Tag Archives: 2011

New York by Gehry

This Frank Gehry-designed building fascinates me from every angle. Originally named Beekman Tower (it’s on the block bounded by Spruce, Gold, Nassau and Beekman Streets), it was rechristened New York By Gehry to capitalize on the starchitect‘s name.

At this writing, New York By Gehry is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere – though One57, a new building on 57th Street, will soon overtake it in height. But New York is full of tall buildings: It’s the unique shape and stainless steel skin that make 8 Spruce Street (the official address) stand out. The rippled facade changes its appearance according to the angle of the sun (and by night, the moon).

New York By Gehry multitasks: Beneath the 900 luxury rental apartments there’s a five-story brick-faced public school, retail space, plus parking and offices for Beekman Downtown Hospital. The hospital, next door, owned the land under New York By Gehry.

Note that the apartments are rentals – not cooperative or condominium units. Also unusual, the building is part-owned by the city: the Department of Education owns the school.

New York By Gehry got very good reviews, generally. But you can’t please everyone. Time Out New York calls it one of the city’s ten ugliest buildings:

“Frank Gehry’s rippling, residential behemoth reminds us of one of those hulking movie spacecraft that lands by planting itself into the earth and deploying robot arachnoid pods that harvest humans for nefarious extraterrestrial purposes. It sort of makes you think about the Wall Streeter who can afford to live here harvesting taxpayer-bailout money to cover for their screwups. Sorry, that was a terrible analogy. It doesn’t change the fact that both Wall Street and this building are hard to like.”

Frank Gehry’s other major contribution to New York City architecture is the IAC Building (2007) in Chelsea – West 18th Street at 11th Avenue.

New York By Gehry Vital Statistics
  • Location: 8 Spruce Street (blockthrough to Beekman Street), between Nassau and Gold Streets
  • Year completed: 2011
  • Architect: Frank Gehry
  • Floors: 76
  • Style: Postmodern
New York By Gehry Suggested Reading

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U.S. Mission to the United Nations

The fortress-like Ronald H. Brown U.S. Mission to the United Nations replaces a 12-story glass-and-cast-stone slab on the same site. The stark white tower contrasts with the taller blue-green glass of UN Plaza, which wraps around the mission and adjacent Uganda House. Ronald H. Brown served as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, and died in a plane crash while on a trade mission to Croatia.

While the need for more space dictated a new building, the need for security dictated the concrete construction, unflatteringly likened to a bunker. Inside the tower, staff and visitors even have separate elevators.

U.S. Mission to the United Nations Vital Statistics
U.S. Mission to the United Nations Recommended Reading

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Aire is a glass residential tower adjacent to the former Red Cross blood center just north of Lincoln Center. The building’s complex wedge-shaped plan presents an almost knife-edged profile when viewed from the south. Like any reflective facade, Aire’s appearance changes at the whim of the weather.

The former Red Cross building, meanwhile, was razed and rebuilt as a mixed-use low-rise structure – four floors above ground, two floors below grade. The street-level and underground floors are retail space, the upper floors are earmarked for community use.

The residential tower is a luxury rental building – a 2BR apartment lists for $14,000/month. The building’s amenities, however, are comparable to a luxury condominium: Landscaped private park, onsite health club, children’s indoor and outdoor play areas, and more. Not to mention awesome location – Central Park is two blocks east, Lincoln Center is two blocks south, Riverside Park is two blocks west.

Aire Vital Statistics
Aire Recommended Reading

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One Jackson Square

One Jackson Square is pretty slick – on two levels. As architecture, the building’s 11 floors of undulating ribbon windows, composed of random-width panes, are an arresting composition. As blatant modernism blessed by the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission, the building is a coup; its architects argued essentially that the building’s very quirkiness is a perfect match for a neighborhood synonymous with idiosyncrasy. Besides, the glass facades reflect the historic surroundings.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission had to approve the plans because the site is within the boundaries of the Greenwich Village Historic District. The One Jackson Square site had been a parking lot at the time that the district was designated.

The condo project faced a few design and engineering challenges: The site is an odd shape, so the curved facade masks the unusual angle formed by Greenwich Avenue with Eighth Avenue. The site also spans two building code zones, so the Eighth Avenue section rises to 11 floors, while the Greenwich Avenue section is limited to seven. One Jackson Square is also on top of subway tunnels, so piles had to be driven around the tunnels to bedrock; additionally, isolation springs and pads protect the tunnels while protecting the apartments from vibrations of passing trains. Last but not least, the free-form ribbon windows had to be assembled in small sections off-site, then connected to each other and to the concrete floor slabs.

I’m not quite sure if I should apologize or take a bow: The “Suggested Reading” section is exceptionally long, because of the variety of technical, artistic and social issues involved. The “Forgotten New York” virtual tour is for the benefit of those not familiar with the Greenwich Village context. – K.G.

One Jackson Square Vital Statistics
One Jackson Square Recommended Reading

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