New Stephen Jacobs rental building takes center stage on Lincoln Center’s south side: Architecture review

TRD New York /
Jul.July 26, 2013 05:30 PM

Lincoln Center is undergoing one of the most important transformations in the half century of its existence, with two new projects approaching completion in its southern half, along West 62nd Street.

One of these, which I have already written about, is the new law school and dormitories designed by Pei Cobb Fried and Partners. The other, immediately to the west, is a 54-story apartment tower, developed by Glenwood Management and designed by the Stephen B. Jacobs Group, at 160 West 62nd Street.

When completed in 2014, it will contain roughly 250 rental units.

Architecturally speaking, the law school and dormitories, forming a parabolic slab joined to a broad tower, are more inventive and better made than the residential tower. But the latter beetles over the former like a campanile, and the effect is impressive. As so often in Manhattan, the project began with one architectural firm and ended with another. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects had originally designed a rather drab modernist tower, at least according to the renderings.

Jacobs, whose New York projects include 325 Fifth Avenue, a 250-unit condo tower built by Douglaston Development, and the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District, has come up with something more traditional, a two-toned structure of glass and brick and limestone, with punched windows arranged in bays. The most traditional part of the building is the base, at the southeast corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 62nd Street, with a tall entrance way clad in limestone and glass.

On closer inspection, however, the structure itself is somewhat irregular: the western façade is flat, whereas the three other sides are articulated as a series of protrusions, presumably to maximize the view. This measure does not vitiate the overall effect as much as one might expect, but neither does it add anything to the design.

The most striking effect of the tower and law school is exerted on the performing arts section of Lincoln Center. Half a century ago, Lincoln Center seemed to rise up nearly in isolation in all directions. Then in the 1980s several high-rises were built near 65th street, which plugged the view to the north. Now something similar is taking place to the south, as these two new projects approach completion. Both of them represent a very different style from the central structures of Lincoln Center and the change, which makes the whole campus seem busier and more crowded, will take getting used to.

Correction: An earlier version of this story called 160 West 62nd Street a condominium building. It is in fact a rental tower. 

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