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 glances to what we must pray is
not the future of architecture.
But if this nearly completed development at 245 10th Avenue is ugly, at
least it is intentionally so, which is some improvement on the status
of many other recent New York buildings, which is unintentionally so.
As a fairly representative example of the deconstructed species in
question, it buckles or recedes where you would rationally expect it to
present a planar wall. Along 10th Avenue, its wobbly façade is a
checkered curtain wall of darker and paler panels, while to the south
it appears as a windowless expanse whose blinding silvery cladding, in
the proper sunlight, might well wreak havoc upon cars speeding up 10th
Integral to the design of the new building, conceived by the
architectural firm Della Valle + Bernheimer, is its proximity to a
Lukoil gas station, immediately to its south. The implications of blue
collar authenticity supplied by the gas station are a priceless
commodity in this stretch of Chelsea, precisely because there are so
few blue collar types around, and ever fewer with each passing day.
In a similar vein, across the street, heading south, is a car wash, and next to that another recent condo development, Vesta 24,
which is only a little more conservative than 245 10th Avenue. And yet,
it requires no gift for prophecy to foresee a time, in the very near
future, when the gas station and car wash will themselves give way to
new developments, which will be very much like their neighbors. But all
of them, once deprived of their crucial blue collar props, will look
every bit as misshapen as 245 10th Avenue today, only more so.
James Gardner, formerly the architecture critic of the New York Sun, writes on the visual arts for several publications.