The Real Deal New York

Finally, a UES building that stands out: Architecture review

Moise Safra Community Center should liven up the neighborhood

February 06, 2014 05:59PM
By James Gardner

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rendering of Moise Safra Community Center

The Upper East Side could almost be defined as that part of New York where nothing much seems to happen architecturally, particularly from Lexington Avenue west to Central Park.And the new developments that do arise, with the exception of the Brompton and the Lucida on 86th street, are distinguished neither by height nor by fabulously oligarchic pricing nor even by much in the way of architectural ambition.

Indeed, if the proposed Moise Safra Community Center, which will rise over the site of two demolished town-houses at 130-134 East 82nd Street, were in some other part of the city, it would not merit any extensive comment. It is a pleasant, but not especially daring example of neo-modernist architecture, brought to you by the people at PBDW Architects (Platt, Byard, Dovell White).

The 13 story mid-block structure rises up from the street-line for nine stories before turning into a setback at the 10th floor. Most of the building is clad in a sheer curtain-wall on its northern and southern exposures, while a masonry core provides ballast in the center and rises slightly higher than the rest of the structure. The setback will house a two-story banquet center as well as a landscaped terrace, while the building as a whole will contain a synagogue, a cafe and classrooms.

What makes the building unusual in this context is that–not withstanding the modernist Or Zarua synagogue (2002) across the street–the street is overwhelmingly residential, as is the entire neighborhood, and the architecture is decidedly pre-war. The sheer glass presence of the Moise Safra Community Center will certainly enliven this sleepy part of the Upper East Side. Whether it adorns or detracts from this stretch of East 82nd Street depends entirely on how well it is ultimately made, and that remains to be seen.

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