The Real Deal New York

For South St. Seaport tower, less is less: Architecture review

By James Gardner | December 24, 2014 02:50PM

SHoP Architects seems to be everywhere these days, but nowhere is the firm’s presence felt more keenly than around South Street Seaport. In addition to a number of infrastructural enhancements that the firm has ably designed, SHoP is responsible for a new tower that is being developed by the Howard Hughes Corporation. The building is at the heart of the developer’s recently released South Street master plan that is now before the Landmarks Preservation Committee as well as the community board.

This tower was the most heatedly debated part of the original – and controversial — plan that the Hughes Corporation made public a year ago. The new plan addresses some of the greatest concerns of the locals. In consequence the tower, intended to rise beside Pier 17, will be 494 feet high instead of the previous 650. That works out to 42 stories. In the earlier plan, the building was slated to house 52 stories.

Beyond the height of the building, it was hard to form a definitive idea about the older version of the tower because the renderings were somewhat vague.

But this may indeed be one of the occasions when more really is more. The previous design for the building gained a certain presence because of its height. The newer structure seems somewhat squatter and its wobbly, trapezoidal massing lacks something of the elegance of the earlier version.

In addition, the pale newer tower, with its drab cladding and syncopated darker accents, looks more “normal” and decidedly more boring. It lacks the subtle and interesting instability of the earlier design. Indeed, compared to the first rendering of the building, the latest iteration of the tower is run of the mill.


    This “critic” speaks utter nonsense. I am a neighbor and and many of us, I would say a majority, are in FAVOR of this project. WTF is he talking about? A “Gated Community?” Once again, he provides NO alternative. Do we just demolish the Tin Building and let the pier fall into the river? If that’s what he wants he should just say so. But if the community wants to save the Tin Building (which even opponents of HHC want to do) then somehow money must be found to pay the $125MM plus cost of demolishing and rebuilding the pier as well as the Tin Building. WHERE do they plan to get the money? I hear CRICKETS! The city will not and must not provide the money that is much better used for building a school that HHC would provide for FREE as part of this project.

    Also, the Real Deal forgets to point out the tower was shortened because “NEIGHBORS” cried about it being too tall! So they made it shorter and squatter. It is much better taller and thinner, but this is what we get when NIBMY’s don’t know what they’re talking about. I wish they’d go back to taller!


    • JFcatowner

      “even opponents of HHC want to save the Tin Building?” Who are you kidding. The opponents of HHC, Save Our Seaport, the Historic Districts Council, and others have been demanding that the Tin Building not only be saved, but that it be PRESERVED,; not dismantled, and not moved, and not restored according to HHC;s previous record in historic preservation in their Wake Village in Honolulu. There HHC claimed to restore and preserve an historic landmark, and cut holes in the ground floor, and changed the traditional paint color.

      The astronomical pier cost is only over-priced if it has 42 stories of housing for the 1%; luxury condos built, overbuilt , on top of it. Otherwise it would only cost a small amount to restore for a two or three story 1939 Art Moderne New Fish Market Building, which could be put to adaptive re-use, as a “locally sourced, organic farmers market”, or other community uses, since it is PUBLIC LAND, FOR PUBLIC USE. And a tower like that, taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, belongs inland, at 80 SOUTH STREET.

      • DTNYC

        Once again, you have NO IDEA what you are talking about. First of all the Tin Building burned down in the 90’s and virtually all that is left is FAKE. 2nd, the pier must be demolished to be rebuilt which means the current Tin Building must be dismantled and then rebuilt. It must also meet storm standards which means the building must be raised 6 feet which means it will no longer fit under the FDR Drive, hence why its location must be moved slightly to the East. Use FACTS! When you do, you will come to the conclusion that HHC is the only one who can save this historic structure. If you don’t agree, please tell us how YOU would come up with the $125MM plus to do it? p.s. 80 South Street is already getting its own 1,000 foot tower and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Seaport. NOTHING.