Mark Lamster | Essays

Towers in NY

As a critic, you're supposed to have firm ideas about the subjects of your review. I find that it doesn't always work that way. Some works take time to digest, and maybe there isn't time to fully do so before your deadline calls. Sometimes you're just left with profoundly conflicting ideas. With architecture there's the added problem that we're often asked to review buildings before we see how they truly operate (or even without visiting them at all). The new residential tower by Frank Gehry in Lower Manhattan (officially: "New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street"), is a project about which I have some serious mixed feelings, and that mouthful of a name is the least of it. Every time I cross the Brooklyn Bridge, I'm peeved at how it eclipses the Woolworth Building. As I write in April's Architectural Review:
When the morning sun animates the tower's metal exterior — Gehry has compared its folds to the drapery of Bernini — it is surely a spectacular sight to behold, especially when it is viewed from Brooklyn. But on those many overcast afternoons when New York's flat light drains the building of its sculptural magic, it reveals itself to be what it truly is: a very large developer tower with a dressed-up facade. Whether it augments or injures the New York skyline is a matter of opinion, although it's worth noting that the building's exaggerated height is only possible due to the purchased air rights of a neighbouring hospital.
Conversely, the more often I see it, the more at home I've become with Cook + Fox's Bank of America Tower, adjacent to Bryant Park, a building that I think I overlooked when it opened, and have come to very much appreciate, not least for its sustainability.

Comments [1]

Seems New York is finally catching up on architectural design already common in Europe and particularly recent towers in London. Not sure if that's in keeping with the more reserved design traditions of New York but they will certainly stand out.
Steve Gibbings

Jobs | May 22