By Carter B. Horsley
A press conference scheduled in the spring
of 2008 to reveal the design by Frank O. Gehry for the 76-story,
mixed-use tower being developed near City Hall by Forest City
Ratner Companies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises,
Inc., was canceled because of the crane collapse on the Upper
East Side but then was held anyway.
The design of the 867-foot-high tower still
retains a stainless-steel façade for its upper 71 floors
as has been indicated for the past year or so, but the façade
treatment is significantly different.
The prior design indicated that there would
be small setbacks on every floor in a symmetrical, stairway-to-heaven
The new design, however, is asymmetrical and marked by jutting
curves in a tortured and twisted aesthetic that imparts an energetic,
almost fraying look. The stainless-steel cladding, of course,
will still make the tower the most glistening in Lower Manhattan.
The building will have 903 market-rate apartments
on floors 7 through 76. The low-rise base of the building, however,
which will contain a 100,000-square-foot, 630-student school on
the first four floors, and 21,000 square feet of medical offices
on the fifth floor, is clad in red masonry.
The building will have 1,300 square feet of ground-floor retail
and 175 parking spaces below grade for the adjacent New York Downtown
The mid-block tower is on the block bounded by Beekman Street
to the south, Spruce Street to the north and William Street to
The lower levels of the tower are expected to be ready for occupancy
in late 2010 and the remainder the next year.
Studio apartments will have about 500 square feet, one-bedrooms
will have about 670 square feet, two-bedrooms will have about
1,100 square feet and three-bedroom units will have about 1,600
The residential section of the tower will have about 20,000 square
feet of amenity space including a fitness center, a conference
center, a lounge, a sundeck and a children's playroom.
Mr. Gehry (see The City Review article
on his prior design and The City Review
article on a Gehry exhibition) has also designed the planned
Atlantic Yards project for Forest City Ratner in Brooklyn and
the recently completed IAC headquarters building in West Chelsea.
His most famous building is the sinuously curved Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
In his May 31, 2008 review of the building in The New York
Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ourossoff said that its
"crinkled steel skin is proof that the skyscraper has yet
to exhaust itself as an urban art form" and "signals
that the city is finally emerging from a long period of creative
"Only a few blocks from ground zero and Wall Street, the
shimmering tower's hypnotic pull will significantly reconfigure
the downtown skyline," he added, stating that "the folds
evoke rivulets of water, crinkled sheets of aluminum foil, melting
The tower will be taller than the Woolworth Building on the west
side of City Hall Park, but shorter than the mixed-use tower being
erected by Silverstein Properties at 30 Park Place, just to the
west of the Woolworth Building.
The changed aesthetics of the new tower are
a bit disappointing as it now appears to take on a rather mean
and ornery look in comparison to the earlier design that was,
in effect, a modern and refined take on the city's famous "wedding
cake" zoning of setbacks. Its metallic shimmer, of course,
will most likely be quite dazzling and one has to admire Gehry's
constant adventurousness. His recent redesign of the controversial
Atlantic Yards project for the same developer in Brooklyn was
a vast improvement and its jiggered Lego-style boxiness is very
stunning. This new design introduces an organic flair that many
will find fascinating, of course, even if purists will find it
odd and eccentric, but that is not necessarily a bad thing at
all for New York.