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A few intersections are great because all of their corners are filled with extraordinary architecture that is uniform.
Some intersections are great because the wonderful architecture of its buildings contrasts boldly and memorably.

Other intersections become great when an eyesore is removed and replaced with a well-designed building that heals the urbanistic wound and thus gives new "life" to the surrounding buildings.

That is the case at West End Avenue and 86th Street where a large, new luxury residential condominium building has replaced a 5-story, orange-brick building of little distinction on the southwest corner. The now elegant and quite visible intersection is only a block from a subway station and a cross-town bus stop 86th Street and Broadway.

The new building, 535 West End Avenue, is a post-modern variation on the avenue's classic pre-war buildings except that it has a very broad curve diagonally across from the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the northwest corner of West End Avenue and 86th Street, one of the great landmarks of the Upper West Side.

The building's curve not only treats the singular church most respectfully by having a broadly curved corner to give it even more space by occupying less of its sidewalks, but also, more importantly, gives all of its 29 large apartments views of the church's glories and completes the handsome architectural framing of the church.

The new building is 535 West End Avenue, a 20-story residential condominium building with a setback tower at its 12th floor. Built by Extell Development and designed by Lucien Lagrange of Chicago, an architect formerly with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it is quite understated. It has an arched entrance with a vaulted lobby with a marble floor and large apartments.

It advertised itself as a 21st Century "pre-war" building when it was completed in 2011.

In July, 2011, Gary Barnett, the president of Extell Development, the developer, decided not to occupy the duplex penthouse that has 9 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, two staff rooms, a fitness room, a library, a media room and 2,400 square feet of outdoor space.

535 West End has a red-brick facade and cornices that line up nicely with its neighbors and very large apartments, hallmarks of classic "pre-war" apartment buildings. It also has arched windows on the top floor of its base and the top floor of its setback tower, and a three-story rusticated limestone base and limestone window surrounds on the fourth floor. Limestone is also used on the top two floors of the building's base and the top floor of the tower.

Across the avenue is the Sexton at 530 West End Avenue, a very distinguished looking building that was erected in 1912 and converted to a condominium in 1984. It has a more delineated, one-story rusticated base with a graduated three-story entrance surround and a dark-brown brick facade with light-colored window surrounds.

The building has very ornate, two-story-high window reveals flanking a central one-story high ornate reveal and these reveals punctuate its attractive cornice and make for a very sculptural top to compliment the building's very strong base.

The 13-story building has 43 apartments. It was designed by Mulliken & Moeller.

The Sexton shares the same vigor of the firm's other major buildings on the Upper West Side: Bretton Hall nearby on Broadway at 86th Street; Orwell House and Rossleigh Court on Central Park West between 85th and 86th Streets and the Severn and Van Dyck buildings across from Verdi Square on Amsterdam Avenue between 72nd and 73rd Street.

In his "Streetscapes" column September 14, 2003 in The New York Times, Christopher Gray remarked that the best building by Harry Mulliken and Edgar Moeller is the "astonishing" plum-colored Lucerne, "a rich furnace of late sunset shades" on the northwest corner of 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

Built in 1924, the Florence at 545 West End Avenue on the northwest corner at 86th Street directly across from the church, is an attractive 16-story building that is the least flamboyant of the buildings at the intersection, perhaps because it is directly across from the entrance to the impressive church. The 95-unit building, designed in an Italian Renaissance-palazzo-style, was converted to a cooperative in 1983.

The Florence was designed by George F. Pelham whose many other Manhattan apartment buildings include 1136 Fifth Avenue, 944, 1120, and 1160 Park Avenue, 33, 98, and 300 Riverside Drive, 270, 675, and 710 West End Avenue, 29 East 64th Street, and 14 East 75th Street.

The beige-brick building has an attractive, two-story rusticated limestone base, some stringcourses and a modest cornice, but its roofline is highlighted by some large pergolas.

The church was built between 1895 and 1897 and was designed by R. H. Robertson. According to the Fifth Edition of "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City" by Elliot Willensky, Norval White and Fran Leadon, it is "a startling work."

Indeed, the church's facade on the avenue is world-class with two quite dissimilar towers, the southern one taller, octagonal, capped with a small, angular dome, and faced with oculi, the southern one canted at a 45-degree angled with a flat top but large cornice.


The church abounds in arched doors and windows, has some rustication flanking its avenue entrance. It has a large pediment separating its towers as well as various stringcourses, cornices and pilasters - an exceedingly robust, very distinctive, and formal architectural composition.

The United Methodist Church was originally St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church and Parish House and in recent years it has also been used the West Park Presbyterian Church, a more somber, red-stone tower further east on 86th Street at Amsterdam Avenue.

One of the great things about the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew is that sections of its broad entrance steps have worn down as if the church were more than a millennium old. Thankfully, preservationists and city officials have apparently not noticed and therefore have not ordered their replacement with perfectly level steps.

It is nice to look at a bunch of trees as in Riverside Park, or Central Park, but on less than perfect days, especially in winter, it can pale next to confronting "in-your-face" architectural glory that is awesome in any weather.

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.