Architecture review: Gwathmey’s final project — as humble as the architect himself

From left: 323 Park Avenue South under construction and a project rendering
From left: 323 Park Avenue South under construction and a project rendering

The building that has topped out on the southeast corner of Park Avenue South and 24th Street is the final project to be designed by late Charles Gwathmey, a true gentleman and one of the leading American architects of the last 50 years; Gwathmey died in 2009. Known as 323 Park Avenue South, this condominium project from Tessler Developments contains 16 half–floor residences — 1,350 square feet each — a full-floor, 3,100-square-foot and more than 2,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Like much of the later work that this architect created in New York over the past decade — including 445 Lafayette Street at Astor Place, the Soho Mews and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, among many others — 323 Park Avenue South exhibits a sober classicism within the context of a reinvigorated neo-Modernism. Although the 10-story development has not yet received its cladding of glass and metal infill, if you were not careful, you might think from the rendering that it was a work of the mid 20th century, so austerely and so rationally do its modular windows (except for the ribbon windows along Park) recede toward Third Avenue.

There are no curves here to match the conspicuous sinuosities of Astor Place, except for the round water tower, one of Gwathmey’s signatures, that is promised in rendering but has not yet been constructed. Instead, every part of the building has been deployed according to the inexorable logic of the grid that contains it.

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If the truth be told, 323 Park Avenue South is a humble structure, far humbler and far more soft-spoken Than The Setai Fifth Avenue hotel that was completed, according to Gwathmey’s designs, about two years ago. In this respect, it conveys far more accurately the character of the man who created it.

 James Gardner is The Real Deal’s architecture critic.