Dezeen and MINI World Tour: New York designer Stephen Burks tells us how his once rough-edged city is being tamed by world-class architecture, urban design improvements like the High Line and a European-style bike-sharing scheme in the first of our reports from the Big Apple.
"I think New Yorkers all of a sudden are interested in quality of life" rather than just working and making money, says Burks, pointing to the Citi Bike scheme that launches later this month." It's the kind of thing you could never have had in New York 15 or 20 years ago. They would have got vandalised."
New York is becoming more international in its outlook, Burks believes, being both more welcoming to foreign visitors and more eager to employ overseas architects. "There wasn't an emphasis on great, international architects working in New York, but today it's a selling point," he says, pointing to the way that Herzog & de Meuron's 40 Bond luxury apartment development in NoHo has triggered improvements in the area.
However New York is still a brutally capitalist city, and even elite architectural projects have to pay their way. "In New York you have to understand that everything is about the commercial context, everything is about capitalism at the end of the day, and culture here isn't necessarily culture for culture's sake. So a great architect is hired because it allows them to to sell on a different level, or to compete with the building across the street. There's more of a relationship to commerce here in New York."
Burks takes us on a tour of New York's west side, taking in Chelsea (where his studio Readymade Projects is located) and the West Village, where he lives. In recent years the area has been transformed from a dangerous district known for its nightclubs to a sophisticated art, fashion and leisure area.
More recently the High Line, a park created from a disused elevated railway that cuts through the area from north to south, has brought swarms of visitors and triggered a fresh round of regeneration.
Dezeen was in New York during NYCxDESIGN, a new annual citywide initiative linking together various design events including the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and NoHo Design District. We stayed at the Ace Hotel.
We'll be posting more Dezeen and MINI World Tour reports from New York over the coming days.
We drove around New York in our MINI Cooper S Paceman.
The music featured in the movie is a track called You Go To My Head by Kobi Glas, one of the crowd favourites from the set we played at new design show INTRO NY in New York last week. You can listen to the full version on Dezeen Music Project.