About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article in The Real Deal about 535 West End Avenue, a fine example of contextualism by the Chicago-based architect Lucien Lagrange. It was the architect’s first building in Manhattan and, I assumed, his last: citing a growing disenchantment with the profession, a downturn in the Chicago market, and impending bankruptcy, Lagrange had just announced his retirement at the relatively young age (for an architect) of 69.
But, after Lagrange closed his own firm, he went on to join VOA Associates, also of Chicago, which describes itself as specializing in “luxury residential, hospitality and commercial mixed-use markets.” And now he has designed for Toll Brothers a new building that is just starting to arise at 132 East 65th Street at the corner of Lexington Avenue. To judge from the renderings, it will be a fine looking residence which, even before it exists, has nearly sold out.
Whereas the façade of 535 West End Avenue, a 22-story building, was mainly an Anglophile affair of red brick with white masonry accents along the base, the 15-story Touraine is, as its name implies, distinctly Francophile. A tall, white building clad in what looks like limestone facing, it rises up over the sort of rustic base that was so dear to the architects of the École des Beaux-Arts at the turn of the last century. The 65th Street entrance will be adorned with a grand canopy surmounted by a large lunette window, while the shops at street level will be distinguished by elegantly uniform awnings. From its base, the Touraine rises in formal bays of mullioned windows to the 12th floor, where the building continues for another three stories as a setback crowned by an equally 19th century-inspired Mansard roof.
It has been a long time since a new building of distinction, or even one without distinction, has arisen on Lexington Avenue in the mile between Bloomingdale’s and 79th Street. Virtually the newest thing in the neighborhood is Ulrich Franzen’s Hunter College expansion, which is over 40 years old. The upper 60s are one of Lexington Avenue’s better stretches, and with the completion of the Touraine this part of Manhattan will soon become better still.