499 PARK AVENUE
(S. E. corner at 59th Street)
Developer: Park Tower Realty
Architect: I. M. Pei &
By Carter B. Horsley
George Klein, the head of Park Tower Realty,
took a clue from developer Gerald Hines and decided to hire world
famous architects for his projects. Such architects, however,
are not perfect and do not always produce masterpieces.
Pei has had his shares of masterpieces such
as the East Wing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington
and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Although he lives in
a non-modern townhouse on Sutton Place, Pei has yet to produce
a great building in New York, although his best work so far is
the Post-Modern style Four Seasons Hotel, originally known as
the Regent Hotel, two blocks away on 57th Street between Park
and Madison Avenues, completed in 1993.
This bland, black-reflective-glass, 27-story
building is not bad, but its chamfered corners and V-shaped indentation
on the avenue are too small in scale to be dramatic or subtle.
The black lobby, shown below, however, is very
fine. Its main entrance is on the sidestreet and it opens onto
a large skylight area filled with a solitary tree and a very good
Dubuffet painting. The lobby continues on a diagonal to its smaller
midblock entrance on the avenue. The main lobby's sparse, neat
space is well proportioned and the counterpoint of the tree's
green laciness and the brightness of the white, red and blue Dubuffet
painting against the black walls and floor is elegant Modernism
at its very best.
Contextually, one cannot argue with a glass
curtain wall in the commercial section of Park Avenue, yet this
modest black tower would have been better in another color, perhaps
some shade of silver, or bronze, or even green. Its relatively
small size, however, mitigates its otherwise austere Darth Vader
appearance and is not totally out of line with the three other
somewhat glitzy corner neighbors at this important intersection
and its 59th Street entrance and lobby help the rather messy Park-Lexington
streetscape on this block.