Architecture review: St. Nicholas apartments a tasteful return to an earlier design era

Harlem rental development will give preference to Sandy victims

TRD New York /
Apr.April 19, 2013 03:00 PM

As more and more New York City developers these days favor the neo-modern and deonstructivist idioms, it appears as though Manhattan itself is the last bastion for the postmodern contextualism that dominated the 1980s and 1990s. A case in point is St. Nicholas Park Apartments in Central Harlem, designed by SLCE Architects and scheduled for completion this summer.

The rental development has been in the news lately because the city has declared that this affordable housing project will give preferential consideration to income-eligible New Yorkers who lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Located between Frederick Douglas Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Avenue, it rises up at 306 West 128th Street. The project, which will have a total of 30 units — 18 one-bedrooms and 12 two-bedrooms in all — is being developed by Monadnock Construction, Richman Group Development and partners.

If the renderings are to be trusted, this development will look decent and attractive, fitting in with the predominance of 19th and early 20th Century red brick housing stock in the area. It consists of seven brick-clad stories with a clearly defined division between the base, the summit and the bulk of the building. The largely flattened façade is enlivened by paired punched windows set into impeccable bays, with the tasteful modulation of a single window in the very center. The window surrounds are gray brick, while strips of paler brick define the first two floors and the top of the building.

Obviously, there is nothing at all revolutionary about the design, but in comparison with what was built around the city in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it is an exemplary instance of default architectural design.

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