Tag Archives: 2007

15 Central Park West

15 Central Park West

15 Central Park West is one of the newest, yet most famous addresses on the avenue. The asymmetrical condominium towers take up a full block. The 20-story “House” is on Central Park West; the 43-story “Tower” is on Broadway. The two are connected in a courtyard that also serves as a private driveway, to shield rich and famous tenants from paparazzi.

Privacy is prized as much as luxury (10- to 14-foot ceilings throughout) and amazing views of Central Park. The 202 apartments are arranged so that only two units share an elevator landing.

The $950 million building is sheathed entirely in limestone – unusual (and costly) for a structure of this size. Coincidentally, the limestone came from the same quarry used by another all-limestone landmark – the Empire State Building.

The towers are too new to be considered for official landmark status, but they replace the Mayflower Hotel, which very well might have had that honor. The Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District begins across W 62nd street.

15 Central Park West Vital Statistics
15 Central Park West Recommended Reading

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The Epic

The Epic is controversial for its height and glass curtain wall construction amid a neighborhood of predominantly 1900s low-rise masonry. But its innovative design is the answer to many prayers: The 59-floor tower contains a friary, a lodge for cancer patients, a garage, and 459 apartments – including 92 reserved for low-income tenants. The friars and the American Cancer Society own their portions of the building, and the friars also have part-ownership of the apartments, which provides the church with regular income. To top it all, the building is certified “green.”

The Epic dwarfs its next-door-neighbor, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. But that’s OK with the church – in fact, the tower was their idea.

The existing friary needed expensive repairs; the church opted to replace rather than repair the building. The friars bought adjoining land and invited developers to come up with plans. The winning proposal seemed to have something for everyone. NewYork.Construction.com has an excellent feature describing the project’s challenges and solutions.

In its website, architects FXFOWLE explains: “As the design architects, FXFOWLE have elegantly resolved varying programs and identities for The Epic, a residential tower. The project uses the air rights of the St. Francis of Assisi Friary to create a mixed-use tower, with an extension of offices, a chapel, a library, and housing for the Friars at the base. The building also includes a new headquarters for the American Cancer Society and the Hope Lodge treatment center and hospice. The four story façade on 32nd Street incorporates an expansive glass and shadow box curtain wall to give the Society its own strong identity. Above the base, the tower consists of 460 units of luxury housing. The varying façade layers respond to the program elements on the interior, rationalizing the irregular footprint with a gradation from a solid inner armature to a perforated colonnade and a transparent, flared outer layer. A terrace, with an open brick colonnade that frames the iconic Manhattan views, creates a unique amenity for the building’s residents.”

The Epic Vital Statistics
  • Location: 125 W 31st Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
  • Year completed: 2007
  • Architects: Schuman, Lichtenstein, Clamon & Efron; FXFOWLE Architects
  • Floors: 59
  • Style: Postmodern
The Epic Suggested Reading

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IAC Building

“Starchitect” Frank Gehry’s first New York building, IAC Building, resembles billowing sails – appropriate, just across 11th Avenue from the Hudson River.

The building’s skin is fritted glass – glass panels with ceramic paint heat-fused to the surface. This high-tech finish keeps the building cooler, but (at least in this application) looks a bit like it was spray-painted white. (Visit the IAC HQ website for short time-lapse construction videos; you’ll see the building’s concrete skeleton without the glass skin.)

There are no windows with traditional frames – continuous ribbon windows are formed by the non-fritted band of glass on each floor. There very nearly are no exterior doors – the exterior openings are small, minimally framed glass doors. The main entrance, on W 18th Street, has a tiny flat glass canopy. The rear service and garage entrances have no canopy.

IAC Building Vital Statistics
IAC Building Recommended Reading

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Blue is much too young to be a landmark in the historical sense, but it has certainly made its mark in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The towering (in the local context) cantilevered glass box, with its Mondrian-esque grid of blue and black, stands out like the proverbial sore thumb against the Lower East Side’s historic tenements (the Tenement Museum is three blocks away). Not long after the controversial apartments went up, New York City Council rezoned the East Village and Lower East Side, limiting building heights to preserve “neighborhood scale and character.”

The architect – charged, after all, with the task of creating a profitable building – said the structure was the logical result of maximizing square footage within the separate requirements of two lots. The cantilevered south section (103 Norfolk Street) rises over a commercial zone lot; the north section (105 Norfolk Street) is on a residential zone lot.

You must admit it’s an arresting design from any angle, even on a cloudy day.

Blue Vital Statistics
Blue Recommended Reading

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Switch Building

Switch Building is an attempt to be “cool” yet stay in character with the neighborhood. So while 109 Norfolk has the same building line and approximate height as 111 Norfolk, Switch Building has a steel facade as opposed to brick, with windows on alternating floors angled counter to each other like oversized rocker switches (hence the name).

Some time after plans were drawn and construction started, the “neighborhood” constraint seems to have disappeared – the towering Blue condominiums next door certainly shattered that concept. One wonders what nArchitects would have planned without that constraint.

Another requirement of the building permit was that there be ground floor “community access” space, so a two-story (ground floor and basement) art gallery was included in the plan.

Above the gallery are four floor-through apartments with rear balconies (staggered, so each balcony gets maximum sun); a duplex penthouse apartment is above that.

Switch Building Vital Statistics
Switch Building Recommended Reading

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New York Times Building

New York Times Building, called the ugliest building in New York City by the American Institute of Architects, is nonetheless impressive in many ways. The exposed frame, ceramic-rod screen, monumental logo and sheer height make it stand out even in a neighborhood filled with buildings that scream for attention.

(Some critics say it was crazy for the Times to spend nearly half a billion dollars for a new headquarters (58% ownership of the $850 million cost) while the paper’s fortunes are shrinking – but that’s neither an architectural nor an aesthetic argument.)

The New York Times Building’s innovative ceramic rod screen – which dramatically cuts energy costs by blocking solar heat – became an embarrassment: Four climbers (so far) have used the screen as a ladder to scale the 52-story facade. The first climber said he did it to protest global warming: Ironic, as his action discourages use of this technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The high-tech lobby, meanwhile, revives and updates an old newspaper tradition: the news is on display for passers-by.

New York Times Building Vital Statistics
New York Times Building Recommended Reading

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