The latest news on New York architecture.


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Daniel Geiger reports for Crain's New York Business. 257-West-57th-Street-Manhattan Extell Development received an OK to build over this structure, at 257 W. 57th St., in Manhattan. Photo by CoStar Group. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approves Extell Development's plan to cantilever its new residential tower over the neighboring American Fine Arts Society Building. It will include NYC's first Nordstrom and a hotel. Extell Development received approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday to cantilever a new super-tall, luxury residential tower that the company plans to build over a neighboring landmark on West 57th Street. With the city's OK, Extell will now be able to extend the tower, 215 W. 57th St., 28 feet to the east so that it overhangs the American Fine Arts Society Building. The tower, which Extell Development has stated could rise 1,400 feet or taller, will begin cantilevering at 195 feet, which the Landmarks Commission felt was situated sufficiently above the stately, but squat, four-story American Fine Arts Society Building. "I think it's not only an extremely important project for the city, but also important for what it doesn't do, which is that it ultimately will not have a negative impact on the landmark," said Robert Tierney, the commission's chairman. "Here we have a very narrow exposure to something that I believe will have a very negligible effect." Gary Barnett, chief executive of Extell and one of the city's most prolific developers in recent years, said the cantilever was essential to the building's construction. "It allows us to move the core of the building to the east," Mr. Barnett said. Moving the building's elevators, staircases and other infrastructure to the periphery of the development site was essential for Mr. Barnett's plan to have a Nordstrom department store in the new building's base, which will require open, unimpeded floors. Mr. Barnett trumpeted the economic benefits that will come as a result of the new building. "The Nordstrom and a hotel we also plan to have here will create 1,000 permanent jobs and create more tax revenue for the city," Mr. Barnett said. Critics, however, have lambasted the proposed tower as the latest in a string of gaudy, super-tall luxury condos that cater to the ultra-wealthy and are emblematic of a growing wealth disparity in the city.  
Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed. 450px-GraceChurchBroadway.JPG                   Air rights of landmarked buildings are a valuable commodity in city where developers are always trying to build bigger and taller, but for landmarks located in a neighborhood where there's limited high-rise development, air rights are basically money that they can't use. Current city regulations only allow landmarks to sell their air rights to a developer next door, across the street, or catty-corner. Special districts have loosened these restrictions in recent years—and if the Midtown East Rezoning passes, landmarks within the area will be able to sell to any building in the area—but the Journal reports that now a group wants to make it possible for nonprofit owners of landmark buildings to sell their air rights to a building anywhere in the city. The group, called Iconplans, was founded by former grocery store executive Lawrence Daitch and real estate expert Michael Lipstein. Under their plan, 180 nonprofit owners would contribute their air rights to a bank, and Iconplans would sell them to developers, taking a 10 percent cut. According to a report they commissioned, the system would generated $600 million of revenue for the involved landmarks. Many landmarks, like Grace Church in Greenwich Village, are on board with the idea, and many city groups and officials expressed interest in exploring the plan further. Many say its a great way for landmarks to obtain money for upkeep—Grace Church, for example, needs millions of dollars worth of repairs and currently can not sell its air rights—but others worry that it "cause a glut of development in neighborhoods that aren't ready for it."
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. All renderings ©COOKFOX COOKFOX's crazy cantilevered building proposal for 39-41 West 23 Street divided the Landmarks Commission when it was presented last month. A revised version of the design, simplified and toned down slightly, was presented yesterday and, although not every member of the Commission was convinced that the building is appropriate for a historic district, enough were that the plans were granted approval. The building, to be constructed on the site of another controversial proposal, the Pope Hat building (which never ended up happening), retained the basic premise of its original design—a nine-story base with a cantilevered section and secondary facade. Changes to the plans include a darker, bronze terracotta (it was originally white) and a simplified, more defined top for the secondary facade.
Landmarks Commission Chair Robert Tierney remarked that the proposal was "not only appropriate, but a striking addition" to the historic district. Commissioner Fred Bland called the proposal "exhilarating" and "a future landmark."
Commissioner Roberta Washington, on the other hand, commented, "I like it, I just don't think this building is appropriate for this historic district." Commissioner Michael Devonshire, who, at the last hearing, called the cantilever "a self-conscious, distractive, architectural gimmick," sensed that the battle was lost and conceded, as if he had a choice, that he was "willing to approve it." "With the caveat," he added, "that we may look back in five years and say, 'how did we ever let this happen?'"      
zapata24th_10_12.jpg                     After the complete rapture that was 688 Broadway, it would have been pretty tough to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission all that excited about another building yesterday. As it turned out, the Carlos Zapata-designed 22 West 24th Street didn't have much of a chance in the first place. After a presentation in which Zapata laid out his firm's methods of analyzing and incorporating the verticality and horizontality of the adjacent buildings, followed by scathing testimony from Community Board 5, the Drive to Protect the Ladies Mile District, and the Historical District Council, the LPC came down firmly on the side of the latter three groups. "It's very curious," said one commissioner, "that analysis of the adjacent buildings, which are representative of the context of the neighborhood, should produce a design so devoid of that context." He then put it more succinctly: "So flat." Zapata was sent back to the drawing board.
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Carlos Zapata's Pope Hat Building was one of the wackiest designs we've seen around these parts—in a historic district, no less—so it was with some sadness that we watched the plans for it slowly fizzle out over the years. But the site's new owner of the 39-41 West 23rd Street, Anbau Enterprises, who purchased it in 2010 for $18.5 million, still intends to build condos there, and luckily for us and everyone else who loves a good crazy building, they have retained the services of COOKFOX Architects for the redesign. COOKFOX's new designs are less wacky than Zapata's Pope Hat, but still plenty wacky in their own right, featuring a base that rises up, stops, sets back, rotates 90 degrees, and continues up with a large cantilevered section, making the entire building look like two three-dimensional puzzle pieces, or perhaps a building wearing another building on its head. Unlike, the Pope Hat, however, which had a "curvilinear, sculptural form enclosed in a glass skin," the new form will be "more structural and rectilinear," which the architects felt to be more appropriate for the district. The façade includes elements of terracotta, limestone, granite, percolated glass, and zinc, and COOKFOX's signature green planted terraces. The developers and architects are also attaching to a project a much more traditional restoration of a building at 35 West 23rd Street, possibly as an attempt to quell the furor over proposing such a distinct, modern building in a historic district.
The Commissioners, for the most part, were happy to see the Pope Hat replaced—to hear them tell it now, they had never liked that design in the first place, although the building was approved at one point. They were, however, not even close to coming to an agreement on the appropriateness of the new design. Some Commissioners found the plans approvable as they were, while others found that they had fundamental philosophical issues with the approach COOKFOX took to the designs. The harshest criticism came from commissioner Michael Devonshire, who "[found] the cantilever to be a self-conscious, distractive, architectural gimmick." Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan called the designs "not contextual," and, although she didn't hate the cantilever, didn't think that the Ladies Mile Historic District is the place for it. Commissioner Fred Bland, on the other hand, called the building "extremely contextual," and "beautiful," and commissioner Michael Goldblum remarked: "I find myself seduced and then I wonder if I should be."
Having received a number of mixed messages from the Commission, Rick Cook and team will have to pick and choose from the criticism and make some changes before returned to the LPC at a later date.    
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission was sort of surprisingly okay with SHoP Architects' proposed 1,350-foot residential tower at 107 West 57th Street, the site of the landmarked Steinway Building (which will also be restored), when it was presented two weeks ago. While the commissioners did have a few concerns, the were for the most part related to the Steinway Building and not to the tower itself. At a second presentation this morning, SHoP addressed those concerns, revising their plans to demolish a much smaller portion of the structure taking up the Steinway Building's back courtyard and replacing the glass of the 57th Street atrium facade with a much clearer single-layered glass, so that observers at street level would be able to look through and see the landmarked building. The plans were approved, and so the 1,350-foot climb begins.
Paulina Tam  reports for PreservationNation Blog.   Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona. Credit: Mike Hendren, Flickr. A meteor crater in Winslow, near the eastern border of Arizona. To those who dream of going to space but haven’t been able to visit the stars, Meteor Crater Visitors Center in Winslow, Arizona, gives visitors a chance to see a piece of otherworldly history: a 550-feet deep meteorite crater created approximately 50,000 years ago. This natural national landmark left quite an impression on astronauts training for the Apollo Missions in the 1960s, who came to the site to learn how to identify craters and collect moon rocks. Also leaving a lasting impression at the Visitors Center: a glass-less window in a brick wall that frames the wide Arizonian landscape with its bare yet striking simplicity, designed by the late American architect Philip Johnson. Johnson also helped designed the Meteor Crater Center’s pavilion. "The Park Service was still struggling to revive itself after war during the late 1940s, when the designs were submitted for a modern building at Meteor Crater," writes Sarah Allaback, author of Mission 66 Visitor Centers: The History of a Building Type. Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona. Credit: Brian Turner. "The commission went to Philip Johnson, co-organizer of the 1932 International Style exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and, more recently, architect of the ‘glass house’ (1949) in New Caanan, Connecticut," Allaback writes. "Johnson’s work must have seemed fittingly futuristic to his clients at Meteor Crater." However, over the years the site has added various extensions such as a Museum (Discovery Center) in 1956, a two-story apartment for workers in 1960, and a Retail and Food Service Building in 1962, making it unclear which parts of Johnson’s original designs still remained and whether any of them molded with any of the modern constructions. Now renovations are approaching for the landmark, and with them come a multitude of decisions for the pavilion. A master plan for renovation maps out a construction series that will illustrate the Visitors Center’s future for the next 10 to 20 years, says Robyn Messerschmidt, Vice President of Administration at the Center. The first step would be the Center’s admissions building, where Johnson’s work is located. Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona. Credit: albertobastos, Flickr. "It [is] very military looking and it’s even been said it looks like a prison, so we’re trying to make it look appealing so people will come in," says Messerschmidt. “One of the major problems that we have is that people don’t understand what we have beyond the point, and so having a more appealing entrance will get people more excited about what they’re about to see inside." She adds that the first phase of construction should be finished by the end of August and September. Earlier in the first phase, David Green, a scientific advisor of the Barringer Crater Company, a privately owned organization that owns the Meteor Crater, came out to make sure everything was running smoothly and to make sure they weren’t doing anything that might disturb the crater’s original integrity. New changes will come but the old will mostly stay intact, says Messerschmidt. Guided rim tours and three-sectioned observation decks, each allowing the viewer a different view of the crater, are in place to give viewers a chance to see the crater in its entirety while protecting it from foot traffic. A glass viewing area will enclose the Visitors Center, essentially enveloping Johnson’s work inside it too, says Messerschmidt. Meteor Crater, Winslow Arizona. Credit: mousenerdbot, Flickr. Demion Clinco, a National Trust Advisor for Arizona, and Andie Zelnio, architect and board member of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, believe that since the Center is privately owned and previous changes have already changed much of Johnson’s original designs, further renovations would, in effect, eliminate Johnson’s work. "We believe [Johnson’s original design] is an important building, a forgotten treasure by one of our country’s most significant architects and Philip Johnson’s only work in the state of Arizona,” say Clinco and Zelnio in an email. “During our visit to the site in May, it appears that the plaza and portions of the Visitors Center retain aspects of Johnson’s signature work, but further scholarship is needed to determine the facts." As fences encase the construction zone and heavy machinery move into the landscape, Johnson’s future is left uncertain. His only view is towards the wide Arizonian desert, and only the sands of time will determine whether his work will remain.      
Sara Polsky reports for Curbed.
Developer DDG is increasingly prolific, with 41 Bond, 345 Meatpacking, and Soho's former chocolate factory under its belt. Now the firm is moving on to two triangular Tribeca parking lots, between White and Franklin streets on Sixth Avenue. Tribeca Citizen has already dubbed the building - just presented to Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee - the Two Triangles Building because of the shape of the lots. The proposed building, shown above, has a four-layered facade, with fritted glass, reclaimed brick, metal, and interior glazing. On the Franklin Street side, the building will come to the cornice height of neighbor 102 Franklin; on the White Street side, it will be stepped back. The penthouse will be dark so as not to be noticeable.
UPDATE: DDG reps sent along the above clearer rendering of the project. The building is tentatively slated to have 11 residential units and retail space.
Of course, the CB had some questions about that penthouse >>
One of the subcommittee's main concerns when architect Peter Guthrie presented the plan was whether the building would "turn into a big black box at night" because of the fritted glass and the dark penthouse. Neighbors also wondered about the safety of neighboring buildings still doing repairs from Hurricane Sandy and about the amount of light that would be left in the air shaft between buildings once DDG's project is completed. DDG has a few other plans for the building's exterior: potted street trees (which require MTA approval, according to Tribeca Citizen) and cables with ivy on them along the facade.  The Glassy New Building Coming to Sixth Ave. [Tribeca Citizen]
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed.   JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group acquired the Steinway Building, and, more importantly, its 45,000 square feet of air rights, for $46 million [correction: they spent $217.8 million—$131.5 million for the land lease and $46.3 million for the building itself, and an additional $40 million for a neighboring site] back in March. Six months later, they announced that instead of building a super tall, super skinny tower designed by Cetra/Ruddy, they would be building a super-duper-tall, super skinny tower designed by frequent collaborators SHoP Architects. The tower will be 1,350 feet tall, way taller than neighboring Tower of Babel One57 (1,004 feet), but not quite as tall as 432 Park (1,396 feet). JDS and PMG also backed a successful effort to make Steinway Hall an interior landmark (and will embark on a meticulous restoration), possibly in an attempt to curry favor with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, to whom they presented the plans for the tower this morning.
JDS and PMG could actually build an as-of-right 1,350-foot tower at the street front without Landmarks Commission approval, but have elected instead to set the building back, deferring somewhat to the landmarked Steinway Building but also necessitating the demolition of a back portion of that building. The proposed tower would also exist partially on the landmark site, giving the LPC the power to review the whole thing. For the most part, the Commission took no issue with the proposal, although a few had qualms about minor aspects—the height of the glass street wall, for example, or the question of how much of the tower was on the landmark site and how much wasn't—that prevented the building from being approved...yet. However, every commissioner but one expressed the opinion that the building itself was basically worth approval on the merit of its impressive design. The lone dissenter, commissioner Margery Perlmutter, was confused by the willingness of her fellow commissioners to sign off so readily on the partial demolition of an individual landmark, and criticized the "cynicism" of some of her colleagues, saying, "We're looking at this 'for the good of the city' as if there's no other place to build a tower." Despite Perlmutter's objections, it seems more than likely that the plans, with a few minor tweaks, will be approved next time they are presented to the Landmarks Commission.
Hana R. Alberts reports for Curbed.   A pretty special townhouse on West 11th Street, which might not be long for this world if permits for a new building are approved, is famous for two things: one incendiary; the other adorable. First came the dynamite. Number 18 was the site of a rather infamous 1970 explosion at the hand of leftist group Weather Underground; one of the homeowner's daughters was involved in building and accidentally detonating a pipe bomb designed for the Columbia campus that went off too early. It shook the quiet, quaint block and left ruin and rubble behind on the lot. Then architect Hugh Hardy bought the land and designed the unique angular façade we know today. All jagged and modernist, Hardy negotiated his plan past community opposition to approval. But he ultimately decided not to live there—instead requiring the new owners, the Langworthy family, to carry out his plans. Here, the backstory proceeds to the cute phase.
Paddington Bear's home on 11th Street, and why it's at risk >>
The now-late Norma Langworthy would place a Paddington Bear stuffed animal in the window of her home, changing his costume according to the season and holidays; when she died in early 2012, he donned a black suit in her memory. A fixture of the neighborhood, he disappeared when the house got put on the market and, eventually, sold for $9.25 million. After all that, Jeremiah's Vanishing NY learned that the quirky landmark might be at risk. DOB permits have been filed to erect a new four-story, single-family residence on the site. Though permission hasn't yet been granted, and the owner's identity is shrouded behind a mysterious LLC, the applicant of record named in the DOB papers is a lesson in continuity: H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. Their e-mailed statement from this morning, when asked for more details or renderings: "[T]he house does have a new owner. We are still working out scope with him so we aren't able to share anything at the moment." More details might be available at the "end of the year." Despite the lack of details about the proposed building, a West Village block association is worried about what might result. An e-mail forwarded to Vanishing NY says: "Local and other preservation groups are considering what position they will take on this application to demolish an existing structurally sound townhouse which was twice found to be appropriate for the Landmark District and which has been part of the built environment for almost four decades. The underlying policy questions have significant implications for the landmarking process in general and the Greenwich Village Historic District in particular." The story of 18 West 11th Street: from a Gold Coast-style townhouse that was the birthplace of poet James Merrill to a hard-won modernist home once considered an eyesore, then beloved by the neighborhood, to a big question mark.