Gene Kaufman is putting the finishing touches on designs for the new Hyatt Hotel intended for the southwest corner of 13th Street and Fourth Avenue. Though its interior will be gutted, a century old limestone face will remain to sheath a two-story atrium/lobby. Just behind the facade the building sets back to form a large terrace holding a hydroponic bamboo garden, then continues to climb another eleven stories.
Kaufman said the historical context of the old façade is not of particular importance, but Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, disagreed. “We are glad that they re-used the facade of the two-story building,” he said. “But the 11-story addition seems woefully out of place.”
“Nostalgia is something that’s transient. It’s in people’s nature to resist change,” said Kaufman. Though his daughter once took dance classes in the old building, he insists that he didn’t keep the facade for sentimental reasons. He said there were practical as well as aesthetic attributes to consider.
The old structure forms a retaining wall that allowed the construction to continue unimpeded by regulations for buildings next to a subway line (in this case, the number six running along Fourth Avenue). Also, the street level structure allowed for Kaufman to conjure a 27-foot high lobby interior, which he foresees serving an amalgam of hotel, bar, and restaurant functions.
The tower doesn’t veer stylistically far from its base, a lá Norman Foster atop Joseph Urban. Nor does it rest within a historic district, so it did not have to undergo landmark scrutiny. The aluminum panel clad tower pierced with square widows is capped by a two-story glass curtain wall. An open circular ring supported by six thin posts finishes the corner suggesting an iconic flourish.
The architect is also at work on a boutique hotel on the Bowery and another on 13th Street at 6th Avenue. He said that there is no set house style for the firm, instead they respond to the neighborhood. Kaufman remains nonplussed by historic naysayers. “For us the primary relationship is to the avenue.”