Chinatown gets undistinguished Wyndham

By James Gardner | June 23, 2011 06:10PM

The new Wyndham Garden Hotel

The 18-story Wyndham Garden Hotel is approaching completion at the intersection of the Bowery and Hester Street in Chinatown. Though the structure is already topped out and much of the glazing is in place, the renderings give a clearer idea of how it would ideally look, and that is none too promising.

The base of the building, at 91-93 Bowery Street, glazed and framed with masonry, occupies its lot completely. But then the structure rises up as a series of modest setbacks away from the Bowery and culminate in a fairly unimaginative summit defined by two balconies on different levels, as well as a sequence of columns, all cast in a stridently modernist idiom. This summit in turn is capped by a masonry-clad mechanical core.

The bluish glass of the exterior has brought to mind the famous or infamous Blue Condominium, which Bernard Tschumi designed nearby at 105 Norfolk Street, just north of Delancey Street. The difference is that Blue, say what you will of it, was undeniably striking, rather than dull, like this new development on the Bowery.

Many people — though I suspect that most of them are not the locals of Chinatown — lament this latest intrusion amid the generally low-lying buildings of the Bowery. Now the Bowery has seen a number of energetic developments over the past few years, among them the New Museum, the Bowery Hotel, and Lord Foster’s Sperone Westwater Gallery. All of these have destroyed the area’s older sense of scale but are too episodic and spread out to create any coherent sense of development. As a result, the Bowery, which was never lovely, looks no better (or worse) now than it ever did, even though it is surely different from what it was only a decade ago.

As for the assault on Chinatown that the new Wyndham Garden Hotel represents for many people, I suspect that the secret of that part of town is that it can and will adapt to anything life throws at it. And if it looks no better because of this new arrival, surely it looks no worse.