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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

27 East 79th Street

Between Fifth Avenue & Madison Avenue

Carter Horsley
Review by Carter Horsley
Carter Horsley Carter B. Horsley, a former journalist for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Post. Mr. Horsley is also the editorial director of CityRealty.com.
 

This slender 15-story building at 27 East 79th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues has been designed by Cabinet Alberto Pinto of Paris, which is headed by the late designer's sister, Linda. 

It is due for completion in 2019 by Adellco, and will have 8 condominium apartments and some retail. 

HTO Architect is the architect of record. 

It is on the former site of the Richard Feigen Gallery designed by Hans Hollein in 1970 with a paired stainless-steel, two-story-high entrance column that later became the boutique of Hanae Mori, the Japanese designer.  Hollein redesigned the 1887 brownstone into a spanking showcase of Old Master art that subsequently became the American flagship of a major Japanese fashion designer. 

In her April 25, 2014 obituary of Mr. Hollein in The New York Times, Margalit Fox said that the architect "loved columns, and while there are few things more classical than a column, in his hands they could take on almost a Surrealist aspect, as in his Vienna branch office of the Austrian State Travel Agency," adding that "there, as if to conjure faraway places, he turned a cluster of them into a stand of brass-sheathed palm trees." 

Hollein became the 7th winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in architecture in 1985 and this small but prominent project was his most visible in the United States. 

The location has excellent bus service and is convenient to numerous boutiques and very popular restaurants such as San Ambroeus and Serafina. 

The building is down the street from Michael Blomberg's residence and Central Park.

Bottom Line

A very elegant and narrow, mid-block building with only 8 apartments and a very grand glass domed marquee on one of the city's greatest blocks.  It replaced an important Post-Modern building with a very tony, Parisian, Beaux Arts-style, mid-rise building of considerable oomph across from the great Cook Block phalanx of deluxe mansions.  Its very tasteful filling in of a "hole" on the north side of the street more than makes up for the loss of the paired stainless steel entrance column at Hans Hollein's brownstone make-over that should have been a city landmark.

 

Description

The pale-limestone building is distinguished by its very attractive, glass domed entrance marquee that leads to a barrel-vaulted vestibule flanked by large planted urns and an elegant lobby. 

The curves of the angled marquee are "picked up" by the pairs of arched windows on the 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th floors and the large arched window on the 13th floor. 

The front of the building has three topiary planters with globular tops whose curves are echoed in the oculus above the retail entrance and in the hanging lanterns that drape over the stringcourse over a bandcourse above the first floor.  

The windows on the 2nd and 3rd floor are contained in a dark metal surround as are those are on 9th and 10th floors and those on the 11th and 12th floors.  These windows have attractive Juliet balconies and the 3rd and 12th floors have short bandcourses at the sides of the building that make contextual gestures with their neighboring buildings. 

There is a handsome bandcourse above the third floor with a center bracket and an attractive bandcourse above the 8th floor. 

The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th floors have handsome window surrounds. 

The building has an arched cornice above the 13th floor and the top floor is setback behind iron railings. 

Amenities

The building has a full-time doorman, a concierge, a bicycle room, storage, keyed elevator access, and a fitness center.

Apartments

Apartments have fireplaces, La Cornue ranges and Miele and Sub-Zero kitchen appliances and bathroom vanities fitted with parchment and lacquer or Movingui wood.  

The maisonette apartment has a large garden. 

The fifth floor is a two-bedroom unit with 1,475 square feet with a 21-foot-long entrance gallery that leads past an enclosed kitchen to a 21-foot-wide living/dining room.

History

The great "New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Second World War and the  Bicentennial" book by Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman provides the following commentary, accompanied by four illustrations, about the building that formerly occupied this site: 

"Richard Feigen's gallery (1970) at 27 East Seventy-ninth Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, was designed by the young Austrian architect Hans Hollein, working in association with American architects Peter Blake, Julian Neski and Dorothy Alexander.  It was daring in conception, yet, like Parke-Bernet two decades before..., it was also linked to an underlying Classicism and severity as well an intention to monumentalize the art marketplace.  The gallery was confined to the ground, first and second floors of a 21-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep converted brownstone, but the architect redesigned the building's entire façade, behind which was also an apartment for the owner.  Just as his fellow national Frederick Kiesler had a quarter-century before, Hollein proposed a design that was based on prevailing art trends.  In his first sketches, Hollein explored an approach akin to that of Pop Art.  But as the project evolved, he changed directions: in one of the pioneering gestures of the historicizing formalism that would characterize architecture in the 1970s and 1980s, Hollein turned to sources in architectural history, basing his design on the work of yet another Austrian, Adolph Loos's Goldman & Salatsch office building of 1909-11.... 

"Hollein's design called for a plain white stucco façade punctuated by a near-neutral grid of single-light windows, the topmost capped by an abstract version of a Doric frieze.  A recessed loggia-like entrance to the gallery and upstairs apartment was interrupted by  paired stainless-steel columnar shafts intended to convey the same iconic power as the Doric columns Loos used to mark the entry to his building.  The asymmetrical erosion of the Feigen building's mass and the enormous Schinkel-inspired bronze entrance doors created a definitive separation between the public street and the intimate, extraordinary and rather contradictory spaces within.  Hollein treated the second-level gallery as a mezzanine balcony overlooking a vertical slice of space that ran along the building's east wall.  The impeccable detailing recalled the nautical streamlining of the 1930s. 

"In his discussion of the gallery, the architect-critic Kenneth Frampton expressed deep concern about the commercialization of art that the plush interior represented.  Hollein's design, he said, embodied the values of 'the show biz stage of the art market': 

"The medium is, naturally, opera buffé.  Transcendental notions are out of court, for this is the hall of illusions, the forbidden foyer of delights, an arena for immediate sensation and gratification.  Those who unconsciously resist the imagery, will indulge their senses in the baroque materials; the honey pile and vivid pink plush that might have graced an again Schonbrun; the white, lined marble under foot, suggestive of calvary trousers and crinoline seductions; the continuous chrome 'art deco' handrail; an ostentatious bearer of luxus too fat for the hand.  The sexuality implicit in Hollein's forms is surely inescapable. 

"Though the space was dazzling and the imagery provocative, in the end the gallery's size and proportions were ill suited to the display of art.  Feigen soon sold the building to the Japanese designer Hanae Mori."

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