is taking shape on the west edge of Manhattan. It's the largest private real estate project the city has ever seen. But neither its size or cost make it interesting.
We're living in an age of gargantuan developments aimed at the super-wealthy. Hudson Yards, as this thicket of skyscrapers is called, is just the latest. But Hudson Yards isn't being built on solid ground. It's being built over an active railyard, where 30 tracks provide access for trains throughout the day. It's a 26-acre open pit on the edge of the city, and the project's engineers have to create a gigantic artificial foundation above it to float four skyscrapers and numerous other towers and buildings, including a school, hotel, and a mall.
Last summer, we got a look at how 300 caissons were being driven into the bedrock around the railyard in preparation for the construction of the huge steel "foundation" that will hold up the neighbourhood.
Now, the steel that will be used to hold up that weight is arriving on site, and according to the project's team, it's one of the largest deliveries in the history of the US: 100,000 tons of steel, or roughly 50,000 SUVs, will be trucked onto the site over the next year as crews set up a series of heavy trusses that will transfer the loads of the buildings down to the caissons. Placing all of it, the developer says, will take 1.2 million man hours — the first of which are being spent putting huge trusses and columns in place on site this month:
The history of New York is defined by artificial expansion: From the very first projects of the Dutch settlers, who created piers using rocks and even trash, to the massive project to turn excavated earth from the first World Trade Center into a new piece of land called Battery Park City. The march towards expanding the boundaries of the city even continues today.
But what makes Hudson Yards unique is that it's not expanding the borders of Manhattan edgewise. It's expanding upwards — and not by simply building on a foundation laid down on a piece of land, but by building an artificial foundation that allows tall buildings to take shape above existing city infrastructure. It sets the stage for a new kind of development, where a traditional building site — you know, the kind where you have access to the ground — isn't even necessary to building up.
This is a kind of city building that is unprecedented. And it should make you wonder if there will ever be a critical limit to the cost/benefit value proposition here. It will take 100,000 tons of steel to build a 28-acre neighbourhood resting on what amounts to a massive steel bridge. Presumably, it's worth it. That's an incredible thought. For more on the project, check out our previous story.