Black Box

Richard Meier blacks out for new tower on the East River

Architecture East News
(Vize / Richard Meier & Partners Architects; Image via WSJ)
(Vize / Richard Meier & Partners Architects; Image via WSJ)

Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Meier‘s trademark is the white, or off-white, structure. Yesterday, though, the architect blacked out at the behest of his developer friend Sheldon Solow for a 42-story, 556-unit residential tower on the East River.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed renderings of the 828,000-square foot, Terminator-black, UN-adjacent building, at 39th Street and First Avenue. It’s Meier’s tallest in New York and his first since his three apartment towers on West Street were completed more than 12 years ago.

(Vize / Richard Meier & Partners Architects; Image via WSJ)

(Vize / Richard Meier & Partners Architects; Image via WSJ)

The WSJ generously described the form as “a plain rectangular slab…the new building, except for its color, is vintage Meier inside and out, a polished specimen of neo-Modernist simplicity.” Sources close to AN panned the design: “A cheap lighter.” “Nice gap tooth.” “Looks like they hired no one to design it.” “Should have stuck to white.”

Solow insisted that Meier use black, because all of the developer’s buildings are black. Solow thinks of architects as painters, and it was a question here, Solow explained, of getting Meier to adjust his palette.

Solow has intended to develop the site, formerly home to Con Edison steam plants, for decades. After years of environmental remediation, and fights with planning agencies and the community boards, visions for the towers were scuttled in the 2008 recession. Last year, Solow resumed the development, filing plans for the tower were last August, although a few details have changed since then: the size of the building is up 10,000 square feet, with one-third condos and two-third rentals. The project is expected to be complete in 2018.

The site could accommodate more programs, including a proposed commercial high-rise by SOM, and a one-acre park designed by James Corner Field Operations, although Solow would like to see how Meier’s project progresses before confirming details on these projects.

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