Tag Archives: 2008

Bronx County Hall of Justice

Bronx County Hall of Justice reverses centuries of tradition: The aluminum and glass facades are designed for openness and transparency instead of monumental intimidation.

According to the architects, “The image of the courthouse in society was of primary concern in the design of the building. The program is organized in a linear manner around an open civic space and layered from public to private, with the public circulation, animated by a series of cantilevered stairs, facing the open space. Within the courtyard sets a free-standing public building that serves as the jury assembly room, gives scale to the space, and is the symbolic as well as formal focus of the project. The exterior wall design responds to the various functions within and orientations of the building. The curtain wall facing the south and west takes the shape of a folded plane with integrated light shelves that reflect light into the courtrooms and shade the adjacent corridor. The intent is to express the building as open and inviting, a metaphor for the transparency of the judicial process.”

The building is a dazzling contrast to the Bronx Criminal Court, next door, and the Bronx County Building (originally Bronx County Courthouse) at Grand Concourse, just two blocks west.

Despite its openness, the Hall of Justice was built with security in mind: The glass walls are bullet- and blast-resistant.

While the building’s design was exceptional, the construction was anything but. The construction site was contaminated, the low-bidding contractor was disqualified for suspected mob ties, the underground garage was deemed unsafe, and air conditioning for the court computers didn’t work. The four-year, $325 million project stretched accordion-like to six years and $421 million, opening in 2008.

Bronx County Hall of Justice Vital Statistics
Bronx County Hall of Justice Recommended Reading

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Three Sisters – Downtown Brooklyn Apartment Towers

These three neighboring Brooklyn apartment towers along Flatbush Avenue Extension aren’t actually called the Three Sisters, but maybe they should be. From north to south they are: Oro (Gold), Avalon Fort Greene, and Toren (Tower). Besides proximity, they are similar in height (40, 42 and 38 floors, respectively), have similar luxury amenities, and have glass corner designs (wraparound corner windows) for spectacular views.

For each of these towers, check out the developer’s website, of course, but also the City Realty articles. This real estate broker has its own architectural critic, Carter B. Horsley, who was a real estate/architecture reporter and critic for The New York Times and the New York Post.

C_IMG_6880_1_2Adjust [4/4/2012 9:04:57 AM]Oro, designed by Ismael Leyva, Architects, is the eldest sister, completed in 2008. The 40-story building contains 303 condominium apartments, with asking prices reported in the range of $365,000 to $1.2 million for studio through 3BR units. Apartments have nine-foot ceilings (eight feet is the norm), floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops and other luxury features. The building’s amenities include a health club with indoor pool and basketball/racquetball court. Oro’s irregular shape allows five of the seven or eight apartments on each floor to have wraparound corner windows. The condo’s name has a double meaning: Oro (Gold) of course implies luxury; but it so happens that the address is 306 Gold Street.

Oro website: www.orocondos.com

City Realty architectural commentary: www.cityrealty.com/nyc/downtown-brooklyn/oro-306-gold-street/42134

D_IMG_6937_8_9Adjust [4/4/2012 9:12:45 AM]Avalon Fort Greene – the middle sister – is a rental building offering 631 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at monthly rents of $2,180-$5,000. Perkins Eastman Architects designed Avalon Fort Greene, which was completed in 2010. Like Oro, this 42-story residential tower has floor-to-ceiling windows and other luxury features.

Avalon Fort Greene website: www.avaloncommunities.com/

City Realty architectural commentary: www.cityrealty.com/nyc/fort-greene/avalon-fort-greene-343-gold-street/45851

B_IMG_6868_69_70Adjust [4/4/2012 9:02:21 AM]Toren is the smallest sister – just 240 apartments and 38 floors. Designed by Carl Galioto of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it was completed in 2010. This is a condo development, also offering studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units at prices of up to $1.2 million. Toren’s unusual non-rectangular shape creates some odd-shaped living and bedrooms. Kitchens are open to the living/dining rooms – not even an “island” stands between sink, stove and sofa.

Toren website: www.torencondo.com/

City Realty architectural commentary: www.cityrealty.com/nyc/downtown-brooklyn/toren-150-myrtle-avenue/40806

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Chelsea Modern

Chelsea Modern is a stunning, award-winning residential design with innovative features – and with a perfect companion building next door on West 18th Street. Even with its mid-block location, the 12-story zig-zagging blue glass facade stands out.

Architect Audrey Matlock took a page from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building – perfectly matched window blinds are built in, so that no one can destroy the symmetry or color of the facade by installing, say, calico curtains. But condo buyers can alter their floor plans somewhat – some of the bedroom walls are movable. Handy when you need to make the guest room less hospitable. You can open the windows at Chelsea Modern – but not by sliding or swinging the sash: It moves straight out, parallel to the side of the building. Fresh air enters (or your culinary excesses exit) around the sides of the sash.

As with anything radical, Chelsea Modern has its passionate detractors. They lament “there goes the neighborhood” as historic architecture is razed and glazed. (See the Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog. Even if you don’t agree with the author, you have to appreciate the writing.) Two warehouses died in the making of this building.

Chelsea Modern Vital Statistics
Chelsea Modern Recommended Reading

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Museum of Arts & Design

Museum of Arts & Design is, by almost all accounts, an improvement over the former Gallery of Modern Art – on the inside. But the exterior changes brought forth a firestorm of criticism and even charges that the museum tried to subvert the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Preservationists wanted to keep the Edward Stone-designed facade intact; the museum envisioned radical changes.

The issue was never formally considered by the Commission – no public hearings were ever held. The Department of Buildings issued the necessary permits, and reconstruction proceeded according to Allied Works/Brad Cloepfil plans.

One might consider the glass-slashed design bizarre – but there were also many who felt pretty strongly that the old design was also bizarre.

Personally, I was not a fan of the old design. Eight windowless floors of marble was too cold – like a tombstone or a Verizon switching center. I’m not too fond of the new design, either, but it strikes me as at least more dynamic and in keeping with the swirling traffic of Columbus Circle.

Meanwhile, back on the inside… Those slashes in the facade bring natural light into the galleries where before there was none. And the stairs were redone so they’re usable, not just emergency exits; it’s easier to get up, down and around the building. Those improvements appear to have been made without sacrificing wall or gallery space, so I’d count that as a net gain.

The “Recommended Reading” links explore the history and controversy in depth; the Steel Institute and Allied Works links reveal under-the-skin construction details. Enjoy!

Museum of Arts & Design Vital Statistics
Museum of Arts & Design Recommended Reading

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