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Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a revised certificate of appropriateness yesterday for a planned, 9-story residential condominium development at 27 Wooster Street in SoHo and the City Planning Commission held and closed a hearing on the project this morning.

The project is a venture of Dr. Axel Stawski and Tony Leichter.

The building would have its main facade and entrance on Grand Street and apart from a one-story elevation in the middle of the block between Grand and Canal Streets, the building has a "T"-shaped plan to permit more light and air to reach Wooster Street.

Mr. Leichter told today that the project is anticipated to be ready by in the middle of next year and will have about 20 apartments.

Smith-Miller + Hawkinson is the architectural firm for the project.

Dr. Stawski is the owner of several properties in midtown including the recently completed green-glass tower at 505 Fifth Avenue on the northeast corner of 42nd Street that has been sleekly designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

The penthouse level along Grand Street has a "butterfly" roofline that gently swoops upward at its east and west ends.

The proposed building is highlighted by its modern glass facades, most of which project from the light-stone-colored concrete brick masonry of the rest of the facades.

The project is seeking special permits from the planning commission relating to height and setback regulations and use regulations and permission for a 10-car garage.

The site is a parking lot and according to the architects the "skin of the building is a 21st Century version of historic cast iron facades found in the district." The firm's website notes that "Those facades were originally designed to provide maximum light and air for manufacturing. We used contemporary materials, factory assembled and shipped to site. We emulate the slender proportions of the historic buildings, which offer ideal layouts for contemporary occupancies, joint living and working."

At a past hearing before the landmarks commission, Mark Wigley, the dean of the Columbia University School of Architecture, testified that too many recent new projects in SoHo have "tried hard to be what they are not" and such direct imitation can be "awful." The notion that "bad contemporary buildings are worse than bad imitative buildings is wrong," Mr. Wigley said. The question that should be asked, he continued, is "do you think this building is good enough to be a landmark in 50 years?" "The context is the 21st Century," he said.
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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.
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