Tag Archives: David Childs

Worldwide Plaza

Worldwide Plaza is the whole-block development of William Zeckendorf, Jr. that helped reshape the Clinton neighborhood in 1989. (Not everyone agreed that that was a good thing, but there you go.)

Formerly the site of Madison Square Garden, the development includes One Worldwide Plaza, a 50-story office tower on Eighth Avenue; Two Worldwide Plaza, a 38-story condominium apartment tower located mid-block; and Three Worldwide Plaza (aka The Residences at Worldwide Plaza), a seven-story condominium complex on Ninth Avenue. (The Residences also include ground-floor retail spaces.) A plaza separates the two towers, and an off-Broadway theater is built under the plaza.

The office tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; the residential units were designed by Frank Williams. The copper-and-glass crown on One Worldwide Plaza is known as “David’s Diamond,” after SOM architect David Childs.

Destined for landmark status, Worldwide Plaza is not loved by all. The “AIA Guide to New York City” sniffs, “Heavy-handed, the office tower aspires to the serene solidity of Rockefeller Center, but lacks that center’s graceful slenderness, setbacks and elegant understated urban space: Rockefeller Plaza and its skating rink.”

Worldwide Plaza was important enough for PBS to film a four-part documentary, “Reach For The Sky” and companion book “Skyscraper: The Making of a Building.” (Links to both, below.)

One Worldwide Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: Eighth Avenue between W 49th and W 50th Streets
  • Year completed: 1989
  • Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Floors: 50
  • Style: Postmodern
Two Worldwide Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: Between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, block-through W 49th to W 50th Street
  • Year completed: 1989
  • Architect: Frank Williams
  • Floors: 38
  • Style: Postmodern
Three Worldwide Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: Ninth Avenue between W 49th and W 50th Streets
  • Year completed: 1989
  • Architect: Frank Williams
  • Floors: 7
Worldwide Plaza Suggested Reading

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Time Warner Center

Time Warner Center was controversial from the moment it was conceived – years before that name was even attached. Now that Time Warner is moving downtown to the Hudson Yards, who knows what new controversies will arise.

The oddly shaped site on Columbus Circle was inherited from the Coliseum, the Robert Moses-sponsored exhibition hall that was partly financed by federal slum clearance funds. Critics contend that the Coliseum was too small when it went up in 1956. In 1985 New York City and the MTA started shopping for a new developer. After nearly 14 years of design, political, and legal battles, Related Companies and Time Warner came up with the winning bid and design.

The project came with challenges: it had to follow the curve of Columbus Circle while aligning with the street grid – including angled Broadway; it had to include a “view corridor” of at least 65 feet; it had to contain less than 2.1 million square feet of space. (Like Grimm’s “Peasant’s Wise Daughter,” commanded to go to the king “neither naked nor clothed, neither walking nor riding, neither on the road nor off it.”)

Time Warner Center is actually five buildings: Offices and television studios for Time Warner; the One Central Park residential condominium tower; the Mandarin Oriental hotel tower; the Jazz at Lincoln Center performance halls; and The Shops at Columbus Center (originally the Palladium). While David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was responsible for overall design, each block had its own architectural team. As reported by The New York Times, Rafael Viñoly Architects designed Jazz at Lincoln Center; Perkins & Will, the Time Warner headquarters; Elkus/Manfredi Architects, the Palladium; Brennan Beer Gorman Architects and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; and Ismael Leyva Architects and Thad Hayes, One Central Park.

The result, which The New York Times in 2001 termed “like a giant tuning fork vibrating to the zeitgeist,” had mixed reviews. On completion in 2004, The Times gushed, “the building has great glamour. It is far more romantic than the Jazz Age tributes conceived by Mr. Childs in his wanton postmodern youth. With 10 Columbus, the mood is modern noir. The two towers are worthy descendants of Radio City.”

New York Magazine credited Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) with conquering the complexities, but picked apart the details. “SOM got the big, difficult moves right, but for the success of any building to be complete, design decisions must reinforce each other consistently down the drafting chain. Unfortunately, sometime after the conceptual stages, SOM suffered a failure of attention span.”

Probably all will agree that Time Warner Center (whatever its future name) is a massive improvement over Robert Moses’ Coliseum.

Time Warner Center Vital Statistics
Time Warner Center Recommended Reading

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