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The charm of New York - report by Angelika Andrzejewska

10 of August '22

"Big Apple" through the eyes of an architect, interior designer and NYC enthusiast

When I moved to New York exactly a year ago, I did not yet imagine that I would like it so much here. It seems strange, because of my profession as an architect. After all, Manhattan is a paradise for all eccentrics in love with buildings. So why the skepticism on my part?

chilling statistics

Analyzing the statistics can be scary. So let's start with the dry facts for all those who like numbers. The population of Manhattan this year was 1,631,990 and is still growing. The area of the island itself is approx. 60 km², which gives us a population density of 27,200 persons/km². During the week, the number rises to 3,900,000 people (including commuters from the neighboring boroughs of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, as well as the state of New Jersey), giving us an already unimaginable 65,000 os./km² (data according to In comparison, in Warsaw, the number is a modest 3,500 s./km².

Szczyty budynków Hudson Yards zanikające w chmurach

The tops of the Hudson Yards buildings fading into the clouds,
proj. by Foster + Partners, Roche-Dinkeloo, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Kohn

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

architectural activities breathtaking

New York can be described in one word: TEMPO. This applies not only to the way the residents live and function, or to the common disease here called workaholism, but also to the ever-changing architecture.

I'll start with a very familiar place to me, which is currently the design studio where I work - Hudson Yards (Diller Scofidio + Renfro - chief architect and designer, Rockwell Group's - chief interior arch, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Thomas Heatherwick - urban design, Foster + Partners, Roche-Dinkeloo - 50 Hudson Yards, Kohn Pedersen Fox - 55 H.Y.,30 H.Y., Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Kohn - 35 H.Y.). It is a newly created high-rise complex on the island's map, with a superbly adapted public space, at ground level (easily accessible to anyone walking around the city, not necessarily just those galloping meanwhile to their office on the "x" floor of one of the glass towers). The square opens onto the Hudson River to the west, with the neighboring state of New Jersey in the background, while to the south it begins the route of the High Line (James Corner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro - principal architects, Piet Oudolf - landscape architect). At its heart stands an urban sculpture of stairs leading to nowhere - the famous Vessel (arch. Thomas Heatherwick).

Vessel wśród szklanych wieżowców

Vessel among glass skyscrapers,
pro: Thomas Heatherwick

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

How the place has changed since renovation work began a decade ago is simply incredible. New Yorkers have managed in such a short period of time to create a mind-blowing city within a city with a completely new and unique skyline. To compare the scale of this project, the area of which is about 27 hectares, on the map of Warsaw is the area of the entire Plac Defilad (Marszałkowska - Świętokrzyska - Emilii Plater - Al. Jerozolimskie streets).

High Line

High Line,
proj.: James Corner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

Entering the High Line and walking along this unique linear park, raised nine meters above the ground, created along the route of railroad tracks that have been closed for years, we will come to another interesting piece of the city - the Meatpacking District. The most interesting thing about it is that today it is one of the more expensive and luxurious districts of the city, and back in the 1990s, it was filled with slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants (hence the name).

Charakterystyczny budynek na jednym z powtarzających się często w Meatpacking District trójkątnych placów

A distinctive building on one of the Meatpacking District's frequently recurring triangular squares
(Little Flatiron Building, 675 Hudson St.).

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

Gansevoort Street, where today designer boutiques, luxury car dealerships and Michelin-starred restaurateurs beat each other for the location of their business, remembers until quite recently the carcasses of pigs hanging on every corner and blood flowing down the street's gutters. The smell of raw meat, hanging over the heads of passersby, has been successfully replaced here with the smell of a perfectly fried medium-rare steak.

Francuska restauracja na Gansevoort Street wypełniona turystami

A French restaurant on Gansevoort Street filled with tourists,
proj.: Richard H. Lewis Architect

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

Moving away from culinary themes, I have to mention one of the most successful and at the same time most difficult to design in terms of interpretation of the theme - a contemplative place - we are talking about the Ground Zero memorial (Studio Daniel Libeskind - master plan, David Brody Bond - underground Memorial Museum, SNØHETTA - Visitor's Pavilion, Skidmore, Owings&Merrill - One World Trade Center). Why do I think this theme is a tough challenge for an architect? Because there is no single template or pattern that would indicate how to properly design a place intended to commemorate the tragic events of September 2001 that are so vivid in the memory of every New Yorker (and anyone who lived through the memory of that day), while at the same time having the task of extinguishing emotions and putting into a state of contemplation, silence and thoughtfulness, people visiting the place. Even more so when it is located in the heart of a concrete jungle.

Wodospad bez dna — Ground Zero

Bottomless waterfall - Ground Zero,
proj.: Studio Daniel Libeskind, David Brody Bond, SNØHETTA

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

Yet the architects, with the help of urban planners, were up to the task this time, too. The answer in the form of two waterfalls sunk into the ground, with water constantly overflowing where the two memorable towers stood, is an almost flawless solution. The murmur of the water mutes the noise of the busy streets and thus helps calm thoughts. Wherever you stand in the square, you will never see the bottom to which the water flows. This is a metaphor for the emptiness that remains in the heart after the loss of a loved one. To see for yourself how this symbolic architectural treatment affects the perception of this place, you need to stand at Ground Zero at least once in your life and cast your gaze into this particular void.

On anyone at least a little interested in the space in which they find themselves, in which they move and in which they function, these examples of complete urban-architectural transformation make an unprecedented impression. For an architect, on the other hand, they are an inspiration and confirmation of the thesis that everything can be architecturally realized. Also, let's leave the search for excuses to those whose visions of change frighten rather than motivate them to improve existing conditions.

Plakat na wejściu do Chelsea Market, nawiązujący do niedawnej przeszłości dzielnicy

A poster at the entrance to Chelsea Market, referring to the neighborhood's recent past,
proj.: Albert G Zimmerman, Louis N Wirsching Jr, Vandeberg Architects

© archive of Angelika Andrzejewska

a profession that doesn't squint

That is, the right profession in the right place. Since no one sleeps here anyway, at least the time is used one hundred percent. I must admit that even the efficiency associated with the productivity of this time is kept at a surprisingly high level. This is simply how the energy of this city works. Another question, on the other hand, is how long it lasts, but that I will only be able to tell in a few, a couple of dozen or so years.

And yet I love what I do. You can really go wild with creativity in Manhattan. The standard budget of a client who can afford an architect in the first place is far above the average of the rest of the world, including my beloved Poland. On the other hand, there is nothing more satisfying for an architect than the freedom in design, which develops, gives a sense of fulfillment and, last but not least, brings incredible joy.

An added bonus of this profession is that you can do it for as long as you want. The average New Yorker lives much longer than the rest of the US population, so it seems that in this respect, too, everything speaks in favor of choosing this particular career path here.


In conclusion, for those looking for the downsides of New York, the list is endless. Starting with the unfathomably high cost of renting apartments, living, leisure activities, the hours spent on the subway (which often changes its routes and stops in underground traffic jams and is stuffed to the brim with New Yorkers, tourists andeven more tourists), above-ground traffic jams, parking fees that deter anyone moving around the city in their own car, the frenetic pace of life (because, you know, time is money) and the pursuit of the dollar (because, again, time is money) in the spirit of what is truly American consumerism.

And yet, one can get used to, accept and, in the end, even love this lifestyle. There is energy here. I feel it at every turn, moving through the crowded streets, although most of the time, however, rushing with an acceptable still fifteen minutes late, to the next meeting (I will only add that the delay is mutual, as being on time here borders almost on a miracle). On top of that, there is an incredible diversity of cultures of people coming down from all over the world, each with their own unique story and each wanting to change something in their lives, feeling the need to take action, change, take the next steps, grow and follow their biggest dreams.

In short, I wouldn't trade life in this city for any other.


Architect, interior designer and NYC enthusiast.

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