Rafael Viñoly, the starchitect who designed 432 Park Avenue, took the stage at the building Tuesday evening as part of Douglas Elliman’s Elliman Talks series — and he didn’t hold back when offering his thoughts on the nature of the developer-architect relationship.
While happy with his work for developers Macklowe Properties and CIM at 432, the Uruguayan-born architect lashed out in particular at the developer of a building he recently designed in London, saying he’d fundamentally altered the design of the property, rendering it a dud.
Here are Viñoly’s five best zingers from the night:
1. “If I could, I would kill him.”
Viñoly had fighting words for Robert Noel of Land Securities, the firm that developed his famed “Walkie Talkie”-shaped building at 20 Fenchurch Street in London. The property won the U.K.’s famed Carbuncle Cup, architecture’s answer to the Razzies, for the worst new building in the U.K. last year. He claims the company built a project derived from his design but very different from his original proposal. “The guy changed it for absolutely no reason,” he said, noting that he’d originally designed it in a way that would have reduced the concentration of reflection from the top levels of the building.
2. “This building has a couple of screw-ups, but it has integrity.”
Asked to name the projects of which he is most proud, Viñoly pointed up. While he said he was generally happy with how the project had turned out, he noted there were elements related to the interiors that he would “rip out.” The 1,396-foot condo tower is currently the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere.
3. “Harry had some very lofty ideas and some very peculiar processes to get there.”
Viñoly was partially responsible for coming up a system to keep 432 Park stable and reduce the effects of wind on the higher floors. In order to test the level of movement in the top portion of the building, he and Macklowe found a movement simulator in Canada designed to test super-tankers. “Some people didn’t notice anything, some other people said they felt dizzy,” he said. “Harry was very conservative” and wanted to make sure there was no sway. Viñoly said he wanted to build a soaring tower. “Height can be an absolutely glorious experience,” he said.
4. “Developers think they know everything because they have money, which of course they don’t have. It’s usually someone else’s money.”
This truth bomb from Viñoly followed his comments about the “Walkie Talkie.” On the flip side, he called Macklowe a “classy” developer with a mighty fine art collection.
5. “If you stand in front of that building and look up, it’s like God has touched it.”
Asked to name some of his favorite buildings in New York, Viñoly immediately named the Seagram Building. The Park Avenue property, designed by Mies van der Rohe and owned by Aby Rosen’s RFR Realty, is said to epitomize the principles of Modernism.