By Carter B. Horsley
With its undulating plan, this
residential tower is one of the most distinctive in the city.
Erected by The Related Companies,
one of the developers of the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle,
it was designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, which designed
the expansion of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue
and the 52-story Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Co. Building that
was completed in 1990 on Times Square.
Gwathmey Siegel & Associates
came to fame as one of the "New York Five" group of
architects who in the 1960's focused on the white, modernist style
associated with Le Corbusier.
With its sinuous curves, this
tower is New York's answer to Chicago's famous Lake Point Tower
designed by Shipporeit & Associates, a reflective glass structure
whose curves wrap around a three-point plan that is one of the
landmarks of modern architecture. This tower is much smaller than
the Chicago building, which is also more prominently sited on
This tower, however, does have
considerable visibility as it is at the northern terminus of Lafayette
Street at East Eighth Street and directly across Fourth Avenue
from the landmark Cooper Union Building where East Eighth Street
becomes St. Mark's Place, the gateway to the East Village.
A free-standing tower, this
tower is actually a more complex form than Lake Point Tower because
the undulating façade is wrapped around a rectilinear core,
with a different façade treatment, that rises on the southernmost
bay of the tower's east façade and extends above at the
tower's first set back on the north and west facades. The curved
façade extends upwards two more floors on the north east
facades and the top flour floors above the rectilinear portion
continue the curve facades on all but the north facades. The residential
tower is set back on a two-story commercial base that conforms
to the traditional straight building lines of the property.
Charles Gwathmey, the architect,
has referred to this project as "Sculpture for Living"
and observed that it "has no front and no back" and
is "a rotational object."
The 21-story, 270-foot-high
building has 39 apartments that initially were priced at about
$1,995,000 for 1,449-square-foot, two-bedroom units to $8,750,000
for the largest of the four full-floor penthouses of more than
3,747 square feet plus a 328-square-foot terrace.
The curved glass facades have
blue-tinted, floor-to-ceiling windows.
In an August 11, 2004 article
in The New York Post, Lois Weiss reported that "Related had
proposed the triangular Astor Place site become an Ian Schrager
Hotel designed by Rem Koolhaas to look like a piece of Swiss Cheese.
Lucky for all, that deal was never consummated with Cooper Union,
the owners of the lot....Instead, Cooper Union eventually agreed
to a prepaid 99-year lease with Related which is creating co-op
apartments with condominium rules."
Had the tower been completely
wrapped in the blue-glass curved faces and not had its two-story
rectilinear base, it would have been a very stunning minimalist
As it has been designed, it
is still stunning but with a degree of arbitrariness that is a
little disappointing. Nonetheless, it is a most welcome new landmark
at a very important intersection surrounded by such important
architecture as Cooper Union, the New York Public Theater and
Colonnade Row, the latter two on Lafayette Street.
It has also been the harbinger
of several important new architectural additions to the neighborhood.
Cooper Union has commissioned Morphosis to design an academic
building on the Bowery across McSorley's at 7th Street and it
also has entered into an agreement with Edward Minskoff for a
new office building designed by Fumihiko Maki to replace its engineering
building across Cooper Square from its historic main building.
There are also several new towers further south on the Bowery.
Greenwich Village has its Jefferson
Market Library tower and now the East Village has this pinnacle.
In the May 2, 2005 edition
of The New Yorker Magazine, Paul Goldberger wrote a rather scathing
review of this project, describing it as "elf prancing among
men," adding that "it doesn't belong in the neighborhood...on
one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan."
"This young intruder,"
he continued, "hasn't much to say to its neighbors,"
adding that "Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is
garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald
Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place,
the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm."
Mr. Goldberger overlooked the
Cooper Union building just to the north of Cooper Union, one of
the ugliest buildings in the city, and while he may not like "garishly
reflective" glass facades a case could be made for them being
"By designing a tower
with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect," Mr. Goldberger
continued, "has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood,
which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other
than a place for the rich."
Mr. Goldberger conveniently
neglected to mention that Cooper Union itself is building a very
modern building one block to the south and that the Related tower
was only one of several major new tall buildings radically changing
the East Village and Lower East Side landscape. Other prominent
new towers include "Blue" at 105 Norfolk Street"
and The Hotel on Rivington.
Mr. Goldberger does note that
some "exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard
Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village
a few years ago changed the rules." Meier's buildings are
pleasant but not earth-shattering. Gwathmey's tower, on the other
hand, is not pleasant, but awesome, especially by New York City
It is rather ungainly and it
does invoke suburban office park aesthetics but it is chunky and
powerful and sinuous and bright and sparkling and, most importantly,
reasonably tall. It is an important new landmark. It is not the
Eiffel Tower but it is modern and that is actually fairly rare
in New York.
The rectilinear base and the
boxy section near the top are unfortunate. The free-standing building
should have been all curves, even if that would make it a poor
clone of Lake Point Towers.
Apartments range in size from
1,449 to 4,156 square feet. The building's promotional materials
proclaim that it is "Manhattan's first rotational, asymmetrical,
sculptural building that can be viewed three dimensionally."
Gwathmey Siegel and Associates
also did the interiors along with Ismael Leyva Architects.
Ceiling heights range from
9-feet-six-inches to 11 feet and all apartments have two or three
exposures and individually controlled heating and air-conditioning.
Each apartment has a washer and dryer. Kitchens have Sub-Zero
refrigerators, Wolff stainless steel cooktops and ovens, Miele
dishwashers, "Jet Mist" honed granite countertops and
solid cherry wood cabinets, and Viking wine coolers.
Bathrooms have six-foot soaking
tubs by Kohler, two vanities with sink carved of solid Absolute
Black granite in a honed finished, recessed medicine cabinets
by Robern and Statuary white marble flooring and tub enclosure.
The building has a 25-foot-high
lobby and the penthouses have keyed elevator access, terraces
There is considerable traffic
at this location and excellent public transportation with numerous
subway and bus lines within two blocks. The area abounds in students
from both Cooper Union and nearby New York University and there
are many, restaurants and boutiques nearby.
The city's greatest saloon,
McSorley's, famed for its beer and crackers and cheese with horseradish
mustard, is one block away.
The location here is convenient
not only to the East Village and Greenwich Village, but also the
great Strand bookstore four blocks to the north, Union Square