Search results for "Richard Meier"

Placeholder Alt Text


Queens Botanical Garden by BKSK Architects with Conservation Design Forum
Nicole de Feo



Cerami Associates
404 5th Ave., New York

8 Fletcher Pl.
Melville, NY

Donaldson Acoustics
150 Wireless Blvd.
Hauppauge, NY

DVI Communications
11 Park Pl., New York

361 West 52nd St., New York

Edit Educational Center
2127 Crompond Rd.
Cortland Manor, NY

Electronic Crafts 

Essential Communications
124 W. 30th St., New York

Shen Milsom Wilke
417 5th Ave., New York


Bright Power
11 Hanover Sq., New York


Hadley Designs
1700 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, NY


Design 2147
52 Diamond St., Brooklyn

Jam Consultants
104 West 29th St., New York

Jerome S. Gillman Consulting
40 Worth St., New York

William Vitacco Associates
299 Broadway, New York


CI Code Consultants
215 West 40th St., New York

Rolf Jensen & Associates
360 West 31st St., New York


Conservation Design Forum
375 West 1st St.
Elmhurst, IL


Clevenger, Frable, LaVallee
39 Westmoreland Ave.
White Plains, NY


Jacobs Consultancy
303 South Broadway
Tarrytown, NY


Balmori Associates
833 Washington St., New York

Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture
59 Edgecliff Ter.
Yonkers, NY

Michael Van Valkenburgh
18 East 17th St., New York

MKW + Associates
39 Park Ave.
Rutherford, NJ

Quennell Rothschild & Partners
118 West 22nd St., New York

Robin Key Landscape Architecture
333 Hudson St., New York

Thomas Balsley Associates
31 West 27th St., New York


Viridian Energy & Environmental
21 West 38th St., New York


Levien & Company
570 Lexington Ave., New York


Building Conservation Associates
158 West 27th St., New York


17395 Daimler St.
Irvine, CA


204 5th Ave., New York


P.F.1 by work ac with electronic crafts

elizabeth felicella

broadway penthouse by joel sanders architect with balmori associates

peter aaron/esto

“David Schwartz of Essential Communications is a master at the seamless integration of all the components into the architecture to create an incandescent sound that doesn’t interrupt the design of a space.”
Ed Rawlings
Rawlings Architects 

Cerami helped us with a tough condition in the multi-purpose room. In order to create the right setting we had to have the right acoustics, but we didn’t want to disrupt the wonderful architecture of the room. Together we came up with this concealed panel system that sits behind the arches. They were good partners in the process, very responsive.”
Sylvia Smith

“The green roof was both the client’s and the public’s favorite part of the Queens Botanical Garden. Conservation Design Forum did a plant selection in terms of seasonal variety and color that really demonstrates what’s possible in a 6-inch soil.”
Julia Nelson
BKSK Architects 

“Because Rouge Tomate is so heavily influenced by the cooking technique, the design of the kitchen was extremely important. Foster Frable proved to be the perfect complement for Rouge Tomate’s desire to create the most well-designed kitchen possible.”
Thomas J. Lozada
Bentel & Bentel 

“Lab design is a science and if you haven’t done it before it can make your head explode. Basically the lab plan component dictates the building and Jacobs Consultancy helped us to understand that at the Weill Research Center. They were great teachers.”
Renny Logan
Richard Meier & Partners 

Lee Weintraub is a great designer, very responsive, very thoughtful. He was able to get the maximum number of uses from a small space, and to involve as many residents as possible.”
William Stein
Dattner Architects 

Robin Key Landscape Design created a really great outdoor room in the rear yard of our West Village townhouse that’s defined by birch trees and a trellis, and this huge vine that was encroaching from the neighbor—instead of cutting it back and eliminating it from the yard, she actually incorporated it into the space.”
Jeffrey Murphy
Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects 

“Joe DeCeglie from William Vitacco Associates is helpful in every step of the way. He provides clear interpretations, and professional assistance to help resolve every issue in every phase.”
Stephen Luk

Viridian helped us on Riverhouse to make sure we were meeting Battery Park City’s energy requirements. We were able to subvert the 60-to-40 masonry-to-glass ratio by showing that a double curtain wall system would be more energy efficient than a traditional masonry wall.”
Brian Slocum
Polshek Partnership Architects 

greenwich village townhouse by murphy burnham & buttrick architects with robin key landscape design
Kevin Chu/KCJP

Levien & Company had a really great way of keeping the team going. They kept us together at crunch times, bottlenecks, and tough building conditions.”
Annabelle Selldorf
Selldorf Architects 

Building Conservation Associates are preservation specialists. They helped us to interpret the history of Lion House—the narrative behind it—as well as helped us with the technical issues of disassembling and reassembling different aspects of the building.”
Sylvia Smith

Aria is doing everything at our Chelsea townhouse: the furniture, the facades—everything. Clive Hawkins just does it on his computer and we take it straight to production. He’s actually a car designer, though superhero is more like it.”
Winka Dubbeldam

Placeholder Alt Text

Holy Furor
Courtesy All Saints Church

Amid clashing visions for Pasadena’s historic civic center, a proposed expansion to the All Saints Episcopal Church by Richard Meier & Partners was rebuffed for the second time in six months by the Pasadena Planning Commission on December 10.

Meier’s master plan for the church mapped out the addition of four buildings, measuring about 68,000 square feet, to the church’s 2.8-acre site in Pasadena’s historic district. The plan would leave the exterior of the church’s cloister intact, while facilitating interior renovations of the parish hall and rectory. New development would be centered around a two-level, cylindrical-shaped assembly building for worship opening onto an expansive plaza. Other development would be rectilinear in form and include a two-story building with offices, conference rooms, and an outdoor cafe; a three-story daycare and youth center; and a six-story senior housing building. The plan also called for multiple outdoor courtyards and gardens. Few specific design details have been released, although materials were described during the public presentation including stone quarried from Bouquet Canyon to match the cloister’s facade, a copper sunscreen, architectural concrete, and tubular steel railings.

In its action, the commission not only declined to approve the church’s master plan as presented but reversed a previous decision—made on May 28, 2008—which had allowed the church to file a Mitigated Negative Declaration, which would have been far less cumbersome than filing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The action also came after the city’s Design Commission, charged with making recommendations to the Planning Commission, had approved the project on October 13.

“It is difficult not to think that the planning commissioners came into the meeting already having made a decision against us,” said the church’s rector, Ed Bacon, responding to AN via e-mail. “We had followed all of their rules and suggestions and then they changed the rules. It was frustrating in light of the fact that we’re trying to make an important contribution to the community, both in ministry and architecture.”

According to Keith Holeman, a spokesperson for All Saints, the church will continue to pursue approval of a master plan for expansion, but has yet to decide upon the best route. “There are potholes that you go through here,” noted Holeman. “Disappointments along the way. But we’re also very positive about the project.” (Meier's office referred requests for comment to the church.)

Several options now lie before All Saints: follow the planning commission’s requests and return to the commission with a new master plan and an EIR, or make their case before Pasadena’s city council with or without a completed EIR.

Though representatives of the church claimed the project complied with directives given by the commission in May (after the first rejection of the plan), the commission sided with community residents like Marsha Rood, who asked at the December 10 meeting: “Should Pasadena look like new development, or new development look like Pasadena?” Rood, who served as the city’s development administrator from 1982 to 2000, said that the endeavor violated the 2004 Central District Specific Plan, enacted to protect the area surrounding Pasadena’s civic center—which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She contended that Meier’s plan did not pursue a relationship with the civic center, which sits directly across the street from the church, and violated the scale, massing, and rhythms delineated in the specific plan as well as the palette of materials and colors.

The specific plan does call for designers to maintain stylistic unity for civic buildings and draw inspiration from classical Italian and Spanish models, but it also states: “this should not prevent contemporary interpretations responsive to the Southern California environment.” It is unclear when the church and its architect may return to make its case for contemporary architecture in Pasadena.

The linear plan would cluster development opposite a new cylindrical assembly building.
 Images courtesy All Saints Church

The proposed ground plan. 
Placeholder Alt Text

South Bank Bound
The fate of Eero Saarinen's 1960 U.S. embassy building is still unknown as the State Department heads for a new South Bank site.
Courtesy U.S. Department of State

Making good on plans to desert its storied Eero Saarinen building and raise a fortified compound in London’s South Bank district, on January 2 the U.S. Department of State announced a shortlist of nine American architectural firms to design a billion-dollar London embassy.

In hopes that the project might prove as distinguished as Saarinen's structure—itself the product of a design competition in 1955—the jury picked a roster of heavy-hitters with a few unexpected firms in the mix. The full list includes Richard Meier & Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Perkins + Will, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, Morphosis, and KieranTimberlake.

Having winnowed the field from a list of 37 submissions, the project’s jury—including architects and designers Frances Halsband, Richard Rogers, James Carpenter, Michaele Pride, and Peter Rolland—will now select four or five finalists to submit formal design schemes for the next phase of the competition. A winning team is expected to be announced by the end of August.

To the consternation of British architects, U.S. law calls for the embassy’s lead designer to be an American firm with required security clearance. The shortlisted offices will, however, be allowed to retain UK partners to serve on the design team.

The competition aims for a new facility that reflects “the best of modern design, incorporates the latest in energy-efficient building techniques, and celebrates the values of freedom and democracy,” embassy officials said in a statement. The relocation must still be approved by Congress and local planning authorities, a process that may yet take several years.

While plans for the move have long been in the making, it was only last October that Ambassador Robert Tuttle officially confirmed the South Bank scenario. “We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square,” he said in a statement. “In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable Embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility. I’m excited about America playing a role in the regeneration of the South Bank of London.”

The State Department has signed a conditional agreement with developer Ballymore to acquire the five-acre South Bank site, located in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area in Wandsworth. The project is “going to be the anchor to a redevelopment of the area,” said Jonathan Blyth, chief of staff of the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. The new embassy would be located near the Battersea Power Station, itself the site of some controversy over efforts to redevelop the sprawling complex with a masterplan by Rafael Viñoly.

"The goal is that the American taxpayers will not pay for this embassy," Blyth added. The project is to be funded with $500 million already secured from the sale of an annex next to the existing embassy, plus proceeds expected from the sale of the Saarinen building. 

All of which does little to clarify the fate of that 1960 structure, which the State Department put on the block last year. Considered among the most significant examples of Saarinen’s work in Europe, the building is widely expected to be razed to make way for apartments on the site, whose Mayfair address makes it one of the most coveted properties in London.

Blyth told AN that purchase offers are under review and a decision is expected in the “very near future” as to the lucky bidder. A plea to list the building as historically significant has not yet been acted upon by English Heritage, and “is something that is still being discussed in England,” Blyth said.

Oddly, the U.S. government does not actually own the Saarinen property. According to Cushman & Wakefield, which is advising on the building’s disposition, what is being offered for sale is the State Department’s leasehold interest in the building. The lease, granted by the Grosvenor Estate in 1954, is for a term of 999 years, “with the rent fixed at one peppercorn per annum for the whole term.” Considering that the property is thought to be worth several hundred million dollars, that’s not a bad deal at all.

Courtesy U.S. Department of State 
Placeholder Alt Text

AIA Honors 3 More
The Faneuil Hall Marketplace was awarded the AIA's 25-Year Award, honoring a building that has stood the test of time and taste.
Jonathan J. Klein/via flickr

After announcing three awards last week—the Gold Medal, Firm of the Year, and Topaz Medallion—the AIA is back today with three more.

The 25-Year Award, which honors a building that has stood the test of time, will be given to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Ben Thompson's conversion of an 1825 market hall in downtown Boston into a modern shopping destination. The project is generally credited with kick-starting the festival marketplace movement for which Thompson was renowned. (His later New York project, Pier 17, has recently been at the center of a skirmish over plans to redevelop the South Street Seaport.)

Henry Siegel, chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment, said that the building is also a hallmark of sustainable practices well ahead of its time. "These include adaptive reuse, thereby saving tremendous amounts of energy and other resources in demolition, transportation, and construction and creating a high-density urban environment where people can work, shop, play, and enjoy life as pedestrians,” Siegel said in a release.

The 25-Year prize was established in 1969 and first awarded to Rockefeller Center. Other well known winners include the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Dulles International Airport, and the Kimball Art Center. Last year's winner was Richard Meier's Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana.

Meanwhile, Clyde Porter has been named the recipient of this year's Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, which recognizes an architect or organization that furthers the social goals espoused by the eponymous Urban League leader for which the award is named.

Porter, who has worked in facilities management at the Dallas County Community College District for 21 years, is being honored for his efforts in encouraging minority education and practice in architecture, including the foundation of the Texas chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

And Barbara Nadel, a New York–based architect and building security expert, will receive the Edward C. Kemper Award for Service to the Profession, which recognizes those architects who have made lasting contributions to the AIA.  “Barbara is a proven leader, a dedicated mentor to emerging professionals, and an advocate for the AIA and the issues that are critical to the future of our profession,” George Miller, the AIA president-elect, said in a release.

Nadel has held a number of influential positions at the AIA over the years, including AIA national vice president, AIA New York regional director, and chair of the AIA Academy on Architecture for Justice. She also writes a monthly column on building security for

Placeholder Alt Text

The Economy & You, Humble Architect
There's been a lot of questions about how the so-called credit crisis might impact the architecture and design industries. We've been tracking this for months, but so far no one has exactly admitted to apocalypse. Until now. At a Vanity Fair party on Monday--the day the Dow dropped 504 points--man about town Richard Meier had some dour words for the Observer:

Architect Richard Meier, who lately has become known for designing costly Manhattan apartment buildings, seemed somewhat more disturbed by the news. “I don’t know how to deal with it or what it means. Certainly, it’s going to have a serious effect on my work here.”

When asked just how long our economic troubles might last, Mr. Meier said, “Hopefully, two or three more hours.” Then he tilted his head back and took a swig of Champagne.

Things must be so bad for Meier that word has even reached John Stewart. In a segment last night entitled "The Economy & You," which explores the impact of the crisis on "real people," the Daily Show host quipped that a hypothetical Dick Fuld (the former chief of Lehman Brothers) would probably ride out the financial crisis, though there might be "some cutbacks."

"Richard Meier's not going to be designing your eighth house," Stewart said. "You're probably going to have settle for Norman Foster." Someone had better pour poor Richard another glass of bubbly.

(The line comes around the 2:15 mark. Video via HuffPo.)

Placeholder Alt Text

Getting Dense

In last year’s developers issue, we focused on California’s highrises: the most obvious indication that the state is finally embracing infill density over sprawl. Yet in fact, most of California’s density is forming at a much lower altitude, in mixed-use projects within commercial corridors.

Mixed-use projects may not be universally embraced (fears of congestion and disruption of the local character are common), but their diversity and size often significantly bolster neighborhood vibrancy and efficiency while keeping development from spreading further away. Scales and solutions vary widely, of course, but you’ll notice in our roundup of projects across the state that many involve top-tier architecture firms and sensitive urban solutions like public plazas, street-level retail, sustainable design, live/work units, underground parking, and terraced and divided massing—an indicator that development doesn’t have to mean destruction of a neighborhood. Many people point out that locating new buildings on commercial boulevards rather than in the midst of residential areas is the best way to absorb the state’s staggering growth without intensely affecting people’s living environments. Locating them near mass transit is another tool, although that option is still slow to come in many parts of California.

And of all the mixed-use projects we’ve seen, many of the best come from the same place: West Hollywood. Thanks to a design-savvy and discerning planning commission and planning department, recent infrastructure improvements, a clear master plan, a population knowledgeable about aesthetics, and a proactive urban designer, John Chase, the area has attracted top design talent and is home to an enviable roster of mixed-use projects. Most are going up in its commercial districts along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. This is not to say that things have been easy: Just uttering the word “development” in many WEHO circles invites violent protest, and last summer, the city passed interim ordinances limiting the scale of development until further analysis is completed. But this just makes the scope of work here all the more impressive. Let’s face it, growth is inevitable, so we might as well grow the right way.

Produced by Sam Lubell with contributions from Danielle Rago and Helen Te.



West Hollywood

Location: 8120 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects
Developer: Pacific Development Partners, LLC/Walgreen Co. Joint Venture
Size: 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion Date: Spring 2009

Not your usual Walgreens, this project includes ground-level retail and 28 units with private gardens above. The project will be covered with a skin composed of stabilized aluminum foam.  

Location: 9040 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Eric Owen Moss Architects
Developer: Weintraub Financial Services
Size: 187,710 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Featuring Moss’ off-kilter floorplates and hard-edged forms, this retail, hotel, and residential project is built around an 11-story hotel with a glazed curtain wall. The smaller residential block will enclose small public and private courtyards. 

Location: 8430 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Kanner Architects
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 225,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

The project includes a hotel, condominiums, a cafe, retail spaces, and an entertainment venue. The five-, six-, and seven-story hotel features maze-like, projecting floorplates. The residential portions of the project are much lower-scale and inconspicuous, terracing downhill from the site.

Location: 9040-9098 Santa Monica Blvd., 603-633 Almont Dr., and 9001-9021 Melrose Ave.
Architect: Studio One Eleven and Perkowitz+Ruth Architects
Developer: The Charles Company
Size: 250,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

This mini-city is marked by large roof overhangs, inset windows, and large bays. The project includes several floors of shopping—much of it outdoors—a parking garage, and apartments.

Location: 1342 Hayworth Ave.
Architect: Pugh + Scarpa
Developer: Grovewood Properties
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Completion: Spring 2009

With 16 units of luxury condominiums over a 36-car garage, these stacked townhouses are oriented to create two landscaped courtyards: One faces the street, while the other creates a communal front entry space for residents. A perforated copper skin wraps the facades.

Location: 8801 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Gensler
Developer: Centrum Sunset
Size: 53,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011/2012

Built on the site of the legendary Tower Records building, this development includes office and retail space, as well as a David Barton spa and gym. The project wraps around the corner of Sunset Boulevard with a repetitive pattern of large concrete facade columns, due to be lined with large billboards.

Location: 627 North La Peer
Architect: Moule & Polyzoides Architects
Developer: A.J. Khair
Size: 63,000 sq. ft., 8 condominium units, 69 hotel rooms
Completion: 2010

The project shows how traditional design can be done in a stylish way, with both Spanish and Art Deco motifs and a variety of scales and massing, all aligned with the street grid in a very urban manner. 

Location: 7350 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Tighe Architecture
Developer: West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation
Size: 5 floors, 42 units
Completion: 2008

The project includes 42 affordable, one-bedroom units and retail on the ground floor. An outdoor courtyard provides a garden for residents, and each apartment will have its own private outdoor space.

Location: 8350-8364 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 20 units with commercial space at grade
Completion: Entitlements completed spring 2008

The project reflects adjacent residential zoning by stepping down and breaking up the rear facade with private courtyards. The ground level combines retail and on-grade parking. 

Location: 901 Hancock Ave./8759 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 133,476 sq. ft.
Completion: Late 2008

The 77,500 sq. ft. project features 11,000 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial retail and restaurant, with 40 housing units (33 condos and 7 affordable). Live-work housing units are proposed at ground level.

Location: Santa Monica Blvd. and West Knoll Drive
Architect: Aleks Istanbullu Architects
Developer: Seven Sandmore
Size: 8,700 sq. ft. of ground floor retail, 52,000 sq. ft. of residential space
Completion: 2010

This four-story building contains residential blocks sitting above a continous story of sidewalk retail. Nineteen condominiums are located above, separated by 15-foot-wide courtyards.

Location: 7302 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Van Tilburg, Banvard + Soderbergh
Developer: Casden Movietown
Size: 526,800 sq. ft.
Completion: 2012

This sustainable project contains 20,000 sq. ft. of retail (including a new Trader Joe’s), 304 condominiums, and 76 senior rental units. A public plaza and streetside retail are planned to create a walking-friendly environment.




Best of the Rest

Location: San Jose
Architect: Brand + Allen Architects
Developer: Wilson Meany Sullivan
Size: 561,472 sq. ft.
Completion: 2013

Part of the master plan to revitalize downtown San Jose, the project, which includes residential and retail elements, encloses and activates a public plaza fronted by the San Jose Repertory Theater.

Location: 1 Kearny, San Francisco
Architect: Charles F. Bloszies
Developer/Owner: 1 Kearny
Size: 10-floor addition to 12-floor building, 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2009

Including office and ground floor retail, this renovation of a 1902 building uses the surrounding structures as seismic “bookends” for the original building. The new addition is clad in a glass-and-aluminum curtain wall.

Location: 55 Laguna St., San Francisco
Architect: Van Meter Williams Pollack
Developer: AF Evans Development
Size: 450 residential units, 10,000 sq. ft. of community facility space, 5,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2012

This redevelopment of the former UC Berkeley Extension Campus will include new construction and the preservation of historically significant buildings.

Location: 55 Harrison St., Oakland
Architect: RMW in Association with Steve Worthington
Developer: Ellis Partners
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion Phase I: 2009

The square is undergoing a $300 million redevelopment that includes restaurants, entertainment, new parking facilities, and Class A office space.

Location: Broadway and North Harbor Dr., San Diego
Architect: Tucker Sadler
Developer: Manchester Financial
Size: 3.95 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Located on the North Embarcadero of the San Diego Bay, the project—if approved—will include almost 4 million sq. ft. of hospitality, office, and retail space.

Location: Roscoe Blvd. and Tobias Ave., Panorama City
Architects: Nadel Architects
Developer: Maefield
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion: Fall 2009

This development will feature a three-level vertical lifestyle center with over 415,000 sq. ft. of retail and five levels of parking. It will also include big-box retail and smaller street-front shops.

Location: Anaheim
Architect: RTKL, Kanner Architects, 30th St. Architects, RTK, and MBH
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 129 condominium units, 276 apartment units, 56,803 sq. ft. of street-level retail, and 32,056 sq. ft. of office space
Completion: In design

This project includes 500 housing units, plus retail and restaurant space surrounding downtown Anaheim’s main street.

Location: 9900 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Developer: Project Lotus
Size: 203 units, 895,000 sq. ft. (residential), 16,000 sq. ft. (retail)
Completion: 2011

Designed to be sensitive to the neighboring hotel and golf course, the project is located on an 8-acre site between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, and constitutes the western entrance to Beverly Hills.

Location: 2901 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles
Architect: Torti Gallas
Developer: Fifteen Group
Size: 6.1 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2020

The $2 billion plan calls for redeveloping the 1930s apartment complex to include 4,400 residential units, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, as well as 9 acres of publicly accessible open space.

Location: 6121 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Johnson Fain
Developer: Apollo Real Estate Advisors
Size: 380,000 sq. ft. of offices, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail, 330 units, 125-room hotel
Completion: In design

Located at the historic CBS/Columbia Square Studio site, a 35-story residential tower and 16-story office tower rise from a ground floor mix of hotel, retail, and open space.

Location: 6200 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: VTBS
Developer: Clarett Group
Size: 1.12 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Spanning both sides of Hollywood Boulevard on a 7-acre parcel are nine buildings of rental housing, with affordable units, public open space, live/work lofts, and retail. The project, which is seeking LEED certification, is next to the legendary Art Deco Pantages Theater.

Location: 5661 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Gruen Associates
Developer: Continental Development
Size: 375 units, 377,000 sq. ft. (retail), 1680 parking spaces
Completion: 2010

Located on a 5.5-acre city block, this project incorporates a historic department store. Much of the retail is street-facing, and the buildings include high-rise, stoop housing, and town houses to create an urban ambience.

Location: Chandler Blvd. and Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Architect: AC Martin
Developer: Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group
Size: 1.75 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Planned around a multi-modal transit station, the proposal includes a central plaza and an arcade linking the proposed grid of the project blocks, which respond in scale and configuration to the existing urban fabric.

6230 YUCCA
Location: Hollywood
Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Developer: Second Street Ventures
Size: 115,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2010/2011

One block from the historic Hollywood and Vine intersection, this 16-story tower won entitlement after a battle with nearby Capitol Records. It includes eight live-work townhomes, 85 residential units in the tower, and 13,500 sq. ft. of creative commercial space.

Location: 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: HKS Hill Glazier Studio
Developer: Gatehouse Capital Corp. and Legacy Partners
Size: 330,000 sq. ft. condo, 300,000 sq. ft. hotel, 50,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2009

This project includes a 305-room W hotel, 143 luxury W for sale residences, 375 luxury apartments, and street-level retail.


Placeholder Alt Text

Comment: Woodstock, My Woodstock
A day-glo homage to the Merry Pranksters' bus lies within Bethel Woods Center's staid exterior.
Courtesy Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

How do we go back when we don’t even know where to begin? The music and drugs have been well documented, but the sense of space, the softened corners, amorphous shapes, and communal élan of the 60s counterculture are less easily reclaimed. Where are the landmarks and monuments of the psychedelic revolution? Timothy Leary spoke of a Magic Theater and the Beatles sang of Strawberry Fields. Carlos Castaneda, in his 1968 best-seller Teachings of Don Juan, wrote of the sitio, a place of psychic strength.

I start by attending a press preview for the new Woodstock museum in Bethel, New York. My route is across the Delaware River and up through lovely rolling farmland, still bucolic, almost no development, with the sun sparkling on Lake Superior. The road winds through a pine forest with a mossy green glow and magic trees bending down. I can almost see the Caterpillar smoking his hookah, but not quite, and when I arrive at the new Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the TV vans and press busses are already lined up in the parking lot. The main complex stands atop the hill, oddly postmodern, built with local stones, hefty timbers, and copper roofs rising toward glass-sided cupolas. The complex was designed by Paul E. Westlake, Jr., principal partner of Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky (co-architects with Coop Himmelb(l)au of the Akron Art Museum), and seems more like a Republican golf club than a hippie hallucination. Richard Meier was chosen originally, but client Alan Gerry reacted with alarm to his “flying saucer” proposal and in truth, Meier’s antiseptic aesthetic might have been even less appropriate for a memorial to funky mud sliding. (It’s tempting to imagine what anarchic hippie designer/builders like Steve Baer or Lloyd Kahn might have concocted given the right stimulants: a revolving kaleidoscope? Geodome? Giant bird’s nest? Freeform rabbit hole?) But while the exterior architecture seems oddly out of sync, the exhibitions inside are worth the trip, as it were.

Richard Meier's original "flying saucer" proposal was rejected as too alarming for the nostalgia-soaked site. Cleveland-based architects Westlake Reed Leskosky designed the oddly postmodern complex, which was built with local stones.

The museum’s floor plan is a flowing, spiraling circle, sort of like a giant ying/yang button. An introductory section called “Back to the Garden” explains what happened with the civil rights movement, Elvis, the Beatles, assassinations, moon walks, and “Baby Boomer Emergence,” while a curving wall has a year-by-year timeline leading up to 1969, the year of the three-day love fest. Multi-colored walls are mounted with photo murals, hippie ephemera under glass, collages from the day, video testimonials, and displays such as an interactive map that takes you on a virtual tour of the original Woodstock site, showing the location of the main stage, the Hog Farm, campgrounds, woods, and even the Port-o-Johns. “The Bus Experience” is an actual school bus that has been painted with psychedelic swirls and doves á la the Merry Pranksters’ “Furthur” (sic). You can sit inside and watch rear-screen projections of cross-country odysseys to the festival playing on the windshield. (I imagine Cheech and Chong, smoking reefer, making all of this up 40 years ago, and puff, suddenly here we are, grayhaired, sitting in the pretty psychedelic bus watching movies…)

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 50-foot-high surround-sound immersion chamber that recreates the spatial/aural experiences of the festival, with thunder cracking overhead and roadies scurrying across the stage. Six video projectors play on four different screens and give a pretty good sense of actually being there, but even better is the hi-def video that ends the exhibition. Shown in a little amphitheater, it tells the story through the voices of the performers themselves. You can see how musicians like Santana, Hendrix, Joplin, et al. were inspired and felt at one with the half-million throng, motivated not by profit or fame (in this instance), but by the idea of something bigger and better than their careers, singing and playing from the heart. Everyone in the amphitheater, even the gnarly New York press, seems moved and teary-eyed after the 20-minute film ends. That’s the real thing, and something makes us want to stay and watch again. Maybe it’s because the performances seem so authentic and pre-digital now. Or is it that we all want to share an idealized moment in our collective past, a never-never land of possibility and lost innocence? We need a dreamy, utopian Woodstock, even if it didn’t really happen that way.

In the end, the thing you come away with is not the painted bus, the music, or Wavy Gravy’s handmade jumpsuit embroidered with mystic symbols. It’s the great green bowl itself, Max Yasgur’s former alfalfa field that dips down and away from the arts center. You walk past the “Peace Pub” and past the sprawling parking lot, and there it is, a sloping green expanse, catching the afternoon light in just such a way. It’s the real artifact, and possesses a presence that’s hard to describe, but you think “this must be sacred ground,” a place of connection and resonance that needs no interactive display or interpretive text to understand. Festival organizers spotted the naturally embracing amphitheater from a small plane buzzing over the Catskills in search of an alternate site, and it turned into an alternative city, new paradigm, Woodstock Nation. You can see where the stage was set up at the bottom of the slope, near West Shore Road. (There’s a little monument to one side and a split-rail fence surrounding the site.) You can crouch in the field and commune with the spirits here, not of the dead but of the living and loving and tripping multitudes (more than 500,000) who sat out in the rain, shirtless and happy. And for a moment, a kind of hush descends over the spirit, a quiet bliss. Woodstock, my Woodstock…

Placeholder Alt Text

New Scenery for the World's Stage
The U.N. complex comprises three principal buildings: the Secretariat tower, the domed General Assembly Hall -- built in 1949 and 1950 -- and the Dag Hammarskjold Library.
Ben Murphy

The cool modernist ensemble of United Nations buildings that Wallace K. Harrison called a “workshop for peace” will soon be a workshop for long-overdue renovations. After breaking ground last month on the northern lawn of the U.N. complex for a 175,000-square-foot concrete and steel temporary building to house U.N. conferences and the office of the secretary-general until at least 2014, U.N. officials will relocate thousands of staffers from buildings completed in 1950.

Actual work on one of the world’s most recognizable architectural ensembles comes after ten contentious years of preparation and a series of different plans for overhauling the asbestos-filled structures, which have serious leak problems and antiquated mechanical infrastructure. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, security concerns gave greater urgency to planning for any potential attack on the 18-acre site.

In 1998, the U.N. General Assembly, which represents all the organization’s 192 member states, voted to completely overhaul the buildings, which had undergone ad hoc alterations over five decades. An initial plan envisioned renovating the complex section by section while staff remained on-site, to minimize the need to pay high rents in New York’s booming real estate market. An alternate scheme would have involved building a second 35-story U.N. tower on a playground immediately south of the current ensemble. In 2001, an expanded visitors’ center was proposed under the North Lawn. The current plan relies on placing the U.N. leadership and conferences in a temporary structure on U.N. property, which will be demolished after renovation is completed, and locating most of the personnel in leased office space.

The cost for the entire six-year project, called the capital master plan, is estimated at $1.9 billion. The U.N.’s three principal buildings, designed by a team that included Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison, were built in 1949 and 1950 for $65 million on land bought for $8.5 million by the Rockefeller family and then donated to the international organization. A fourth building, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, opened in 1961.

Steven Pressler of Skanska, the construction manager, characterized the ensemble as “old, in need of a facelift,” and called the project “a big demolition job with a lot of asbestos thrown in; then building it back is almost building it like new.” Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering is the lead architect for historic preservation, and R.A. Heintges is consulting on the restoration of the curtain wall. HLW International is developing interior design guidelines and is designing the North Lawn building.

The Woodrow Wilson Reading Room, designed by Harrison, Abramovitz and Harris, holds the records of the League of Nations and is located in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library building, dedicated in 1961. Though not open to the public, the reading room, with its distinctive white pine paneling, will be carefully preserved.

“As with all institutions, the last place they wanted to put their scarce resources was in fixing up their own house, so the U.N. delayed the decision, because resources are scarce, and their mission is extremely broad, but after 9/11 it raised the priority of making this project happen,” said Michael Adlerstein, the architect who now heads the capital master plan. Adlerstein had previously been vice president of the New York Botanical Garden and was a student of George Dudley, author of the most comprehensive study of the design and construction of the U.N. Adlerstein’s predecessor, John Frederick Reuter IV, quit two years ago in frustration over the increasingly political nature of the process. “I am interested in building buildings, not ‘selling’ them,” Reuter said. “Perhaps the biggest challenge has been to convince member states, and particularly the host country, that the physical condition of the United Nations Headquarters is not a political matter." 

Selling the renovation has indeed been a challenge. The plan required the unanimous approval of the 192 U.N. member states in the General Assembly, and winning support in New York and Washington was yet another battle. In 2004, the organization held an architecture competition, restricted to Pritzker Prize winners, for a 35-story tower that would provide swing space for staff displaced during construction and eventually house U.N. offices that are now in rental buildings, at below-market rents, controlled by a public firm called the United Nations Development Corporation. Richard Meier, one of those considered, dropped out of the running, calling the cramped First Avenue site inappropriate for a building of that scale. (He subsequently designed four towers nearby on the East River waterfront for the developer Sheldon Solow; these are still in the approvals stage.) The commission was awarded to Fumihiko Maki of Japan, whose sleek grey column was chosen over entries by Foster + Partners and Herzog & de Meuron.


The site, however, was a concrete patch called the Robert Moses Playground, and construction required a vote by the New York State Senate to enable “alienation” of parkland, even though the plan provided for a riverbank esplanade of comparable size in exchange. The local New York City Council member, Dan Garodnick, points out that his district has the least parkland in the city.

Elected officials found that attacking the U.N. was even more effective than attacking the French. At the end of 2004, the State Senate delayed a vote, citing a history of unpaid parking tickets by U.N. personnel, alleged anti-semitism, and opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “I view Mr. [Kofi] Annan’s stonewalling on the release of oil-for-food documents to Congress as a potential cover-up for corruption and will use it as leverage to deny passage of state legislation,” vowed State Senator Martin Golden in a letter to the New York Times in January 2006. Golden carried the day. The matter never came to a vote, despite support from Mayor Bloomberg, then-governor George Pataki, and the Bush administration. “It was politics, pure politics,” said Edward Rubin, an architect who chairs the Land Use Committee of Community Board 6 in Manhattan.

In 2005, the ever-opinionated Donald Trump weighed in. After building his Trump World Tower on a site overlooking the complex, he was contacted by the Swedish delegation for some informal advice. He testified before the International Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate, and suggested that the U.N. sell its East River campus and use the profits to create a new building on the site of the former World Trade Center. Trump also offered to renovate the original East Side buildings himself for $300 million, warning that U.N. costs (which he said would rise to $3 billion) had been inflated by internal “corruption and incompetence.” Part of the problem, he added, was that the organization would be extorted for short-term office space by New York landlords—”There is no worse human being on Earth, okay?” Trump said. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Trump to bid on the project, but he never filed a bid. “He would only do it if the U.N. were to have offered it to him, and under the rules of procurement, it would be literally impossible to source a project of this size to a single vendor,” said Adlerstein.

Some critics even wondered whether the iconic buildings were worth preserving. “I always found this futurist architectural experiment tacky,” said former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who was frustrated in his effort to link U.S. support for the renovation to a general reform of the U.N.’s procurement process. “I found the General Assembly [building] to be vaguely fascist,” he added.

Even those who admire its architecture still call the complex a firetrap. In testimony before Congress in 2005, a U.N. official predicted that a serious explosion at the U.N. would spray asbestos throughout the neighborhood. And since it doesn’t even have a sprinkler system, the U.N. fails to meet New York City fire code.

Most of the renovation work, when completed, will be invisible to the visitor, said Adlerstein, although the sleek wood-paneled Security Council Chamber and the General Assembly will get interiors that are closer to their original bright colors than today’s muted seating. Since the manufacturers of some original materials are no longer in business, and certain woods used in conference rooms came from endangered species, approximations will be made, architects say.

The dramatic change will be in the east and west facades of the Secretariat tower. The leaking, corroded aluminum curtain wall will be removed to replace decaying surfaces and increase its energy efficiency. In the process, a layer of thermal film between the double-pane windows will also be stripped. “The original building was sans film, and had a cooler look. The film underneath the curtain wall had a bluish tint. After removing that film, the building will look more silvery and more transparent,” said Steven Pressler of Skanska.

Transparency—both literal and figurative—has always been an issue at the U.N. Surfing through U.N.-related chat on the web reveals the persistent view that the U.N. belongs to the “why pay less” school. Yet Adlerstein notes that by emptying each building before renovation, the project cut two years off of construction and saved $100 million, which will cover swing space rent in Manhattan and Queens. Additional savings come from the U.N.’s exemption from sales tax. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief, the project, he stressed, “was never a runaway train. It was a stalled train. The concern was that it wasn’t moving fast enough.”

But not so fast as to outrun auditors, Adlerstein explained, noting that value-engineering is still in progress. “We are being audited by several different groups at all times… Each member state is entitled to audit us and several do,” he said. “We have eternal audits.” With luck, though, diplomacy will carry the day.

Placeholder Alt Text

Rudolph Revisited
The restored Rudolph Building, above left, includes improved mechanical systems and new sustainable features. Gwathmey Siegel's addition, above right and rendered below, will house the History of Art department.
Courtesy Gwathmey Siegel & Associates


Paul Rudolph’s 1963 Art & Architecture Building at Yale University may be the most hapless masterwork in the canon of modern architecture, but its fortunes appear to be changing. This early example of brutalism is being restored to Rudolph’s original intention by one of his students, Charles Gwathmey, who received his Master of Architecture degree there in 1962. He has also designed a reverent addition, linked in name to a key donor from the same class and to be known as the Jeffrey Loria Center, which will house the university’s history of art department. The client is another student of Rudolph’s, Robert A. M. Stern, class of ‘65, currently the dean of the Yale School of Architecture. The entire project, budgeted at $126 million, is due to be completed by mid-August.

Paul Rudolph designed the building, known on campus as the A&A Building, while he was chair of the Yale School of Architecture. An intricately conceived, grooved, bush-hammered concrete structure with 37 levels on 10 floors, it was hailed by critics as a marvel of space, light, and mass. But its fortress-like appearance, rigid plan, and indifference to its neighbors won few campus admirers. In that era of political uproar, students saw it as an emblem of establishment arrogance. In 1969, it was severely damaged in a fire, the cause of which was never determined.

To make matters worse, Rudolph’s successor as chair of the architecture department was the postmodernist Charles Moore. He oversaw the building’s reconstruction, including the removal of asbestos insulation throughout. To address students’ needs, Moore permitted the ad hoc partitioning of the interior, significantly altering its spatial integrity. Over the years, other alterations further diluted Rudolph’s vision, causing him to ultimately disavow what had once been considered his crowning achievement. “The building was a victim,” said a rueful Gwathmey, who was a leading defender of modernism in the style wars of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Ironically, one of his chief antagonists was the young turk postmodernist Stern. While Stern calls Rudolph “the most talented architect of his generation,” his commitment to renovating his professor’s landmark is as a historicist.

While there is a renewed critical interest in Paul Rudolph, Stern notes that getting Yale to restore the much-derided building was “a hard sell.” The university only agreed because tearing it down would have been more expensive. While Gwathmey proudly recalls evenings in grad school “spent hunched over a drafting board with my rapidograph, working on the building’s plans,” he was not the original choice for the task. Stern first selected Richard Meier to design the addition and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s David Childs, class of ‘67, to undertake the renovation. But dividing the project between two architects proved unfeasible. Rumor has it that the collaboration between the teams was less than smooth, and that Meier’s addition blocked the panoramic views from the building’s upper-floor studios, one of its few cherished features, irritating the architecture faculty. Apparently in response to all this dysfunction, the renovation’s patron, Yale alumnus Sid Bass, whose Fort Worth home is one of Rudolph’s most celebrated residential designs, pulled his pledge of $20 million. More evidence, it seemed, that the building was jinxed.

Gwathmey professes ignorance of what exactly prompted the earlier team’s dismissal or Bass’s displeasure, conceding only that “it’s a challenging commission because the clients are all architects.” He added that Meier graciously provided him with his model of the building when he took over the project in 2005. Happily, when Bass saw Gwathmey’s new scheme he reinstated his gift, along with the stipulation that the renovated structure be known henceforth as the Rudolph Building.




The A&A Building as it appeared in 1963 (top), in bold contrast to Louis Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery (center) across the street. The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library (above) links the original structure to its addition.

Gwathmey’s firsthand knowledge of Rudolph’s design was of little use during the renovation. Intimidated by building next door to Louis Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery, Rudolph not only designed numerous iterations of what he hoped would be the greatest modernist building of its day, but he also continued to tinker with his design even during the construction process. This was possible because the university had negotiated a time and materials contract with the builder. “The more complicated it got, the better he liked it,” Gwathmey chuckled. “Almost every day we discovered conditions that were not in the plans.” Unfortunately, Rudolph’s ambition surpassed the construction technologies of the time, and by the time the university was ready to renovate, the building was in poor condition, with rebar poking through the concrete in some places.

For Gwathmey, one of the worst indignities to Rudolph’s building was the installation of insulated fenestration composed of small busy panes, which detracted from the building’s spatial rhythms. He rectified matters by installing what are the largest panes of Viracon insulated panes ever fabricated. He has also restored Rudolph’s clerestories, his dramatic open spaces on the main floor and between the fourth and fifth floors, and the internal bridge. Gwathmey’s scrupulous attention to detail has extended to commissioning an orange carpet based on the exact specifications of a two-inch-wide swath of rug rescued from the original building, and to designing lighting fixtures fitted with energy-efficient metal halide bulbs that mimic the exposed incandescent ones in the suspended lighting system Rudolph conceived for the building.

One of the reasons students deemed the building arrogant was that while Rudolph fussed over architectural details like custom lighting, he neglected creature comforts like air conditioning, which made the building insufferable in summer. Remedying this situation posed a challenge because there was little tolerance in the ceiling for wiring and ducts. Gwathmey opted for an energy-efficient radiant ceiling panel system, which cut the ductwork by two thirds. (The project has a LEED Silver rating.)

Accessibility posed another contemporary challenge for designers. Few buildings could be more hostile to the disabled than the A&A. So that it would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gwathmey placed additional elevators in the tower at the A&A’s north end, which he transformed into the fulcrum between the building and its addition. The tower also houses a handicap-accessible lobby and entrance for the main lecture theater, Hastings Hall. While there are still multilevel passages that are not accessible by wheelchair, there are now alternative routes.

Gwathmey has sought to give the adjacent zinc-paneled Loria Center an identity of its own, while engaging the A&A in a visual dialogue, matching the glazed void of its facade with a protruding limestone solid that similarly has three rows of windows. His addition consists of a three-story base with a tower rising to the same height as the Rudolph building. Its outdoor terraces on the fourth and seventh floors offer views of the building never before seen. Linking the two on the ground floor is an expanded glass and aluminum library, which for the first time brings together the university’s art, architecture, drama, and arts of the book collections under one roof. Gwathmey’s use of zinc and limestone is an attempt to remedy Rudolph’s supposed contextual indifference. Louis Kahn’s nearby Center for British Art is also clad in zinc, and the limestone not only picks up the hue of Rudolph’s concrete, but is also a material used throughout Yale’s old campus.

Ornery but brilliant, much like the man himself, the Rudolph Building will doubtless provoke and inspire many generations of Yale students to come. However, once a statement of a defiant modernity, it is today an architectural relic, making it an instructive icon as well.


It was a heavy evening on June 3 at the Taschen bookstore in Soho, where Richard Meier was signing copies of his latest tome, Richard Meier & Partners: Complete Works, 1963-2008 (Taschen, $150). A clutch of photographers wanted him to pose hoisting a copy. “It weighs too much,” he complained. 

The event, co-sponsored by AN, attracted a modest crowd where quite a few copies of the not inexpensive book were sold. Fans and old friends, among them Massimo Vignelli, who designed the book, all queued up to give the architect’s wrist a workout, while journalists swooped in and out. The man from New York wanted to know: What Manhattan building makes you cringe most? Answer: A building on the lower West Side that is thankfully out of sight of Meier’s Perry Street trio. Page Six asked: Where would you most want to build next in Manhattan? The diplomatic response was that Meier would most like to see the three towers he’s already designed for the Con Ed site south of the United Nations completed. Yes, but after, that? No, but those would be great to see built just as they are shown in the book. Next? A correspondent from Architectural Record groused that it was impossible to get Meier to talk about new projects with so many people around, while a Canadian style-magazine reporter likewise gave up posing lifestyle questions. (Hint: He likes white!)

Mid-event, a woman presented herself as wanting a copy signed to “Calvin Klein.” It turned out that Lucy O’Laughlin and her financier husband Gil Lamphere are the fashion designer’s neighbors, having bought the penthouse duplex that once belonged to Martha Stewart in the north Perry Street tower for $6.6 million. While Meier was signing, O’Laughlin asked for some free architectural advice concerning what kind of staircase she should install in her new duplex. Looking inscrutably blank, Meier suggested she ask Calvin what he did at his triplex (designed by John Pawson). She bought another copy of the book.

During a lull, AN asked Meier if he was upset about the new mayor of Rome vowing in his acceptance speech last month that he would tear down Meier’s Ara Pacis, built in 2006 to house an Augustine-era altar piece. Not at all, the architect replied. In fact, the brash statement boosted tourism so much that the building is now the third most visited site in Rome, after St. Peter’s and the Colosseum. “The people have been reawakened to its being there,” Meier said, “so it’s safe for now.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Meier's Ara Pacis Under Siege
Edmund Sumner/View/ESTO

Following recent runoff elections, Rome’s new mayor Gianni Alemanno declared his intention to dismantle the 2006 Richard Meier marble-and-glass sanctuary around the Ara Pacis, an altar dedicated by the emperor Augustus in 9 B.C.E. As one of the first postwar modern buildings to be built within the walls of the city’s ancient center, the new structure has been highly controversial from the start and was even referred to as a “gas station” by the art critic and one-time undersecretary of Italian culture Vittorio Sgarbi. Many criticized the way Meier—a Rome Academy fellow from 1976—was awarded the commission without a competition by then-mayor Walter Veltroni. Others simply objected to what they saw as its heavy-handedness.

The site, which sits alongside the Tiber River, was first reshaped by Benito Mussolini when he removed the famed Santa Cecilia concert hall from the Augustian tomb on which it stood. Mussolini capped the area’s arcaded reconstruction with the Ara Pacis, moving it from another site nearby. Mussolini’s ghost may be present still, because the night that Alemanno—the first right-wing politician to take the mayoralty in 30 years—won the election, scores of young men were seen throughout the city chanting “Duce!” Could it be that Alemanno’s real goal is to cleanse this immensely important space of the only thing not introduced by Mussolini into the current setting? 

Placeholder Alt Text

A Line in the Water

solow plan

On February 25, a City Council hearing began the last phase of public review on Sheldon Solow’s eight-building megaplan for the East 30s, and considered the urban conditions within the six-block river view site. However, changes to the waterfront across the FDR Drive from Solow’s project may drive more horse-trading over the project’s specifics.

The hearing, which featured testimony from representatives of the Municipal Art Society and New York Building Congress, raised all the issues on which Solow and the city have already come to terms. These included expanding a public playground from 5,500 to 10,000 square feet, reducing building heights, and shrinking the proposed office building’s overall footprint. Solow has also committed to a 630-seat school, which the city would build by 2012. The 8.7-acre plan by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Field Operations, and Richard Meier & Partners looks set to go forward, said Jasper Goldman, who testified for the Municipal Art Society, but unresolved problems remain. As Goldman explained, civic activists worry most about public use of 39th and 40th streets, which Solow’s plan removes from the street grid, and how the project may affect a waterfront park along the East River from 38th Street to the United Nations. “Everybody agrees the open space is well designed and likes the east-west orientation of the buildings, but people were nervous about the idea of it shutting down at 1 a.m. This is such a massive development that the public space should be a real public park.”

In addition, Solow would need to provide easements from his property to city and state agencies to enable a deck over the FDR Drive to the new waterfront park. Solow has endorsed the idea, but stopped short of pledging his money toward the project, which the Campaign for an East Side Waterfront Park projects could cost around $116 million.

Local City Council member Dan Garodnick, who founded the park campaign, has stressed his district’s paucity of open space. He may relent on some issues, like the impact on the skyline of four nearly identical towers, in order to secure funding for deck construction or concessions on opening 39th and 40th streets. At a February 21 announcement laying out the waterfront coalition’s agenda, Garodnick told reporters that he and the developer were “in the midst of discussions about height, density, and open space.” 

These issues should be resolved in negotiations before late March, when the Council will vote on Solow’s plan. Goldman forecasted that an easement will emerge as part of a deal. “What’s less clear is the idea that 39th and 40th streets will be public, and that’s what Council negotiations are for,” he said. “We said the developer should consider a Riverside South model, where open space is mapped as parkland but maintenance is contracted to a private entity.”

To Goldman, a new waterfront park would cap Solow’s development by tethering it to its most famous neighbor. “A waterfront park would create a place to enjoy looking at the UN Secretariat,” he said. But Solow’s flexibility about keeping his development fully accessible may determine how soon that park comes into being.