It’s been few months since Morris Adjmi presented plans for his twisted tower at 837 Washington to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. He returned on Tuesday with a scaled-down version of the original design. The architect brought two 3-D models to better illustrate the before and after versions. The body of the exoskeletal steel structure still pivots clockwise atop a 1938 art moderne market building, but now it does so at a reduced height of 84 feet, instead of 113. Still, lopping off two of the seven stories from the original design may not be enough to satisfy commissioners who seem to be scratching their heads over how to address the major mood changes in Gansevoort Market Historic District, which sits within the ever expanding design glow of the High Line.
For some commissioners the historic district’s line of demarcation remains sacred and even renderings showing views of the new building from the perspective of the park strikes them as misleading. Nevertheless, the building does sit beside the Highline and several commissioners argued that park’s influence should be embraced. Commissioner Michael Goldblum suggested that while the commission’s objective was to preserve the district, they were participating in a dialogue with the surrounding area. To that end, he said, the building worked fine, as though the building were saying, “I’m not of the period; I’m sitting in it.”
Embracing the Highline was a cornerstone of William Higgins‘s segment of the presentation. Higgins, a consultant for preservation issues, was blunt. “The Highline is very much a part of this site,” he told the commissioners, adding that the railroad park provides the diagonal from which the structure’s twist spins off of. Later, Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea concurred that the newly added green elements respond to the spontaneous greening of the former railroad.
But Commissioner Robert Tierney concluded that it didn’t yet look like the board had enough votes to move the project forward. He sent the architect back to the drawing board with a few words of encouragement. The original building “reads legibly”, he said, but the addition was still slightly out of scale. He then warned the architect not to over-restore the original building. It would seem that there’s still room for meat hooks and grit in the district.