From Soho to Sum City

Does residential development have to be a zero sum game? Or can the new be layered onto the old in a way that enhances both?


City as Loft

Project Team: 

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore

“From SoHo to SumCity” was written for Martina Baum and Kees Christiaanse’s book City As Loft: Adaptive Reuse as a Resource for Sustainable Urban Development, available from gta Verlag. The essay revisits Sharon Zukin’s 1982 classic Loft Living, which argues convincingly that SoHo wasn’t the product of invisible, uncontrollable market forces, but of man-made tools that could have been used differently (or not at all). Our thesis is that if we can see that SoHo—the most authentic of former industrial environments—didn’t “just happen,” perhaps we can see that the former industrial environments that we live, work, and shop in today didn’t just happen either, that they too are the products of man-made tools, and that these tools can be used differently to produce different (i.e., better) outcomes. Our favored outcome? “SumCity:” a model of neighborhood change in which the new doesn’t displace the old, but is instead layered onto it in a way that mutually benefits both parties.

A second essay of ours that appears in the book introduces a series of American case studies of loftification by way of a consideration of New York City's Garment District.