AIA guide to newest buildings: Not so impressed

<i>Authors parse the good and the ugly in latest edition </i>

The newcomers didn’t fare so well — at least not in the eyes of the American Institute of Architects. The latest edition of the “AIA Guide to New York City,” the definitive compendium of architecture in the five boroughs, handed out poor to middling marks for several of the city’s new buildings.

For starters, the Brooklyner was dismissed as a “nondescript slab” that is “unfortunately” the borough’s loftiest tower.

Of the 220-unit luxury rental building the Platinum in Midtown, the guide sniffs, “more glass, another 43 stories. Ho, and two hums” — a two-sentence review perhaps meant as a jab to the Costas Kondylis-designed building’s monumental size.

Soho Mews at 311 West Broadway, meanwhile, also took some hits for its decidedly minimalist style. The guide shrugs at the 68-unit Gwathmey Siegel condo completed in 2009, saying it’s “apparently content to be a well-behaved background building.”

Some criticisms came as a surprise — even to the AIA New York Chapter’s own executive director, Rick Bell. For example, Fran Leadon, the head author, wasn’t excited about the New York Times Building, Renzo Piano’s creation on Eighth Avenue. “It’s one of my favorite buildings in the world!” Bell said.

Leadon called it “a tense tower … as grey and dour as a rain-soaked copy of the Sunday Style section” in the guide.

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But not every recent development fared poorly.

The guide was generous to two Lower Manhattan developments: Goldman Sachs’ new headquarters at 200 West Street, cheering the “dynamic new public space” the tower created, and architect Frank Gehry’s “relatively restrained” 76-story Beekman Tower.

Bell said the consensus among many in his industry was that both buildings had been a triumph.

“They’re like bookends to a decade of development,” Bell said. “[They are] accessible in all regards — visually accessible … accessibly psychologically.”

Uptown, the Museum for African Art, designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern and set to open next year, gets high marks as an “obviously inspired” creation.

But while not all projects are lucky enough to get such high praise, Bell said there’s a tangible benefit to critique.

“The book doesn’t pull any punches,” Bell said, noting that any positive reviews can truly be taken as genuine.