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Behold, the stupid fucking idea du jour! The Penn15 Tower proposed for mid-Manhattan — as if the city needs another megastructure that will be transformed from an asset to a liability overnight in the long emergency ahead. Penn15 will be nearly the same height as the Empire State Building.

The gimmick in this one is a series of “green walkways” and “tree-filled” lounging terraces “suspended thousands of feet in the air.” Here is the reckless delusion of our age made manifest in architecture. It takes a special lack of sensibility to chill out in a lounge chair up there, by which I mean there is something in human neurology that seeks a sense of groundedness and enclosure. What this building expresses is a grandiose wish to defy natural human instincts — in exactly the same way that our society wishes to defy the realities of dwindling energy resources and extreme indebtedness. As a side-note, just imagine the watering systems required to keep all those plants green. And the engineering necessary to keep that water from structurally compromising the building. Imagine yourself in this setting. (Pass the Xanax!)

Thanks to Daniel Road for the nomination of this humdinger.

About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

16 Responses to “July 2019” Subscribe

  1. Ishabaka July 5, 2019 at 9:13 am #

    You know, if this actually works, in 20 – 30 years all those trees will have trunks several feet thick, and weigh many times what they weigh when planted. Plus, they will be pushing up against the floor above. Did the architects/engineers take that into account?

  2. Laura Louzader July 5, 2019 at 9:32 am #

    A building like this is a non-starter even now. I can’t imagine what the HOA fees will be to start here, and they will increase much more rapidly than in an ordinary high rise. High rise buildings are maintenance nightmares even when they don’t have the extra costs built into this place, and maintenance costs increase rapidly as the building ages. Referencing “ishabaka’s” comment, thanks to the exotic engineering, and forces of nature, those costs will balloon rapidly in this structure as the built in problems- increasing weight of trees, and deterioration of structural elements due to the additional moisture, the weight of the soil and trees, root action, and maintenance of all the additional plumbing and pumps. Even the richest buyers won’t want to support the costs.

  3. San Jose July 5, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    San Francisco has a park on top of a building–the Salesforce transit terminal. Costing billions of dollars, it opened for three weeks last summer, then closed because of cracks in the support beams. It is supposedly going to open again this month. It is an ugly building.

    Jen in San Jose

  4. Jim McCaffery July 5, 2019 at 11:23 am #

    Looks like a diseased penn15.

  5. DrTomSchmidt July 5, 2019 at 3:33 pm #

    It may be foolish, but this is hardly an eyesore like the classic ones, JHK, maybe after the long emergency, yes.

  6. tucsonspur July 6, 2019 at 5:57 am #

    Behold the Hanging Gardens of Gotham! Not your usual backyard treehouse. Where are the Saguaro cacti and other low water desert plants and shrubs? Fools. Well yes, the mighty Saguaro can grow quite large, so those would be better located down in the lobby.

    We know that “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, but this towering transgression in Manhattan is certainly not the “Tree of Heaven” nor is the original idea one of solid timber. Soon to become the Stump Tower?

    A Tree House Mocks, Mauls, and Molests Manhattan.

  7. RobRhodes July 6, 2019 at 9:12 pm #

    So I guess the people who work at DKNY and FCUK could live in the PENN15!

  8. Tripped up July 6, 2019 at 9:20 pm #

    I happen to work in a large park. Did any architect consider that broken tree branches can become missiles in a strong wind? Look out below!

    • Ishabaka July 8, 2019 at 9:17 am #

      Hurricane Sandy comes to mind….

  9. AKlein July 8, 2019 at 9:47 am #

    I wonder what the cost per usable square foot will be? Or perhaps that does not matter any more.

  10. Architectural Observer July 8, 2019 at 9:07 pm #

    Clearly the planet (or at least NYC) is doomed. I happen to know a thing or two about Penn15es, and I wouldn’t take this one with your orifice!

  11. bymitch July 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm #

    Weak.
    In terms of binary opposition under the tree/rock category, this is a pretty unsophisticated juxtaposition.
    Must try harder.
    The idea of a habitat for flat earthers, the references are way to literal, to carry intrigue further than a split second.
    Whatever it is it lacks architecture, I suspect its just a building with trees onit.
    Imagining myself in this setting, I would have to be drunk and hitting golf balls out into oblivion to really appreciate the space.

  12. Chris at Fernglade Farm July 9, 2019 at 7:38 am #

    Hi Jim,

    This building is a little bonkers, and may have been designed and promoted by people who have never had to live with trees. The thing is, the poor trees would possibly have only the shallowest of root systems – how could it possibly be otherwise? The slightest heavy gust of wind might be just enough force to topple such shallow rooted tree over the side of a balcony. And they might even land far below on the ground where a pedestrians head may hopefully have stopped the pavement from being damaged from the mass of the falling tree. Even a branch falling from such a great height would be enough to kill someone. Whatever were they thinking?

    Hope you guys in that future building are well insured!

    Chris

  13. mow July 16, 2019 at 1:13 pm #

    The pigeons will love it lol

  14. Chip H. July 30, 2019 at 5:35 pm #

    Is private capital funding the project?

  15. EmoryWhiteside August 3, 2019 at 2:02 pm #

    Love the Idea and the design…however it is not practical, will be too costly just from the maintenance & insurance point of view.

    But its great that once completed you can hang from a tree all over town…lol

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