All over the world, they stand in silent memorial to the pre-2008 construction boom: giant gaping pits that were supposed to be the beginnings of skyscrapers, commercial complexes and condominiums. There are dozens of them in Manhattan alone, lining the streets, barely covered by flimsy construction fences. But international design firm Woods Bagot New York has a cool idea to make them less of an eyesore: temporary “icebergs”, recyclable structures that are easy to install and remove.
Down-on-their-luck developers have had to put these sites on hold due to tight credit and general economic malaise, but does that mean the public should have to look upon such depressing reminders of the global downturn every day? The angular, icy-looking structures by Woods Bagot might just be a bandaid, but they’re an interesting and artistic alternative to mud and construction debris.
Made of translucent high-tech plastic fabric stretched over modular steel frames and inflatable faceted roofs that give them the ‘iceberg’ shape, the structures aren’t just for looks. They can be used as functional temporary spaces for retail or entertainment use and are surprisingly well insulated despite the thinness and ephemeral qualities of the materials used. Illuminated at night, they could actually function as public art or (less desirably) giant projector screens for advertising. Woods Bagot believes that developers charging rent to retailers could rake in millions of dollars in a year.
“Owners and developers are spending money every day to cover these idle sites, and people are hesitant to build on them in the meantime,” said Woods Bagot New York Principal Jeff Holmes. “We wanted to make something high quality with a real presence to attract top-notch venues.”