New York: Connecting cities, architecture and ideas


For 31 days in the month of October, activities, building tours, an architecture film festival and various other programs are presented across New York City as part of the second annual Arctober. In partnership with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the public is given the opportunity to visit construction sites of new buildings or speak to architects at the site of their own historical creations throughout the five boroughs.

My favourite Arctober activity thus far is a architectural boat tour that takes a small group of people around the island of Manhattan. A member of AIA (on our tour Arthur vdG. Platt) talks non-stop for 3 hours – the time it typically takes for the sail boatto go around Manhattan. But it’s 3 hours of pure magic as you’re given a better understanding and insight into how the different boroughs developed and get a holistic sense of New York city planning.

One of the architects who present the Manhattan architecture boat tour is AIA member Arthur vdG Platt from Fink & Platt Architects.


Like a New York Times article described the experience: Manhattan is elusive by land, but comes into focus by sea. It is the kind of water-bound tour that I think could work just as well in Cape Town. Who wouldn’t mind seeing the City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard by boat while Anya van der Merwe or another Cape Town-based architect inform us of the history of the Waterfront, the Ritz and the old railroad that used to run down the Promenade.


Also as part of Arctober the Municipal Art Society of New York (MASNY) presented a two-day summit where the future of New York and cities around the globe were discussed. MASNYC’s advocacy and policy development takes shape during these summits which has been running for three years and this year the themes of development, density and diversity were addressed.

An important part of the summit was an exhibition on proposals by four internationally renowned architects who competed for the commission of an old office block in the middle of Manhattan. Norman Foster  competed with Zaha HadidRem Koolhaas and Richard Rogers but it was Lord Foster’s design which was selected. On Friday morning Foster, who is already well-known to New Yorkers for his work on the Hearst Tower and the planned 2 World Trade Center, presented his dream for the office tower, something which has some New Yorkers rather excited.

For Cape Town a take-away from the summit could be the announcement of a Global City Network initiated by MASNYC and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Cities everywhere face many similar challenges, but the world’s global cities—those which drive global finance, culture and social innovation—must address a set of conditions particular to their size, scale, and intensity. In order to maintain their status, global cities require effective public policies and leadership that supports a thriving culture, economy and social life, as well as a supportive built environment and engaged, local communities with a capacity for innovation. MAS is leading the creation of a Global City Network to share experiences in building global cities that are both resilient and livable. These initiatives are particular to place, but we can learn from each other’s successes—and failures.

No detail as to how the network will work was announced but keep an eye on MASNYC’s website for more detail as well as video highlights from the summit:


About André-Pierre du Plessis

André-Pierre du Plessis has been a journalist in South Africa for nearly a decade working for Die Burger, Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM Magazine. More recently he was a reporter for eNuus and the eNews Channel. He co-created and produced the channel’s flagship technology-news programme “Tech Report”. He’s currently completing a MA in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia University in New York.