Most New Yorkers that I know think of the Hudson Yards development as something rather like Times Square – an obnoxious place for tourists that no self-respecting New Yorker would either approve of or be seen dead in. Of the two, Hudson Yards might even be more despised. This is perhaps in part because Hudson Yards is the more ostentatious of the two, and perhaps in part because Times Square evolved at least semi-organically, while Hudson Yards seems to have been conceived ab ovo as something alien to what New Yorkers like to think of as their native values. The current Disneyfied incarnation of Times Square targets suburbanites from the ‘heartland‘, the McMansioneers of the nation. Hudson Yards, the suspicion goes, was built as a playground for the moneyed parasites who are sucking the life out of the city.
As an aspiring New Yorker, I have absorbed the general disdain for the place. Thus I had never visited Hudson Yards. I had registered its rather bombastic skyscrapers in passing, and taken the occasional photograph from a distance, but that was all. But then Skylum, the makers of some photo-editing software that I use, announced a photo walk starting at Hudson Yards. I decided that I might as well go along and see what the place was actually like.
What I learned from my brief excursion was that (a) the people from Skylum are very nice, and (b) that while the architecture of Hudson Yards is generally hideous, the details of the architecture are more interesting. The skyscrapers themselves are decidedly unlovely: their sheer scale makes their quirkiness seem arrogant rather than endearing or attractive. But if you focus in (literally or metaphorically) on the elements of the design, it all becomes more interesting. There is, after all, a visual richness to some of the juxtaposed textures and forms that is candy to an architectural photographer. As the Skylum folks probably guessed, there are certainly worse places to take your camera for an hour or two.
I still don’t like Hudson Yards or want any part of what it’s selling. I don’t have any real reason to go back. But I will grudgingly admit that their architects did get some things right, and that while the whole may be moderately repellent, some of the detail is worth appreciating.