433 Broadway gets lost in the translation – Architecture review

Rendering for RKTB-designed building better than the real thing

New York /
Jul.July 09, 2014 05:35 PM

In the “Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot wrote: “Between the idea/ And the reality/ Between the motion/ And the act/ Falls the Shadow.” I thought of those lines, oddly enough, when looking at 433 Broadway, which is located on the northwest Broadway and Howard and is nearly at its completion.

A postmodern reenactment of the sort of cast-iron structure that abounds in this part of the city, 433 Broadway is a good building — but it is something of a disappointment compared with the promise of the renderings. The building, which was developed by Eddie Omari and designed by RKTB Architects, is a seven story, 37,309 square foot structure that will be entirely commercial.

In comparing the rendering with the finished article, one thought sticks out: the two designs are very much related, even though the effect of each is so different. If I may invoke another literary reference, it is as though the poetry of the rendering has been transformed into the prose of the finished building.

But whereas poetry is generally imagined to be somehow more etherial than prose, here it is the rendering that has the gravitas, the strength to it. The actual product, on the other hand, looks value-engineered to the point of insubstantiality. Granted that the angle of the rendering is more flattering than that of the photo — which is a bad photo, to boot. But somehow, the vertical and horizontal lines that define the modular articulation of the structure feel so much less powerful in the finished work than in the drawing.

Most of all, however, it is the fussy articulation of the windows — which looks to be arrayed with paltry strips of plastic — that, repeated across the façade, neutralizes the force and sheer presence that we were promised. As I have said, the result is not a bad building, but because of the way it was made, it falls far short of what we were led to expect.


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