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Carter's View

Cary Tamarkin is developing a residential condominium building at 456 West 19th Street on the southeast corner at Tenth Avenue in Chelsea that will have 22 duplex apartments.

The building invokes the architectural spirits of the Starrett-Lehigh Building, not too far away on the full block between 11th and 12th Avenues and 26th and 27th Streets. The Starrett-Lehigh Building is one of the city's major landmarks of modern architecture. It was designed by Russell G. and Walter M. Cory and Yasuo Matsui. Mr. Matsui previously was a collaborator with H. Craig Severance on the design of the Manhattan Company tower at 40 Wall Street that competed, unsuccessfully, with the Chrysler Building for bragging rights as the city's tallest skyscraper.

In their great book, "New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Two World Wars," (Rizzoli International Publications, 1987), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins noted that the 19-story Starrett-Lehigh Building of 1931 replaced the Lehigh Valley Railroad freight terminal and "came as close as any American building of its time to the stylistic tenets of the International Style...and was included in..."Modern Architecture: International Exhibition," held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932....The sweeping lines created by the ribbons of windows contrasted with horizontal spandrel bands of concrete and brown brick, and were accentuated by the building's curved corners."

In their fine book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City Architecture, Fourth Edition," (Three Rivers Press, 2000), Norval White and Elliot Willensky noted that the 9 miles of strip windows at the Starrett-Lehigh Building were "streaking and swerving around" the building.

Mr. Tamarkin's 19th Street building, which also has an address of 140 Tenth Avenue, almost seems to swivel its billowing curvilinear upper portion atop its rectilinear base. The building plays with scale and two floors are actually behind each of its huge, industrial-size, multi-paned windows. Each apartment has a living room with a 20-foot-high living room, Mr. Tamarkin told today, adding that the facade will be a "dusty black brick."

Even more distinctive and bold than the enormous windows are the sinuous lines of the top of the building, which is set-back from the base and has four undulating bands of brick that enclose balconies. The windows do not extend to the building's corners and the rippling balconies are in the center of the north facade and at the avenue corner.

Curved facades are rare but not new in the city and are employed in such recent projects as 100 Eleventh Avenue, where Jean Nouvel has designed a tower with a curved corner facing Frank O. Gehry's I.A.C. building with a billowing-sails-like facade fronting on West Street, and One Astor Place, where Charles Gwathmey conjured in reflective glass the sinuous curves of the great Lake Point Tower in Chicago but anchored them in a rectilinear base unlike the Chicago building.

Excavation work is proceeding now on the as-of-right Tamarkin building, which will have a canopied entrance on the sidestreet and is expected to have units range in size from about 1,100 to 2,800 square feet and in price between $1,500 and $2,800 a square foot.

H. Thomas O'Hara is listed in the Department of Buildings as the architect for the project.

Mr. Tamarkin had "first rights" to acquire this site and another at 397 West 12th Street from Victor Zupa, but had to sue Mr. Zupa to get them when Mr. Zupa tried to sell them to Madison Capital Management for $22 million, according to an article in the August 16, 2007 edition of The New York Sun by Jill Priluck. The article added that Mr. Tamarkin purchased the two properties from Mr. Zupa for $24 million.

Mr. Tamarkin was the developer of the handsome 9-story apartment building at 47 East 91st Street.
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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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