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Carter's View

Everyone knows there is a "whole lotta" building going on and that it seems, with only a little bit of exaggeration, that there is construction on almost every street in Manhattan as well as a lot in the other boroughs.

If one includes new construction and conversion projects, there are many streets, such as West, Washington, Greenwich and Hudson Streets in TriBeCa and the Far West Village that, in recent years, are awash in interesting developments.

The Norfolk Street block between Delancey and Rivington Streets on the Lower East Side, however, takes the cake.

It now has three projects underway by different architects and developers that may well make it "the" destination street for lovers of contemporary architecture.

The most advanced project is the "Switch" building at 109 Norfolk Street, a 7-story building designed by Narchitects. Its zig-zag facade of angled floors facing Norfolk Street is now nearing completion.

The largest of the three new projects is "Blue" at 105 Norfolk Street, now in the early stages of construction. This 16-story building, designed by Bernard Tschumi, has an angled facade of different shades of blue glass.

The newest project, which as yet has no "name," is at 115-119 Norfolk Street on the site of a vacant lot and a three-story building that is now being demolished.

It has been designed by Grzywinski Pons Architects, the firm that designed THOR (The Hotel on Rivington Street) nearby at 107 Rivington Street, a handsome, green-glass, 20-story mid-block tower that has a "womb-like" entrance, and interiors that are both wild and elegant.

The design of 115-119 Norfolk Street calls for a 7-story building with 24 apartments. Architect Matthew Grzywinksi told CityRealty.Com today that the building will "most likely" be a condominium project. He said the developer is Zeyad Aly and that the project is likely to be completed late next year or early 2007.

Mr. Grzywinksi said that his firm had been working on the project before it learned about the "Blue" project. "When we saw it, we chuckled," he said, adding that the street's "concentration" of new projects is "a hot bed for progressive architecture."

115 Norfolk Street will be distinguished by an open-top atrium entrance and by its random design of fretted glass windows.

The atrium is slightly off-center to the south of the building's frontage on Norfolk Street. The atrium will be enclosed in glass on Norfolk Street but its west wall is angled upwards and towards the west and rises a bit above the roofline. The atrium's top is open to the sky and the angled west wall is somewhat reminiscent of the Austrian Cultural Institute at 11 East 52nd Street designed by Raimund Abraham and opened in 2000.

Apartments that overlook the atrium will have the same fretted glass windows as the Norfolk Street facade. Mr. Grzywinksi said that these windows will have random "cloud" shapes in angled fretted designs. This decorative touch is somewhat reminiscent of Lindy Roy's sinuously-shaped balcony "amoeba-shaped" scrims for a new project now under construction at 519 West 23rd Street known as Highline 519.

These projects herald an important new phase in the city of architectural ornamentation that makes a return to decorative motifs, albeit often high-tech and modernistic.

The 16-story, 32-unit "Blue" building, which will be one of the tallest on the Lower East Side, is expected to be completed in the fall of 2006. It is separated by a one-story building that houses a nightclub from the "Switch" building at 109 Norfolk Street, a 7-story building now under construction.

The "Switch" building is just to the south of the very pleasant, red-brick Asian Americans for Equality Community Center at 111 Norfolk Street designed by Victor M. Morales, a building that was completed last year.
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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.