Shifting urban design paradigms in the development of two New York projects: Battery Park City and Hudson Yards




Design paradigm, politics, finances, New York


Two major property developments in Manhattan, New York City illustrate the evolution of urban design paradigms since World War Two. Both projects evolved over time beginning in the mid-1950s. The first, Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan, was finally built according to a 1979 master plan prepared for and controlled by a public benefit corporation while the second, Hudson Yards, is following a 2008 master plan prepared for a public agency but controlled by a private company. The first was built out by 2012 while the first phase of the second was completed in 2019. The former was a public sector project strongly promoted by private interests; the latter was and remains the largest private development in the history of the United States. Both schemes were beset with political and financial travails that are manifested in the series of urban design proposals made for their sites. The implemented schemes represent two diametrically radically different urban design paradigms. Battery Park City is a neo-traditional urban design that set out to be New York in character; Hudson Yards is an international hypermodern design that reflects the global neo-liberal competitive spirit of the early twenty-first century. The two paradigms represent different socio-economic attitudes and ideas of what makes a good inner-city environment.  

Author Biography

Jon Lang, University of New South Wales, Australia

Jon Lang is an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales where he headed the School of Architecture between 1996 and 2000 and taught in the Master of Urban Development and Design (MUDD) program from 1995 to 2015. He was also director for urban design of ERG/Environmental Research Group Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1973 to 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and a doctorate from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He was an instructor, assistant professor and then a tenured associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania between 1970 and 1990. He directed the joint Master of Architecture and Master of City Planning program in urban design there during the 1980s before settling in Australia. In 1990 he took up a professorship at the University of New South Wales where he headed the School of Architecture and served as the Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of the Built Environment.

Lang’s focus of concern throughout his academic career has been on architecture, urban design and the relationship between the built environment and human experiences and behaviour. He has authored books on urban design, on architectural theory and on modern architecture in India. His best-known books are Creating Architectural Theory (1987), Urban Design: The American Experience (1994), The Architecture of Independence: India 1886 to 1986 (1997, 2022), Functionalism Revisited (2010), Urban Design: A Typology of Products and Procedures (2005, 2017) and The Routledge Companion to Twenty and Early Twenty-first Century Urban Design (2021). He has run urban design workshops at universities in India, Iran, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Turkey and headed University of New South Wales international studios in a dozen countries ranging from the United States to South Africa to Korea. He has served as a juror, including being chief juror, on several international urban design and architectural competitions. In 2010 he was awarded the Reed and Mallik Medal by the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.



2023-12-31 — Updated on 2024-01-02

How to Cite

Lang, J. . (2024). Shifting urban design paradigms in the development of two New York projects: Battery Park City and Hudson Yards. Ekistics and The New Habitat, 84(1), 11–21.