The Real Deal New York

Platt falls flat

The Lam Group’s latest Financial District hotel consists of multiple elements that don’t come together

October 01, 2012
By James Gardner

A rendering of the Platt Hotel, which is scheduled to be complete next year.

Whatever else might be said of the new hotel that is planned for 6 Platt Street, there is something uplifting in the spectacle of what had once been a parking lot now on its way to becoming a high-rise.

In all cities, but especially in New York, parking lots serve as a symbol of urban failure; of dissipated interest, if not of downright decay. As a result, few things attest more eloquently to the turn in our city’s fortunes than the gradual disappearance of these asphaltic pits once omnipresent in Midtown, Chelsea and Lower Manhattan.

The development of these negative spaces signals not only enhanced revenues from property taxes, but also a revival of civic engagement.

That, alas, is pretty much the best that can be said for the hotel planned at 6 Platt Street — if the renderings are at all accurate.

For now, the construction crews have only laid the foundations of what is provisionally known as the Platt Hotel, and the project is not supposed to be completed for another year, according to the architect’s website. Designed by Nobutaka Ashihara Architect, this hotel, a 261-room Four Points by Sheraton, is yet another misbegotten example of a project in a watered-down Deconstructivist style in which the bottom quarter sorts ill with the rest of the building.

Developer John Lam

Developed by the Lam Group — a company belonging to prolific budget-hotel developer John Lam — the design of this new hotel consists of about six elements, all discordant.

At the base is a dark two-story curtain wall divided into bays with sharp metal surrounds. Above these, rising to about the ninth floor, is an odd variety of window work: On the north side of the structure, the windows are regularly spaced and separated by a rather heavy sequence of mural bays, clad in a kind of white stone. To the west, however, and for no discernible reasons, the plains of the façade are slightly pinched and erratic, and the windows are inconsistent.

The change occurs in such a way as to generate no sense of creative disorder beyond a feeling of carelessness. To the east there is a third façade treatment. Indeed, the windows are surrounded in brick, according to the rendering. Above this, in what amounts to the shaft of the building, the windows, in their alternation with masonry bays, are arrayed in the rhythms of the Deconstructivist style, in such a way as to suggest, I believe, the interior of an integrated circuit. Along the sides, this pattern continues up to the top. Yet on the west-side exterior, the pinched side, it is replaced by an expanse of uninflected masonry that is set back from the front of the building that rises to the top, somewhere around the 45th floor.

Architect Nobutaka Ashihara

The result is a building that is rather ugly if you think about it, but — and here is the key point — most pedestrians probably won’t think about it. It is not glaringly, clamorously ugly; rather, its varied parts are so ill-conceived and so poorly coordinated that the effect is yet a further cheapening of the skyline.

This watered-down Deconstructivsim is like current reenactments of the punk style, a weary default mode that seems ignorant of the style’s once-radical roots. But now it has come to this, to the Four Points by Sheraton at 6 Platt Street, where it can be implemented by the architect without the slightest commitment or effort and without eliciting the slightest aesthetic response on the part of the public.

The Lam Group — along with McSam Hotel Group, headed by Sam Chang — has built a slew of budget hotels in the city over the past 10 years.

Among Lam’s other projects are the Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan, a somewhat more successful building, as well as the Four Points by Sheraton in Soho and the Fairfield by Marriott in Long Island City.

From the renderings, the new hotel on Platt Street, through its essential mediocrity, does not fall substantially below or rise above the other projects Lam has done. The developer appears to favor a Deconstructivist idiom in the Aloft Hotel in Brooklyn and the two Four Points by Sheraton hotels in Chelsea and Soho, even though there are traces of historicism and vernacular in his Four Points by Sheraton in Times Square as well as Solita Soho Hotel on Grand Street.

In addition to the 261 rooms, the new 120,000-square-foot hotel will include a lounge and a rooftop bar, and a 2,200-square-foot restaurant. Located in the Financial District, it shares in the paradox of that part of the city; perhaps nowhere else are skyscrapers as densely clustered. For that reason, in no other part of the city are they as difficult to see and appreciate above the fourth or fifth floor. In this respect, one would think this new Four Points by Sheraton was designed not to be seen at all.

If such was the ambition of the developer, his choice of architect made sense. Over the past two decades, Nobutaka Ashihara Architect has played an important role in the development of the sort of quasi-anonymous budget hotels of which 6 Platt Street promises to be a representative example.

Back in 1990, this firm — according to its website — worked on the Postmodern design of the Marriott Financial Center Hotel, and a similar style informs the Residence Inn New York/Bryant Park, which was completed only in 2006.

Since then, however, the firm has opted for an idiom that invokes Neo-Modernism: at the Hotel Indigo at 112 West 28th Street and the rather more successful Hyatt 48 on Lexington Avenue and 48th Street, as well as the Courtyard and Residence Inn Manhattan/Central Park at 1717 Broadway and 54th Street, which I wrote about in The Real Deal last year. At other times the firm favors the Deconstructivist idiom evident at 6 Platt as well as in a new hotel that is set to rise, very near it, at 215 Pearl Street.

It would have been nice to see a better building rising on Platt Street. But in New York City, where even low architectural expectations are consistently thwarted, there is some consolation in the thought that at least this new hotel is better than the parking lot it replaced.

  • KaKaw

    Wow. Seems like James Gardener has a preconceived hatred since the get go. If you have done your homework, John Lam has held his promise to preservationists to reuse the bricks of the demolished building. In order to do that and bring modern flair, he needed to use the “ill conceived and poorly coordinated” method that you have mentioned.
    I’de expect readers to lay on the thick comments, but not the “journalist”… Might as well write for FOX News.

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