Leyva’s the Charles — just adequate: Architecture review

TRD New York /
Jan.January 23, 2014 02:50 PM

Ismael Leyva is emerging as one of the leading default architects in New York City.

That is not a compliment. Leyva is a man who developers go to knowing he will turn out reliably adequate designs that have just enough of the deconstructivist idiom to represent a step up from the more unimaginative fare that tends to pass for architecture in this town. In addition to working with Robert A.M. Stern in a decidedly more classical idiom on the Brompton and the Chatham, he is responsible, according to his website, for 785 Eighth Avenue and One Carnegie Hill, as well as Place 57th, which is located at 57th and Second Avenue.

The most recent example of his work is the Charles, a condominium tower that is now under construction at 1355 First Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd Streets. Developed by Bluerock Real Estate LLC, it will eventually rise 31 stories, with 27 of those given over to full-floor residences.

The Charles looks to be an ungainly mass of a building, its clumsiness in no way mitigated by our knowing that, pursuant to the Deconstructivist idiom, it is in some sense intentional. Rising up over a sturdily rectilinear seven-story base with what looks like limestone cladding, it resumes its ascent in a set-back of uninterrupted curtain-wall, consisting of floor to ceiling glass.

Starting around the 11th floor, the building extends in a fairly complex cantilever on its south side, recalling some of the more collage-shaped buildings of the previous generation, like the Conde Nast Building on West 42nd Street.

Allow me to observe in passing that in the rendering before me, the building immediately to the right of the Charles, which until now had enjoyed enviable and marketable southern exposures, seems to be hemmed in by permanent twilight. That engulfing shadow has been almost lovingly portrayed by the artist responsible for the rendering.

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