By Carter B. Horsley
Philip Johnson was the dean of American architects
in the second half of the 20th Century.
His many famous New York projects included
the former A. T. & T. skyscraper on Madison Avenue between
55th and 56th Streets, the "Four Seasons Restaurant"
at the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue, Avery Fisher Hall
at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Bobst Library at
New York University, the "Lipstick" office tower at
885 Third Avenue, part of the Museum of Modern Art complex where
he once served as the director of the department of architecture.
Elsewhere, he was famous for the Transco Tower
and the Republic Bank tower in Houston, and many others including
his own glass house in New Canaan, Conn.
As he neared his 100th birthday in 2004, the
latest addition to his celebrated design portfolio was The Metropolitan,
a 94-unit condominium tower at 181 East 90th Street on the northwest
corner at Third Avenue, directly across the avenue from the mammoth
Ruppert Brewery residential complex that has a large park on its
eastern half along Second Avenue.
Over the decades, Mr. Johnson has had numerous
architectural partnerships, one of the longest of which was with
John Burgee. He did this project with Alan Ritchie. Schuman, Lichtenstein,
Claman & Efron were also architects on the project.
This was only Mr. Johnson's second high-rise
residential tower in New York. The other was 1001 Fifth Avenue,
directly across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 81st
and 82nd Streets. That limestone-clad building was one of Mr.
Johnson's forays into Post-Modernism and its façade sought
to be in context with that of the adjoining luxury apartment house
at 998 Fifth Avenue, which had been designed by McKim, Mead &
White. The building at 1001 had a mansard-shaped roofline but
it received considerable derision because it was only two-dimensional,
much like a movie set.
Mr. Johnson also designed the renovation of
the former Gulf & Western Building at 1 Central Park West
into the mixed-use Trump International Hotel and condominium apartment
tower, whose facades are among the sleekest in the city.
This 326-foot-high tower is purely modern with
horizontal banding, dark windows and rounded corners. The two-tone-beige-brick
structure is topped by a very nice banded crown with rounded corners
that is softly illuminated at night. The building's form is simple
but its soft corners are a nice exception to this area's hard-edged
high-rise forms, with the exception of the large curved façade
of the Monterey, six blocks to the north.
The 32-story building has a side-street entrance
with a marquee and apartments ranging in size from one- to 4-bedrooms
priced from $950,000 to $7,950,000. It has nice retail frontage
on the avenue and no sidewalk landscaping.
The tower has two setbacks and was originally
called The Carnegie as it is in the highly desirable Carnegie
Hill that has many fine private schools,
and many cultural and religious institutions.
The area has many restaurants and there is
a wide variety of shopping nearby on 86th Street and Lexington
The east side of Third Avenue in this area
is highly developed with many tall towers but the Metropolitan
has few nearby high-rise neighbors on the west side of the avenue
and therefore many excellent views.
Roy Stillman and Martin S. Levine are the principals
of Sherwood Properties LLC, the project's developers.
The last residential project associated with
Mr. Johnson in the city was the Urban Glass House at 300 Spring
Street on which Alan Ritchie collaborated.