Empire State Plaza (Albany, NY)

Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY is a 20th century example of grandeur. Completed between 1965-1976, the complex represents a time in New York State politics when the state felt emboldened to use its powers to create large-scale projects at the expense of local communities. Using imminent domain, the state successfully uprooted 7,000 residents and created a large-scale campus, featuring brutalist concrete towers that in compliance with the organizational philosophy of the time, centralized the state’s bureaucracy. The result was a campus that was in direct conflict with the surrounding grid of mostly residential houses. From the design, it’s clear that this campus was not intended to be integrated with the surrounding community, and that it instead represents the aggressive strong-handed attitudes of NYS politics at the time, which directly parallels the strong-handedness in which city/state capital projects were conducted downstate in New York City. In particular the erasure of existing neighborhoods and the construction of bold “modernistic” buildings directly parallels the demolition of Radio Row and the construction of the World Trade Center that was occurring simultaneously.

Sources:
Pfau, Ann, and David Hochfelder. “Who Lived in the Neighborhood Knocked down for the Empire State Plaza?” All Over Albany, June 29, 2015. http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2015/06/29/empire-state-plaza-neighborhood-residents.

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