Architecture review: Peter Poon’s Hilton Garden Inn a garish intrusion on Midtown

By James Gardner | May 03, 2013 03:30PM

Talk about damning with faint praise. The Peter Poon Architects-designed Hilton Garden Inn coming to 136 West 42nd Street is generating all sorts of online buzz — but even proponents are, shall we say, lukewarm about the plans. One Internet commenter, for example, sniffed that the design “really seems quite adequate so far … aesthetically harmless … not bad, considering the architect’s other recent work.”

Indeed, the 300-room hotel is destined to be a thoroughly mediocre structure of the sort that abounds in Midtown, judging from the renderings. Poon’s past work in the neighborhood includes the Wingate Hotel at 235 West 35th Street and the Hampton Inn Manhattan-Soho at 54 Watts Street.

When completed, the 22-story project will have a base followed by two setbacks culminating in an illuminated lantern across the entire top floor. The glass and steel cladding and its articulation are unexceptional, except that much of the base level and the building’s western flank will be covered with LED lights. This is the sort of thing that can be found everywhere in Times Square but that is completely inimical to the art of architecture.

The hotel’s garish intrusion into the neighborhood is especially lamentable since 42nd street has come so far in recent years. Cook+ Fox’s One Bryant Park and, across the street, the revamped former Bell Atlantic headquarters at 1096 Sixth Avenue, now contiguous with a new mall — both by Moed de Armas & Shannon — are extremely well designed.

So, too, is the Bush Tower at 130-132 West 42nd Street immediately to the east of Poon’s planned hotel, completed in 1917, as well as the former Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd and Broadway to the west.

The Hilton will not attain their level of achievement — either in quality or in style. Indeed, it seems scarcely to realize that such ambitions were an option in the first place.