Architecture review: ODA’s 241 Fifth Avenue is not exactly memorable

TRD New York /
Apr.April 05, 2013 02:00 PM

UPDATED, 5:52 p.m., April 5: The condominium development nearing completion at 241 Fifth Avenue, between 27th and 28th streets, was designed by the relatively new firm of ODA. That daunting cluster of initials stands for Office of Design and Architecture and was doubtless intended to suggest the militant, idea-driven sobriety of Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, or Office of Metropolitan Architecture.

ODA spun off from the prolific Perkins Eastman in 2007, which is why that older firm is sometimes listed as the architect of record for several of its initial projects, among them the distinguished 15 Union Square West.

(A former principal of Perkins Eastman left to start his own firm, which became ODA.)

The new development is not nearly as good as 15 Union Square West, but it does have some claims to distinction, especially by the standards of Fifth Avenue south of 34th Street. The 75,000-square-foot building, which has topped out and appears to be almost fully clad, is a 20-story mixed-use structure with 46 one- to four-bedroom units. With 5,000 square feet of retail at the ground level, it includes a gymnasium, rooftop terrace and screening room.

In terms of its design, the building consists of three parts, separated by a sequence of rounded pillars at the fourth and fifteenth floors. The first three stories are defined by large, square windows surrounded by a textured and striated grayish tile that is rather stylish.

Above this base is the shaft that accounts for most of the building. Though it uses the same materials as the base, its windows and their surrounds are slightly different in their articulation. The last five floors are set back slightly from the bulk of the building and the masonry cladding gives way to a curtain wall of clear glass and white glass infill, alternating in a slightly syncopated pattern. In general, the articulation of the façade, despite its modernist idiom, evokes the pre-war patterns of the adjoining buildings.

Each of the three components is sufficiently well managed on its own terms, and while the composite of the three is not exactly inharmonious, their interaction is not exactly memorable either. There is also a whiff of value engineering to the façade that was nowhere in evidence at 15 Union Square West.

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