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New New York
Architecture of a City
Introduction by Joseph Giovannini
Edited by Ian Luna
Rizzoli New York, 2004, pp. 352, 360 illustrations, $45

Rose Center for Earth and Space

Book cover showing Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, Polshek Partnership, 2000

By Carter B. Horsley

This 9-by-11-inch paperback book examines more than 90 architecture and interior design projects in New York City that were initiated after 1992. Most of the projects are relatively small-scale.

"The glory of architecture in this city of historically large projects and large vision now resides at a surprisingly small scale," observed Joseph Giovannini, the architecture critic of New York magazine, in the book's introduction. "The rampant multiplicity of unleashed voices refuses to be homogenized by a single, correct way of thinking, and even though each architect is on his or her own, together they have achieved critical mass. Architecture in New York is still delirious," Mr. Giovannini added, making obvious reference to Rem Koolhaas's book "Delirious New York."

"If New York architecture is generally flourishing at a small or intermediate scale, with occasional examples of excellence at a large scale," Mr. Giovannini wrote, "it because the age of Jane Jacobs has superceded that of Robert Moses, and shows no sign of releasing its grip. Had Westway been built, New Yorkers would now basking on the Hudson, but that mighty project was defeated by local activists, and New Yorkers now must contend with fjording a high speed artery masked as an avenue, to gain access to the well-intended but limited recreational patches and strips of the Hudson River Park, which borders the Hudson up to 59th Street."

At last, Mr. Giovannini argued, "the constraining crosswalks laid out by postmodernists in the 1980s, when typologically correct tripartite buildings, with a base, middle and top, ruled the drafting boards," are beginning to be ignored and the "new" buildings highlighted in this book offer "encyclopedic evidence that news of the death of New York architecture has been greatly exaggerated."

"Sitting on the volcano of its own ambition, New York is endlessly destabilized by the collective Vesuvian energies of its rampant strivers. After the momentous Deconstructivist Architecture Show at MoMA in 1988, which closed the curtain on postmodernism," Mr. Giovannini wrote, "numerous actors and agents converged as though in astronomical alignment to move New York's architectural position out of the stasis of history….Loft culture started going public in the mid-1980s, when restaurateurs opened big, soaring dining halls. Stores soon followed, in which large, open volumes offered the luxury of space. Gluckman Mayner, architects of minimalist Dia Center for the Arts on 23rd Street, became early specialists in the discipline and art of well-lit cubic perfection in a string of galleries and stories. In the Gagosian Gallery, the Helmut Lang Parfumiere,…and the Mary Boone Gallery, Gluckman Mayner have clearly been affected the art their designs display…With the confluence of restaurants, stores and galleries, SoHo, TriBeCa and most recently Chelsea emerged as New York's most active architectural laboratory, shifting the center of design gravity out of MoMA's orbit, and away from the corporate vistas of new high-rise towers that, in a simulation of Houston, crisscrossed Midtown in the 1980s….Without any galvanized shows to follow up the Deconstructivist exhibition, and especially with its own underwhelming design the MoMA expansion by Yoshio Taniguchi, MoMA ceded its leadership position to the simple momentum of a city that couldn't wait."

Storefront for Art & Architecture

Storefront for Art & Architecture, 97 Kenmare Street, Steven Holl Architects & Vito Acconci, 1993

One of the earliest projects in the book is the Storefront for Art & Architecture at 97 Kenmare Street designed in 1993 by Steven Holl Architects and Vito Acconci who had been commissioned by Kyong Park and Shirin Neshat to renovate one of a handful of exhibition spaces in the city that regularly feature the work of emerging architects. "Puncturing the facade, the provisional design team proposed a challenge to the symbolic and literal enclosures that grid New York art by uniting the interior and exteiror into a mutable architectural gesture," the book's description of this project maintained, adding that "Using a hybrid material comprised of concrete mixed with recycled fibers, its creators injected a spirit of whimsy, inserting a series of hinged panels arranged in a puzzle-like configuration. When the panels are locked in their open position, the facade dissolves and the interior space of the gallery expands out into the sidewalk."

Scholastic Building

Scholastic Building, 557 Broadway, Aldo Rossi, 2001

Not too far away geographically, the Scholastic Building at 557 Broadway is far less daring in its facade treatment but is a stunning example of how to contextually relate to older surroundings while boldly asserting its contemporary modernity. Designed by Aldo Rossi Studio di Archittetura in 2001, it is, according to book, "the only New York project by the late Milanese visionary Aldo Rossi." "The prefabricated, cast-iron facades of SoHo had always intrigued the Pritzker Prize-wnning architect and theorist, and it was not until the early 1990s that he secured a commisson in the historic district. ...Rubbing shoulders with Ernest Flagg's precious Little Singer Building from 1903, the Scholastic building is an inspired exercise in contextualism. Drawing its clues from its steel and terra-cotta neighbor to the north and remembered details from the Hotel Il Palazzo (1987) in Fukuoka City, the principal elevation efacing Broadway is composed of alternating bands of exposed green and red I beams. The horizontal movement created by these structural elements, which culminate in a red roof [cornice] of three stacked girders, is viusally opposed by the illusory vertical heft of precast columns fastened onto the steel frame. At the attic story, these four faux pillars split into seven smaller ones." The horizontal bands do not precisely match up with the stringcourses of the buildings on either side, but the overall fenestration pattern and facade treatment is very good and very respectful and the cornice treatment is extremely strong.

New 42nd Street Studios

New 42nd Street Studios, 225-9 West 42nd Street, Platt Byard Dovell White, 1999

A project of almost similar size but radically different in its facade treatment is the New 42nd Street Studios at 225-9 West 42nd Street that was designed by Platt Byard Dovell in 1999. The firm is now Platt Byard Dovell White. It is the best of all the new buildings along the "Deuce" as this block between 7th and 8th Avenues is known and it is certainly the most colorful building in the city. The use of bold colors in urban architecture is relatively rare and if any location deserves such a treatment it is here. The building's grid of bright lights is programmable and automated, which enlivens the project as does a 175-foot-high vertical "light pipe" that projects out from the building. Even when the lights are not on or in daylight when their effect is minimized the building's facade of metal blades is very high tech and handsome.

Lehman College Physical Education Facility

Lehman College Physical Education Facility, Bedford Park West Boulevard, The Bronx, Raphael Vinoly, 1994

In 1994, Raphael Vinoly designed the Herbert H. Lehman College Physical Education Facility of the City University of New York at Bedford Park West Boulevard in The Bronx, a very beautiful low-rise structure that employs a gentle, swooping stainless steel curved roof. "The building's singular form has become an icon of the college to the neighborhood, its play of light and heavy forms articulating a sequence of dramatic profiles. In a sweeping gesture, the segmented arc of the great roof - set at grade on the campus side - rises to form a crest over the street side."

Not all of the included projects have come to fruition. Perhaps most lamentable is the abandonment of the plan by Architectures Jean Nouvel in 2001 for a three-building complex straddling the High Line elevated railway at 848 Washington Street. Known as the Ganesvoort Market Tower, this is probably the most exciting design produced by Nouvel.

Dumbo Hotel/Main Street Pier

Dumbo Hotel/Main Street Pier, Fulton Landing Waterfront, Brooklyn, Architectures Jean Nouvel, design completed 1999

Two years earlier than the Ganesvoort Market Tower project, Nouvel designed a very dramatic low-rise hotel for David Walentas on the East River waterfront in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) section of Brooklyn between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. The 250-room hotel would be cantilevered over the river and its base includes a 16-theater cineplex whose screens would lift up during intermissions to reveal views of the river.While the proposed hotel would undoubtedly have spectacular views, its location is a bit problemmatic as its large size and proximity to the Manhattan Bridge competes too strongly with the great bridges and thereby disrupts a great urban vista (from Manhattan).

IFCCA competition by Eisenman

IFCCA Prize Competition for the Design of Cities, Eisenman Architects, design completed 1999

Yet another unrealized design is the winning entry by Eisenman Architects in the IFCCA (International Foundation for the Canadian Center for Architecture) Prize Competition for the Design of Cities in 1999. Peter Eisenman has long been the most intellectual American architect and this design for the exposed railyards that lead into Penn Station just to the south of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is more appropriate than ever now that the city's proposal for a stadium for the New York Jets football team on the waterfront part of this site has been abandoned. The plan combined a stadium, an expansion of the convention center, parks and many other uses and both stretched out into the river and thematically brought the river into the city by means of its smooth and undulating design.

Museum of African Art

Museum for African Art, 109-110th Streets and Fifth Avenue, Bernard Tschumi Architects, design completed 1999

Two other outstanding designs also eschewed traditional rectilinearity. Bernard Tschumi's 1999 design for a Museum for African Art on the southeast corner of 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, directly across from Harlem Meer in Central Park, placed an undulating facade within a transparent cube but instead of emphasized the smoothness of its curves chose to use the high-tech struts bracing the rectilinear glass walls to energize the design. This is also the most interesting project Tschumi has designed as well as an intriguing complement to the curves of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum a mile and a half or so to the south on the avenue. The struts also are reminiscent of the many nails that are driven into some African "power figure" sculptures. The book notes that "Seen through the curtainwall is a wave of wood veneer, fashioned in a stylized replica of the great mud mosques of Maili - with the rod rigging holding up the glass clube approximating the palmwood staves of the original."

Eyebeam Atelier

Eyebeam Atelier, West 21st Street, Diller + Scofidio, design completed 2001

One of the more colorful schemes yet to be realized is the Eyebeam Atelier, designed in 2001 by Diller + Scofidio for a midblock site between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues on West 21st Street. "The design solution was derived from a single concept, a flexible ribbon that situates production (atelier) on one side, and presentation (museum/theater) on the other. Developed with the engineering consultancy Arup, this concrete ribbon alights from the street and rises to the full height of the building like a giant sidewinder. In section, floors curve up to form walls, transition into ceilings, and slip back into floors as the ribbon ascends. As it snakes from left to right, this infinite loop alternately encircles production or presentation areas. The hybrid program also draws together two diverse communities: the building's residents (students, artists and staff) and its visitors (museum and theatergoers). The melding of function compels each user group to enter the space of the other as they move and down the building. As described by the architects, this series of interrelationships achieves greater complexity 'when a loop of ribbon at one level is sheared in half and slipped into alignment with a level above or below.' This constant realignment of planes creates its own internal drama, a 'controlled contamination [that] juxtaposes technical processes with their effects, contrasting peoiple at work with people at leisure.'"

Other important projects included in this compilation are the Prada New York Experience at 575 Broadway designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in 2001, a very interesting loft interior by Lot/ek in 1997, the rather ungainly Baruch College Vertical Campus at 55 Lexington Avenue by Kohn Pedersen Fox in 2001, the New York Times building design in 2001 by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Fox and Fowle (see The City Review article), the American Folk Art Museum designed in 2001 by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Associates (see The City Review article), the new Museum of Modern Art designed in 2005 by Yoshio Taniguchi (see The City Review article), the Austrian Cultural Forum at 11 East 52nd Street by Atelier Raimund Abraham in 2001 (see The City Review article), the Rose Center for Earth and Science at the American Museum of Natural History designed in 2000 by the Polshek Partnerhsip, and the Brooklyn Public Library designed in 2002 by TEN Arquitectos (see The City Review article).

The book also includes a section on some of the designs that had been submitted for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

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