The Porter House project by SHoP Architects doesn’t quite sit right with the eye. Greg Pasquarelli, one of the founding principals of the New York firm, gave a great lecture at the University of Washington last year in which he elaborated on the achievement of finding an innovative solution to the challenge of expanding the 1905 6-story condominium building. Rather than competing with the historic architecture, the new addition distinguishes itself with a modern zinc façade.
While the strategy seems logical, the image of the building is still daunting for the sole reason of what it visually implies. The new addition, though connected to the existing building below, starts to suggest a different kind of development, a different kind of cityscape where buildings start to layer on top of each other. The phenomenon of air space and air space rights is not a new concept yet with the increasing density of our urban areas, it has become more relevant than ever. If the elevator was an invention that enabled us to build vertically, then can air space rights start to shift our infrastructure “plane” up as portrayed in the movie The Fifth Element?
The movement has begun. Whether it’s to trek through New York City on The High Line or to connect seven separate Linked Hybrids via skybridges in China, these projects offer a form of route alternate from the ground plane. The visual impact on the city’s skyline is hard to overlook and as a collective, they makes the vision of The Fifth Element city more plausible than ever. More significantly, air space rights provide a different lens in looking at some of the similar (but smaller scale) local projects. One can only start to imagine the unraveling of the vertical plane in Seattle.
Ji Shon is currently pursuing a dual degree in Master of Architecture and Master of Science in Real Estate at the University of Washington while working for the Neighborhood Design Build Studio. Upon graduation, she intends to combine the two fields and pioneer in bringing excellent design and responsible development in urban areas. She could be reached at email@example.com for questions or comments.