The concept of designing and building a 128-storey building just west of the Manhattan Bridge in New York that would accommodate everyone from the middle class, the rich and government officials in complete harmony to create a utopian society may seem like an unattainable goal.
Those ambitions seem even more unfeasible if the ideals behind the building were intended to meld together socialism, capitalism and colonialism and help turn financial deficits into profits, reduce unemployment, generate more than $USD40 million annually in real estate tax, and that the building would contain within its walls billions of dollars worth of businesses.
Wong San Yan, a Chinese-American architect, not only has just such a far-reaching vision, he actually does not even hope to profit from it. Wong recently put forward an idea for Zhongshan Tower, a 128-storey building he says would be located in a run-down area in New York.
So serious is he that he has produced a 113-page, 54-point manifesto, covering in minute detail the layout of the building and the features of each floor. The 64th floor, for example, would be reserved specifically for accountants, tax specialists and economists and no one else.
His plans are certainly grand. Situated on the block between Bowery Street, Bayard Street, Mott Street and Worth Street, this proposed urban utopia would cover roughly 15,000 square feet in area and reach a mammoth height of 2,173 feet. It would feature 120,000 square feet of greenery, 130 elevators, 1,600 apartments, 1,000 retail stores, 1,500 offices and have five million square feet for community use as well as a 3,000-vehicle car park.
The plans also include environmentally friendly factories, eight-star hotels, a rooftop greenhouse, the world’s four best restaurants, an enormous rotating restaurant and the world’s highest observation deck.
The community space would include elder care centres, schools, youth associations, kindergartens, health spas, cultural centres, libraries, conference rooms, and offices for not-for-profit organisations.
Some 300 apartments between the 36th and 45th floors would be available for low and middle income families, with a further 150 apartments on these floors reserved for the elderly.
Certainly, Wong is not shy in espousing the virtues of his proposal, nor in his appraisal of the current state of the site.
“For over 100 years, there have been more than 120 buildings at the location where the Zhongshan Centre will be built,” Zhou declares in the preface accompanying his proposal. “In these buildings, the roofs leak to the point of being irreparable and the wires and pipes supplying electricity and sewage access are old and inefficient. This often leads to accidents and other problems.”
He adds that stairs in the buildings in the area are typically steep and, without elevator access, the buildings are inaccessible. Furthermore, the buildings are not tall enough to allow scenic views, and he suggests the land in underutilised.
“The government presently only receives about 5 million dollars of real estate tax from this area, and there are only 500 workers employed,” he says. “Easy community is non-existent, and the area lacks convenient parking. Business is declining.”
Wong says his proposed skyscraper would be modern and offer vastly improved living conditions and decor. He said the businesses in his proposal would offer upscale working conditions, and with so many amenities in such a condensed space, shopping and all other facilities would be extremely convenient.
“The government will make more than 40 million dollars annually in real-estate tax, and business profits taxes will exceed billions of dollars,” he says. “The government and the private sector will profit from its construction. The owners of the displaced buildings will become the owners of the condos within the Centre. The businessmen whose businesses were displaced by the Centre will get new, modern space for their businesses to return to. And the tenants whose apartments were torn down for the Centre will be given better living conditions between the 46th and 55th floors.”
Bringing such an ambitious and far-reaching project to fruition would obviously be challenging, and Wong himself is clear that he wants no part in the construction of the tower. While his intentions in proposing such a massive development are no doubt laudable, it will be up to others now to act on the proposal for it to come to fruition.
Wong has, however, certainly brought the concept far enough that it is now in the realm of discussion, and all magnificent buildings in existence today were once merely dreams of those who believed the ‘impossible’ was indeed possible.