The Real Deal New York

Posts Tagged ‘james gardner’

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    A rendering of the interior of the new Van Alen Books slated for 30 West 22nd Street

    Among those people who take a heated interest in such matters, it was a source of no small
    sadness when Urban Center Books, the best — and only — New York bookstore devoted exclusively
    architecture and urbanism, shut its doors a year ago. One would like to think that New York City,
    which probably has more architects and urban planners, not to mention more buildings, than any
    other metropolis in America, if not the world, would be able to sustain a bookstore devoted to this
    vital area of interest. … [more]

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    As though the release of the 200-page 2011 Zoning Handbook were not sufficiently exciting for wonkish sensibilities, the agency responsible, the Department of City Planning, has just released “Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan,” which is an update and extension of a similar study published in 1992.

    It takes stock of what has been accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished along the nearly 520 miles of waterway that surrounds the five boroughs. As the report points out, four of those boroughs are on islands, and the fifth, the Bronx, is on a peninsula.

    It would not be exactly fair to say that Vision 2020 is a deeply original document. … [more]

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    A rendering of Robert A. M. Stern’s North Instructional Building and Library

    Even some of the most committed architecture buffs in New York, the sort who would travel around the world to see the Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House or Oscar Niemeyer’s Cathedral of Brasilia, will never make it up to Bronx Community College, at 2155 University Avenue. And yet, acre per acre, it is one of the most important architectural nurseries on the East Coast, if not beyond.

    Once the home of New York University, its original master plan was conceived, with characteristic Gilded Age classicism, by Stanford White in 1892 and on a scale nearly as ambitious as the master plan devised by his partner Charles Follen McKim for Columbia University in Morningside Heights. Overlooking the Harlem River, it contains two of White’s masterpieces, the Gould Memorial Library (completed in 1899) with its splendid dome, and the open-air colonnade of his Hall of Fame for Great Americans, from 1912. … [more]

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    The Hollister store at 666 Fifth Avenue

    The new Hollister flagship at 666 Fifth Avenue efficiently explodes the notion that a clothing store is mainly about the items for sale on its shelves. Obviously the purveying of apparel, for decades now, has consisted of the sale of such imponderable commodities as zazz and mystique. But no previous shop has gone quite as far as in that direction as Hollister on Fifth Avenue located between 52nd and 53rd streets, the Southern California lifestyle clothing brand’s second flagship to open in the city, several years after the first one at 600 Broadway. The new store shows absolutely no interest in or respect for the structure that contains it, formerly owned by Tishman Speyer Properties and designed by Carson & Lundin (which later became Carson Lundin & Shaw Architects) in 1957 with a distinctive metal facade. … [more]

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  • There are a number of reasons why I am proud to be an American, and one of them is that Edgar Allan Poe was our compatriot. Most people, alas, know him only as that fiendish figure of fun who occupies the national imagination through the high camp of sundry films starring Vincent Price. But he was far more than that.

    In addition to being a really excellent writer, he developed various aesthetic theories and positions that were of the utmost consequence for the emergence of Modernism in Europe in the decades after his death in 1849. And no student of urbanism — which is what concerns us here — can afford not to read one of Poe’s most seminal, if least known, works, “The Man of the Crowd,” first published in 1840.
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    From left, before and after: the former Provincetown Playhouse and a rendering of Wilf Hall

    Though one is not supposed to say such things in polite company, I positively admire the recently opened Wilf Hall, a new academic building at 133 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and West 4th streets that houses several New York University Law centers and institutes. My hesitancy in saying such things is due to the fact that the project rises over the demolished ghosts of several 19th century brick houses, one of which contained the fabled Provincetown Playhouse Though the playhouse was declared structurally unsound by the university (which already occupied the entire site, including the playhouse) and though they have reconstituted it in a comparable form in the very same place, the demolition of the older structure still has the locals fuming. (The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation will be protesting the development this weekend, when NYU has a so-called re-opening open house of the playhouse). … [more]

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  • 34 East 62nd Street rendering

    There would seem to be something ill-omened about 34 East 62nd Street. This single plot of land between Madison and Park avenues was for years home to a noble townhouse, set among Cumberland House apartment building to the west and the Browning School to the east.

    Indeed, having been built in 1882, it was the oldest building on that distinguished block. In the early 1940s, a group known as “The Room” met clandestinely within its walls to discuss urgent matters of peace and war and communicate the fruits of their deliberations to Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the fullness of time, however, it passed through a number of hands, before landing in those of the deranged Nicholas Bartha, a 66-year-old internist, who, you will recall, blew the place up on July 10, 2006, with himself in it (although he was rescued and later died from his injuries), rather than hand it over, in divorce proceedings, to his estranged wife.

    Christopher Gray wrote shortly afterwards in the New York Times, “just as this unusual block has lost its oldest building, in a few years it will most likely gain its newest.” Well, that time, it appears, is now upon us. … [more]

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  • The Met needs some real waterworks

    November 12, 2010 03:30PM



    The fountains at the Met

    It was welcome news when the Metropolitan Museum announced earlier this week that it had chosen the firm OLIN to redesign the fountains on either side of its main Fifth Avenue entrance. These fountains, which were introduced around 1970 together with the grand steps, have never looked very good or enjoyed the spectacular urbanistic and popular success that has made the steps one of the iconic destinations on the Upper East Side. And for the past several years at least, either or both of the fountains have been out of commission. There are few things in an urban la … [more]

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    Rendering of Aqueduct racino
    Ask any architect and he will be happy to tell you that architecture is about ideas. The idea that architecture is full of ideas is, for some reason, mightily pleasing to the present generation of practitioners. But there are few projects at this moment that — on the basis of the published renderings — incarnate more perfectly the spiritual forces behind them, than the Aqueduct racino (see image to the right), whose ground-breaking occurred yesterday. If one structure may be said to incarnate the corrosive vulgarity of New York State politics, it is not the sturdily boring New York State Capital in Albany, designed by Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson, but rather this newly conceived racino in Queens, whose gaudy, fluorescent colors and demonstrative volumes cover up an essentially drab structure.



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    Ask any architect and he will be happy to tell you that architecture is about ideas. The idea that architecture is full of ideas is, for some reason, mightily pleasing to the present generation of practitioners. But there are few projects at this moment that — on the basis of the published renderings — incarnate more perfectly the spiritual forces behind them, than the Aqueduct racino (see images above), whose ground-breaking occurred yesterday. If one structure may be said to incarnate the corrosive vulgarity of New York State politics, it is not the sturdily boring New York State Capital in Albany, designed by Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson, but rather this newly conceived racino in Queens, whose gaudy, fluorescent colors and dem … [more]

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  • Tall, sure, but how will they look?

    October 18, 2010 04:30PM

    Separating the aesthetics from the ethics of the giant skyscrapers coming to Manhattan

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    From left: 15 Penn Plaza and One World Trade Center

    From the October issue: As you may recall, several years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, skyscrapers were thought to be a thing of the past. Developers, reflecting the mood of the people at large, were confident that no one would ever wish to rent floor space on one of the upper stories of a truly tall building. In the heated debate surrounding what should be built at ground zero, solicitous souls implored architects to design far lower buildings — 45 stories at the most — lest we seem to provoke the ire of terrorists, or tempt fate through our architectonic hubris. That was then. Now, developers are once again vying to see who can raise the loftiest towers in the greatest hurry. Even at ground zero, One World Trade, formerly known as the Freedom Tower and initially conceived by Daniel Libeskind, is already rising. Libeskind’s design has been fundamentally reworked by the far more conventional firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which betrayed the deconstructivist style for which Libeskind is known by reasserting (probably for the better) the sort of staid symmetry for which SOM is known.

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    Sperone Westwater gallery (center, lit up) at 257 Bowery

    It is always a pleasure to welcome a new building by Norman Foster — that’s Lord Foster to you, by the way. In addition to his peerage, Foster has won architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, and has even deserved it — by no means a foregone conclusion among Pritzker laureates. His reworking of the British Museum is as fine an architectural performance as we have seen in the past quarter century, and even his somewhat gimmicky Gh … [more]

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    The UES Shake Shack

    To judge from readers’ comments, I was, I gather, a figure of some merriment a few months back when I enthusiastically recommended the Pain Quotidien that had just opened in Central Park. Often accused of being unduly severe in my criticism, I finally found something to like and readers made fun of me for it. Well, I fear I will be the butt of even more abuse in response to this latest filing, wherein I intend to praise with equal energy the Shake Shack that has just opened … [more]

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  • James Gardner — A mythic Upper West Side

    September 01, 2010 07:00AM


    535 West End Ave.

    Lucien Lagrange, the respected Chicago architect, has just completed his first project in New York, at 535 West End Avenue — and by the look of things, it will also be his last. The French-born architect filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this summer and declared his intention to retire, according to Crain’s. This is a remarkable turn of events. Lagrange is a mere 69 years old; for architects, whose careers are typically just getting started around 55, that is scarcely even adolescence. However, the Chicago real estate market appears to have been hit even harder by the recession than the New York market, and that — combined with a rather public divorce written up in the Chicago Sun-Times — may explain Lagrange’s disenchantment with the profession.
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  • 245 10th Avenue

    To
    say that 245 10th Avenue is Manhattan’s latest contribution to the cult
    of ugliness is not necessarily as disrespectful as it sounds. Like the
    rebarbative High Line 519
    one block south on 23rd Street, 245 10th Avenue is a particularly
    eccentric example of Mod-meets-deconstruction, with retro-glances to
    the aesthetics of the 1960s and forward … [more]

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    The Diana Center

    It
    occasionally happens that an architecture critic stands in front of a
    building and cannot decide what to make of it. Such is the case with
    the freshly minted Diana Center at Barnard College, extending its
    length along Broadway and 117th Street. To dislike the building –
    which is home to the school’s art, archite … [more]

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  • alternate textThe Central Park Le Pain Quotidien

    Properly understood, the opening of Le Pain Quotidien, deep in the heart of Central Park, represents one of the most momentous changes to the park in half a century. This highly respected Belgian purveyor of fine breads, salads and soups now has 21 stores in the city, but none of them is as d … [more]

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  • alternate textFrom left: the new Hermès store at 690 Madison Avenue during its renovation and after

    For months the façade of 690 Madison Avenue was under wraps, but the identity of the creature beneath the elaborate chrysalis was hardly in doubt: the store, after all, was covered in what looked unmistakably like a massive orange Hermès gift box. The gift was unveiled and Madison Avenue is the better for it — the first Hermès store for men. A turn-of-the-century townhouse in a landmark district formerly occupied by the Italian haberdasher Luca Luca has been fundamentally transformed. For starters, it used to be white, with marble rustication climbing up to the cornice over the second story. Now it is decked out in dark stone cladding up to the same height, and thereafter the white paint has been peeled off to reveal the original red brick. … [more]

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  • alternate textAn image of Kahn’s design for Roosevelt Island

    There are few areas of New York City odder than Roosevelt Island. It is closer to Manhattan and to Queens than either is to the other, and yet it feels like a world apart. And this is notwithstanding the fact that only a narrow avenue of water separates it from either borough, or that a bridge, a tramway and even a subway connect all three.

    And yet, unless you live on Roosevelt Island, you are rarely if ever likely to go there. Indeed, progress seems to happen on the island far more slowly than elsewhere in our five vibrant boroughs.

    Thus it is hardly surprising that it has taken more than 36 years for groundbreaking to occur, as it just has, at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, in preparation for a monument to FDR designed by Louis Kahn shortly before his death in 1974. But there is an added irony as well as a cruel appropriateness to the delay. … [more]

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  • Joseph Moinian’s 1775 Broadway (building photo source: PropertyShark)

    Granted that, as architecture goes, the former General Motors Building, at 1775 Broadway between Broadway and Eighth Avenue and 57th and 58th streets, is no beauty. In fact it is downright ugly — an overbearing and unimaginative study in pre-war red brick with a tasteless splash of mortar at street level. It took two firms to create this thing, with William Welles Bosworth contributing the pale granite base and Shreve & Lamb of Empire State Building fame finishing the brick-clad upper floors.
    But whatever one thought of their collaboration, no building deserves the indignity to which this one is now being subjected at the hands of the Moinian Group, which has decided to change the building’s address to 3 Columbus Circle and reclad the building in a cheap-looking layer of bluish, reflecting glass that is acrobatically tactless in this context (not that it looks especially good anywhere else). … [more]

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  • From left: 1551 Broadway then and now

    Since the day it opened back in 1959, the now vanished Howard Johnson’s in Times Square, at 1551 Broadway at 46th Street, announced a profound change in the once and future crossroads of the world.
    Until that time, the intersection had been a fairly elegant and surely vibrant part of the city, where you could take the family. But the arrival of Howard Johnson’s restaurant over 50 years ago confirmed, though it did not cause, the change that would soon lead to the swift and inexorable degeneration of Times Square into a den of prostitution and drug addiction, where respectable people feared to tread. It was fitting then that this Howard Johnson was almost the last vestige of that old Times Square to evaporate, nearly half a century after its opening, thus signaling the definitive victory of resurgent family values. … [more]

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