Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some buildings that should be torn down

Nicolai Ouroussoff has an interesting idea in the Times today:

So here’s what I propose. True, the city is close to broke. But even with Wall Street types contemplating the end and construction of new luxury towers grinding to a halt, why give in to despair? Instead of crying over what can’t be built, why not refocus our energies on knocking down the structures that not only fail to bring us joy, but actually bring us down?

Ugliness, of course, should not be the only criterion. There are countless dreadful buildings in New York; only a few (thankfully) have a traumatic effect on the city.

Among the buildings that he suggests tearing down: That ugly curved glass residential building at Astor Place designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates:

[T]he crude quality of its execution is an insult . . . Gwathmey’s tower is squat and clumsy. Clad in garish green glass, it rests on a banal glass box that houses — what else? — rows of A.T.M.’s inside a Chase bank.

But lack of taste is not the point here. Neighborhoods are fragile ecosystems. And while enlightened designs can challenge the past, that is not the same as being oblivious to it. Astor Place would seem more comfortable in a suburban office park.

The East Village is saturated with memories of youthful rebellion. In recent years it has emerged as a crossroads between the world of would-be punks, awkward students and rich Wall Street types. The Gwathmey building serves only the last camp: it’s a literal manifestation of money smoothing over the texture of everyday life.

[Photo by everystreetinmanhattan via Flickr]

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