By Carter B. Horsley
The tallest building on the Upper East Side,
this 634-foot-high slender tower is one of the citys handsomest.
The form and proportions of this 55-story tower
are terrific. Trump Tower (see The
City Review article) and Trump World (see The
City Review article) are fine exercises in sheer glossiness,
but this tower bristles with staccato energy and grabs the air
and your attention in an aggressive but elegant manner.
Although its crenellated top recollects that
of the famous Chanin Building on the southwest corner of 42nd
Street and Lexington Avenue, this is far too sophisticated a tower
to be described as Post-Modern.
Its architect, Frank Williams & Associates,
had previously designed the residential portion of one of the
city's most important Post-Modern complexes, World Wide Plaza
on a former site of Madison Square Garden in west Midtown. Here,
the architects have sculpted a very interesting tower that is
an aggressive and very specific intrusion into the skyline, one
that represented a significant departure for its famous developer,
who previously was preoccupied with glitz and slickness.
This is a brick building, to begin with. It
has many traditional "courses" that cap, or separate,
different divisions of the tower. Its shape is distinctly complex
and not at all clean-cut.
Given the general anti-high-rise sentiment
of the city at the time this was built, 1991, it is quite stunning
that Trump was able to pull this project off. Third Avenue, of
course, was no stranger to high-rise "luxury" towers
in the 60s, including another Trump project, Trump Plaza
(see The City Review article) but this
skipped a few blocks to the north of those towers and stands in
splendid isolation. As such, it toppled the Carlyle Hotel on Madison
Avenue at 76th Street (see The
City Review article) as the most prominent unofficial landmark
on the Upper East Side. More importantly, it greatly improved
the Upper East Side skyline for Upper West Siders.
At about the same time that Trump was going
ahead with this project, he switched architects on his large "Trump
City" project on the Upper West Side overlooking the Hudson
River from a modernist design that included a "world's tallest
building" there, designed by Helmut Jahn, for Trump, to a
Post-Modern enclave designed by Costas Kondylis that mimics some
of the Art Deco twin-towered buildings of Central Park West.
While this tower's top, which is beautifully
illuminated at night, is reminiscent of Art Deco, the building's
base is more typical Trump, a generally conservative, corporate
blandness with a bit of expensive flash.
The condominium apartment layouts are efficient,
but not palatial, but most of their views, mostly protected, are
sensational. The marketing here is generally aimed at an international
market largely interested in conventional pièd-a-terres,
which can be combined for larger units, with plenty of amenities
and convenience. The top several floors have only one unit each.
The building's brick is a yellowish-orange,
which is an interesting experiment at keeping the large tower
light in tone but also warm and inviting. The experiment, however,
misses somewhat and the tower's color is, well, peachy. Furthermore,
the brickwork does not appear to be the most expensive, or finely
detailed. Nevertheless, a brick tower is welcome and the wealth
of detailing on the other building elements is admirable.
Despite its size, there are only 285 apartments
here, two-thirds of which are in the tower and the remainder in
two attached structures, one eight stories and the other nine
stories, thereby affording residents considerable more "exclusivity"
on their floor than many other recent large projects.
With its superb massing, this tower could only
be improved if it had a travertine marble façade and surely
Trump will eventually get around to erecting such a tower, but
perhaps without such an excellent location.
The tower replaced the 10-story, New York Foundling
Hospital that had been erected in 1959.
The tower was built "as-of-right,"
but Mr. Trump could not get a zoning variance he wanted to create
a five-screen movie theater on the site.
"A lively pattern of windows and balconies,"
noted Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman and Jacob Tilove noted
in their great book, "New York 2000, Architecture and Urbanism
Between The Bicentennial and The Millennium" (The Monacelli
Press, 2006), "added interest to the telescopic tower, which
proved to be just the kind of landmark Third Avenue needed, though
Herbert Muschamp did not see its bravura in positive terms, agreeing
in essence with Kenneth Koyen, a neighbor of the tower, who called
it 'as appropriate as an asparagus spear on a golf green.' Muschamp
took issue with several aspects of the design, beginning with
the detailing of the base, which he castigated as 'tacky Art Deco
trim.' He also felt that the brick walls, 'glamorous from a distance,
look cheap up close.'"