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

Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing this morning on a plan by Hines Interests and Aby Rosen for a new, 36-unit, residential condominium building fronting on Jackson Square at the intersection of Eighth and Greenwich Avenues and 13th Street.

The proposed building at 122 Greenwich Avenue is slightly larger than existing zoning allows, but its configuration closely conforms to the two zoning districts it falls within.

The design by William Pedersen, shown above, of Kohn Pedersen Fox calls for a five-story street wall along Greenwich Avenue and a 128-foot-tower at the north end of the angled site with a windowless "party wall" on its north, mid-block facade.

The design is distinguished by its horizontal bands of floor-to-ceiling glass windows that undulate differently on each floor and which also have different widths that appear to be randomly placed.

Numerous community and civic groups including the Historic Districts Council have opposed the project, arguing that its elegant and modern design is "inappropriate" to the character of the Greenwich Village Historic District.

But several speakers at the hearing spoke in favor of the design.

Joseph Giovannini, the distinguished architecture critic, said that the design was "world-class" and that "sometimes you want the exception to the rule, as in the Seagram Building, which broke the street wall," adding that "this breaks the street wall with transparency and lightness." (Aby Rosen is one of the owners of the Seagram Building).

Mr. Giovannini maintained that the project's curves are in the striated tradition of the Starrett-Lehigh building not too far away in Chelsea, one of the city's major modern landmarks, and he argued that the new project "belongs here, in the context of excellence - it takes up where the best and brightest left off?we want to see this innovation here first, not somewhere else."

A spokesman for the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, countered that the Seagram Building's famous plaza and handsome glass and bronze facade set a precedent that transformed Park Avenue and that many people in Greenwich Village were concerned with the glassing-over of its historic, red-brick character.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said his organization is opposed to the design. "We felt very strongly that the design ought to build upon and relate to the character of the district and its surroundings, and in the almost-entirely flush glass, undulating facade of this design, we do not see that relationship"

Another speaker, Cindy Keiter, who described herself as "a local tour guide," spoke in opposition to the project, saying that tourists would say that it "stands out as a sore thumb" more appropriate to Houston and has nothing of the "specialty" of Greenwich Village.

Sara Roberts, a neighborhood resident, spoke against the project stating that the location "is not Dubai, or Houston, or TriBeCa, or Niagara Falls," a reference to architect Bill Pedersen's display at the hearing of a photograph of a waterfall that he argued conveyed some of the project's design dynamic.

Martin Bowe, another nearby resident who said he was taking a "sick day" off to testify at the hearing, said the project was "strikingly beautiful" and noted that 14 Horatio Street, one of the nearby tall buildings, is also curved.

Robert Tierney, the chairman of the commission, asked the developers to return at an unspecified future date to address comments presented at the hearing. When he asked if any of his commissioners cared to make a comment, one did, asserting that he found the design "appropriate."
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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