The Real Deal New York

Architecture review: A grid of glass and metal that manages to fit in

November 29, 2012 06:00PM
By James Gardner

From left: Audrey Matlock, the exterior of 57 Irving Place and an interior rendering

The shiny glass building at 57 Irving Place topped out as long ago as 2009, and it was well on its way to being fully clad not long afterwards. But the finishing touches were only recently applied, which is why this seems like a fine moment to take its measure.

Designed by Audrey Matlock, this building was developed by Madison Equities, which pioneered the Galleria at 117 East 57th Street a generation ago and, more recently, the Chelsea Modern at 447 West 18th Street. Like 57 Irving Place, Chelsea Modern was designed by Matlock. The latter building is a far bolder structure than the one on Irving Place. It consists of four undulating strips in two tones of blue that buckle and clash across the surface of the building. This aggressive, classic style of design can also be seen in the architect’s work for the New York Aquarium.

On Irving Place, however, Matlock has been far more respectful of the sensibilities of the neighbors. The Eastside building contains nine units (among them a townhouse and two duplexes) that, according to Streeteasy.com, are now sold.

In this latest work, the architect seeks to modify her usual Deconstructivist style with a more Neo-Modernist feel. The façade is a curtain wall that forms a modular grid of floor-to-ceiling glass, enlivened only by oriel windows, or balconies, that cantilever about a foot and a half from the building itself. The arrangement of these cantilevers is slightly asymmetrical, as though the architect hesitated to stray entirely from her Deconstructivist roots. The glass has a somewhat darkened effect that plays off the metallic whiteness of certain accents, like the metal that surrounds the cantilevered windows and the entrance area. From the top of each cantilever a frail metal bridge of sorts extends across the façade to the base of the cantilever on the floor above. It is hard to see what aesthetic or functional benefit this measure confers upon the façade as a whole.

At 57 Iriving Place, Matlock has made no effort to accommodate the style of the red-brick building to the south or the granite building to the north. But the general purity and good taste of her design sort well with the pre-war probity of those neighbors.

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