Building Process – MAS Summit 2015

At the 2015 Municipal Arts Society Summit, Simon Koster, a Principal at JDS Development Group, gave a talk called “Building Process,” in which he explained how public-private partnerships could advance the goal of creating new, landmark quality infrastructure for New York City.

Citing “Design First,” the MAS initiative dedicated to elevating the quality of urban design in New York, Koster noted that, for JDS, experience has shown that good design is good business. The concept of “good design,” however, is not simply an appreciation of thoughtful and sophisticated aesthetics; rather, it is the end result of a coherent process, in which risks and rewards are well understood, and resources are managed wisely. “No one sets out to design a bad building,” he noted, yet when a project lacks a rational design process, the inevitable challenges of zoning, finances, and personalities can collude to make the best intentions go awry.

Koster referred to New York’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, which, while not technically a “design code,” mandated that good light and air be maintained along city streets even as ever-taller buildings were built. This requirement led directly to the development of setbacks, a widely admired feature of Art Deco architecture. He noted that landmarks exist in spite of constraints. The public holds more land than any private company ever could, and private companies like JDS have the resources to navigate complexities and shepherd projects through to completion with design processes that function. New York City needs infrastructure that will ensure generations to come are well served, and to realize this ambition the JDS building process ensures. Good design and good business should go hand in hand.