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The proposed, 74-story skyscraper planned by Forest City Rattner at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan will have a shimmering titanium facade and hundreds of setbacks.

The tower, which is located one block south of the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and half a block east of City Hall Park, will have five major "wedding cake" setbacks and the others are stepped within each section in an asymmetrical fashion. The "minor" setbacks are quite shallow, but will give the tower a very complex appearance.

Furthermore, the "major" setbacks will flare outwards lightly and the tower's verticality is not sheer, but subtly curved with minimal asymmetrical undulations.

The tower, which will be taller than the Woolworth Building on the other side of City Hall Park, will contain 666 rental and condominium apartments. It promises to be the city's most glistening tower, a serious rival to the Chrysler Building spire.

The design by Frank O. Gehry, who designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain that was the most celebrated building on the last quarter century, was revealed in an article by Nicholas Ourossoff in yesterday's edition of the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times.

Mr. Ouroussoff's article, "Skyline for Sale," notes that Mr. Gehry created more than 70 designs over a two-year-period for the tower, concluding that "The result is an unusually tough design." "The massing is a response to the bulky McKim, Mead & White municipal building to the north and the 1913 Woolworth Building, its nearest competitor," Mr. Ouroussoff remarked, added that "the titanium cladding will be rippled, as though etched by rivulets of water. As the light moves across the surface, the waves will seem to change form, giving the impression that the tower is quivering. Inside the apartments, those curves will be repeated."

Mr. Gehry has also recently unveiled his design for the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn for Forest City Rattner.

Mr. Ouroussoff's article included 12 photographs of models or renderings designed by Mr. Gehry for the Lower Manhattan project and although the article and caption did not specifically state that the model shown at the right is the "finalized" version it was only one of two large photographs and from the arrangement of the pictures it seemed to be the last chronologically.

One poster at, Ablarc, commented about the designs shown in Mr. Ourossoff's article that "they're pretty much all good. Build them all; sprinkle them about the city."

The overall plan of the building is not asymmetrical, but despite its nuanced irregularities it generally "reads" as a rectilinear tower "wrapped" in grids of punched windows with no indication of mechanical forms.

Mr. Gehry is the architect also of the ITC Corporation's new headquarters, now under construction, on West Street in Chelsea and his white-glass-clad design there conjures a fleet of sailboats in a very close race and is one of the most beautiful in the city.

His design has for 8 Spruce Street has been eagerly anticipated ever since Santiago Calatrava unveiled his "townhouses-in-the-sky" design for Frank Sciame's 80 South Street project only a few blocks away to the east and south. The prospect of two major skyscrapers on the east side of Lower Manhattan by two of the world's most acclaimed architects has tended to somewhat soften widespread concerns over the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site on the west side of Lower Manhattan. Construction has not yet begun at 80 South Street.

The intricacy of Gehry's design for 8 Spruce Street suggests that it will be a very fitting and stunning architectural descendant of Cass Gilbert's masterpiece, the Gothic Cathedral-inspired Woolworth Building.
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.