Only recently opened, the interstitial space between the backside of the Goldman Sachs Building at 200 West Street and the Conrad New York Hotel has become, unexpectedly, a vibrant hive of life, light and architectural interest. It was designed by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Preston Scott Cohen and initially opened two years ago, only to be sealed off again for further work.
The space in question, now chock a block with restaurants and purveyors of fine foods and wines, is an example of how architecture can be exemplary in its functionality without necessarily being good as architecture. Through the interplay of three plates that collide at sharp angles, a fairly elaborate glass and steel roof, computer-generated, glazes the curving and irregular space between the two buildings.
Even if this canopy looked better, one senses that it represents a little too much effort, a little too much of a statement for the space in question, which, after all, needs nothing more than a canopy to shield people from the sun and the rain.
Let it also be said that its deconstructivist style sorts ill with the generally tasteful and conservative neo-modernism of 200 West Street, designed by Pei Cobb Fried, or with the red brick Conrad New York Hotel opposite. It should also be said that the canopy, despite its stab at deconstructivist drama, ends up looking tamely corporate.
But the good news is that none of that really matters. Across the street from the World Financial Center, it offers yet more culinary options for the already well-provided-for inhabitants of that building complex, as well as for the citizens of Battery Park City.
Best of all, it is exemplifies that ultimate mystery of architecture — and of development in general. First there was nothing and now there is a new public space which people are most happy to inhabit. Someone built it and the people came.
James Gardner is The Real Deal’s architecture critic.