Architecture Review: A Meatpacking District building is contrast to the slaughterhouse past

The Post-Modern tower by Romanoff Equities and Property Group Partners will be a positive addition to the area

A rendering of 860 Washington Street
A rendering of 860 Washington Street

One of the more striking transformations of the Meatpacking District will soon be rising at the intersection of 13th and Washington streets. The project — known both as 860 Washington and 437 West 13th Street — was conceived by James Carpenter Design Associates, better known for tactically intervening in the works of other, more full-fledged architects than for creating its own structures from scratch.

Specialists in the interactions of glass and light, the firm has worked with Skidmore Owings & Merrill on the base of 7 World Trade Center and the curtain wall of the Time Warner Center, as well as with Sir Norman Foster on the lobby cascades of The Hearst Building On West 57th Street.

James Carpenter’s latest project — developed by Romanoff Equities and Property Group Partners — is, according to the rendering, a 10-story structure whose trapezoidal footprint recalls 7 World Trade Center, as does the general cast of the building. Clad on all sides by a splendid glass curtain wall, it will rise up between the High Line and the Standard Hotel. The office-and-retail project, which will reportedly be 120,000-square feet, is slated to break ground at the end of the year and be completed by 2015.

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It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast than between this pristine Post-Modern tower and what it’s replacing — an abandoned concrete slaughterhouse with a metal cantilever projecting out over the sidewalk. Built in a vaguely Art Deco-style in 1936, it was originally occupied by the NY Dressed Poultry Market and later by Atlas Meats. But because it’s just outside the landmarked zone established by the city in 2003, it was not protected and has now been razed.

Its replacement was originally supposed to rise 250 feet, but was reduced to 175 feet and reportedly given a variance by the city to build at a floor-area-ratio that’s roughly 25 percent greater than the neighborhood’s allowable FAR.

While preservationists have complained that the building will block High Line views, if the results prove to be as good as the renderings, the whole area, will be the better for the new building.