Two-in-one W. 54th Street Marriott to have earthbound feeling

By James Gardner | September 23, 2011 05:09PM

The stretch of Broadway from Columbus Circle to Times Square is one of the most ill-favored in the entire course of that illustrious avenue, which extends over the whole length of the island of Manhattan and beyond. It developed some fairly distinguished buildings in the first third of the 20th Century, like the Brill Building, famed for its songwriters, which rose in 1931. Then there are the mostly undistinguished and far taller additions of more recent years, like the Random House Tower, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill at 1745 Broadway and completed in 2003. And in between there were and remain a few shabby, two-story structures that do nothing for the neighborhood.

Fortunately, the one such structure that used to inhabit 1717 Broadway, at the northwest corner of 54th Street, has been razed, and in its stead a new 752-foot Marriott is scheduled to rise, designed by Nobutaka Ashihara and developed by the hotel chain together with Granite Broadway Development. According to the news accounts, the hotel, which is expected to have 68 stories and be completed in 2013, will contain two hotels related to the Marriott chain, a 378-room Courtyard and a 261-room Residence Inn by Marriott.

The one published rendering of the project is airy, aspirational and all too vague. It appears to rise as a series of three setbacks at irregular angles over a four-story base that is entirely at variance with the rest of the building. While the base emphasizes its horizontality, the rest of the building rises as a pale, almost undifferentiated curtainwall. But because of the vagueness of the rendering, even if it reflects the actual form that the finished building takes, it will likely have a very different and more earthbound feeling. This assessment is based on the architect’s completed hotels in New York, modernist, contextualist hybrids that include the Courtyard by Marriott Times Square South, Marriott Financial Center Hotel and the Residence Inn New York, near Bryant Park.