What is Too Much Density?

Athena-Winner Robert A.M. Stern Argues Against NYC Plan

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"I’m nearly always an advocate of density: it’s socially beneficial and environmentally responsible," writes noted architect Robert A.M. Stern (also recipient of an Athena Medal from CNU in 2007) in today's New York Times. "But the advantages of density can go only so far without the infrastructure to support it."

Stern is speaking out against a newly released study from the NYC Dept. of Planning that proposes relaxing zoning and incentivizing new construction and taller buildings around Grand Central Station. He argues that the infrastructure, grand as it is, is already at capacity, and new skyscrapers could harm precious New York views. But what most raises Stern's ire is the study's implication that by failing to build newer, shinier skyscrapers the city is falling behind in global competitiveness, as in this goal presented in the study:

- Seed the area with new modern and sustainable office buildings to maintain its preeminence as a Class A office district.

Stern argues strongly in favor of historic preservation over favoring new development. "Instead of blindly targeting what is oldest for replacement, as the study does, why not develop a thoughtful preservation plan that takes a broad look at what is worth saving?" he writes.

Robert A.M. Stern is Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and continues to practice at Robert A.M. Stern Architects.