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Architectural Monstrosities in New York


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#16 ranitidine

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 03:48 PM

I don't know much about architecture, but I know what I like.
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#17 Ron Johnson

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 03:49 PM

I despise tall dark glass buildings. It looks like some sort of redneck window tinting project gone mad.

#18 Blondie

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:15 PM

Architecture is about more than aesthetics, though (although that is what strikes us first.) It's also about meaning, social commentary and cultural values that change over time.

Then please, by all means, enlighten us on the meaning, social commentary and cultural values that make that building more than an eyesore. I think Arquitectonica's style is ideally suited to Miami, but out of place in NY. I normally love modern architecture and vivdly remember loving the Spear House when it was first published..

Nicolai Ouroussoff agrees with me:

The way I see it, Arquitectonica has owed New York a decent building. That firm built its reputation with a series of projects in its hometown, Miami, that mixed bold forms and alluring surfaces at bargain prices. But in New York it has produced only clunkers. Its Westin Hotel tower on Eighth Avenue defines cheapness: a collage of gaudy colors with a long, illuminated arc scratched across its facade.

Clearly we are not critiquing it in a scholarly way, but waiting for 20 years for architectural critics to contextualize it wouldn't suit the time frame for this discussion.
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#19 Rail Paul

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:19 PM

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about the disconnect between what architects see as great buildings, and what ordinary folk see as great buildings. Few buildings constructed in the past 35 years made the list of great buildings selected by ordinary folks, while one of the most inhospitable places to live (Fallingwater) made the list of great places selected by the professionals.

Article

A survey of Americans' favorite 150 buildings and structures placed the gild-encrusted Italianate behemoth with its choreographed fountains at a lofty No. 22 on the list, tucked between Philadelphia City Hall and New York's Saint John the Divine Cathedral.

"The Bellagio -- I can't believe it," bellows Edward Feiner, a director of the Washington, D.C., office of top corporate architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which has five buildings on the list. "The Bellagio is tasteless."

In the eyes of other beholders, though, the Bellagio is an icon, elevated to that status in a survey commissioned by the American Institute of Architects to suss out how Americans feel about their architecture. In conjunction with its 150th anniversary, the Washington trade group asked Harris Interactive to develop a survey of 2,000 ordinary Americans. They were shown photographs and asked to rate 247 buildings nominated by 2,500 architects in various categories.

Some of the results weren't shocking: the Empire State Building was No. 1, the White House No. 2. But others were surprising. The National Cathedral in Washington, well known but certainly not an icon, came in No. 3, beating out the Golden Gate Bridge (5), the U.S. Capitol (6) and William Van Allen's Chrysler Building in New York (9). Also on the list: Apple Inc.'s new glass cube of a store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue (53).

The ratings, as well as Mr. Feiner's reaction, reveal the tension between architecture as personal expression and public art, between form that pleases those who look at a building and function that nurtures those who use it.



Architects, not surprisingly, dismiss the survey. Others observe the natural conflicts among what architects want to build, what clients force them to build, and what people eventually see.


Some architects are more dismissive. Mark Robbins, dean of architecture at Syracuse University, says the survey "reinforces one's sense that the general public's knowledge of architecture is still limited to things that are big and have columns or have a lot of colored lights." He says the list reminds him of the Zagat guides to restaurants, which rely on customer submissions. "It's only as good as the people who send in reviews. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, Applebee's was in Zagat's."

To be sure, the poll isn't a true reflection of how people interact and appreciate a building. Respondents were shown static photographs of each building online and were asked to rate them on a scale of one to five. "Buildings unfold in time and space and can't really be understood from a flat pictorial way," says Mr. Robbins.

And architects complain that some keystone buildings in U.S. history are missing from the list. Richard Meier -- whose spare, white designs appear five times on the list with buildings such as the Getty Center in Los Angeles (No. 95), more than any other living architect -- calls the results "fascinating." But, he adds, "many of these things on the list are places people go and enjoy themselves, but I wouldn't consider them works of architecture." He finds it "very curious" that such Modernist architectural standards as Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe's Seagram Building in New York and Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., aren't on the top 150, nor is Philip Johnson's Glass House, in New Canaan, Conn.

Other notable no-shows: Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wis., Louis Kahn's Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. -- and the recent winner of the Pritzker Prize, a top architectural honor: Mr. Mayne's building for the regional office of California's transportation department in Los Angeles.
[Top]

Todd Schliemann, designer with James Polshek of the massive glass box Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (at No. 33, the top modern-looking building of recent vintage, completed in 1998), isn't surprised that the list is dominated by older, traditional-looking buildings. "The older the building, it's a safer bet, like an old sofa," he says.

Michael Lykoudis, dean of the classically oriented architecture school at University of Notre Dame, says "most buildings since World War II have been preoccupied with a narrow set of criteria, for a corporate client or for the architect. That type of architecture can't have the kind of mystery that a complex cultural exercise like Union Station in D.C. has.... What architects see in pristine detail gets lost on people if they can't connect to it on the philosophical and practical level."

Mr. Schliemann says he is pleased the Rose Center is in the same company as those older buildings, but adds, "The recognition that I would like is to go up to 42nd Street and see a snow globe made of the Rose Center. That would mean it was in an icon that has some permanence, as ironic as that sounds."


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#20 Stone

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:25 PM

Please do not lump me in with the "general public." They eat at Applebees and buy their clothes from K-Mart.

Hush, hush.  Keep it down now.


#21 Blondie

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:29 PM

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about the disconnect between what architects see as great buildings, and what ordinary folk see as great buildings. Few buildings constructed in the past 35 years made the list of great buildings selected by ordinary folks, while one of the most inhospitable places to live (Fallingwater) made the list of great places selected by the professionals.

I'm sure that I would agree with the architects far more often than the regular folks.
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#22 Lippy

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:31 PM

I think Arquitectonica's style is ideally suited to Miami, but out of place in NY.


Similarly, Ada Louise Huxtable, the Times then architecture critic said, years ago, when Morris Lapidus's Summit Hotel (on Lexington Avenue) was built that it was too far from the [Miami] beach.

I alluded to the cultural meaning of the Times Square building when I mentioned "cacophony." I think that's enough of a suggestion for this thread. I'm not saying I "like" or "dislike" the building, or that it is beautiful or ugly, just that it is appropriate for its site.

#23 rancho_gordo

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:32 PM

I think San Francisco wins as having th ugliest new building:
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#24 Lippy

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:39 PM

It should be noted that critics (not necessarily professional) who come to buildings from the art history side tend to speak in terms of aesthetics, while those who approach from the architectural side tend to look harder at the structural elements and cultural meanings as well as the aesthetics. One approach is not necessarily more valid than the other, but sometimes it makes it a little difficult to find common ground.

#25 Blondie

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:40 PM

In the New Yorker, Paul Goldberger asked, "Is this the Ugliest Building in New York?":

The forty-five-story Westin is the most garish tall building that has gone up in New York in as long as I can remember. It is fascinating, if only because it makes Times Square vulgar in a whole new way, extending up into the sky.


I believe there should be a way to evince cacophony without making it tasteless.
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#26 StephanieL

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:41 PM

Let's not also forget the destruction of beautiful old buildings in the outer boroughs. Kevin Walsh of Forgotten New York has a page on the changes going on in Flushing as unique homes are being bought by developers and torn down to build ugly, multifamily dwellings. This seems especially endemic to Queens: more atrocities can be found at Queens Crap. One the contributors has described these new buildings as more-or-less barracks for the masses.
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#27 omnivorette

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:42 PM

But surely there is a great deal of subjectivity involved.

There are great works of art which are, in my view and the view of others, "ugly."
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#28 Lippy

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:42 PM

Paul is writing contemporary criticism and has to come up with something relevant for the reader at the moment. He knows perfectly well that future generations may very well have a different opinion. Over time, he may even revise his.

#29 g.johnson

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:42 PM

The main problem with that building is that it's not appropriate for that site. (It's too blue for me too, but I like the shape.)
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#30 Lippy

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:48 PM

I am a preservationist and my impulse is to save old buildings and yes, what is being done in Queens has no justification on any grounds except the bottom line of greedy developers. That was how the Lower East was developed, too, more than a century ago. The tenements we love so much now were designed to be built as cheaply and as quickly as possible to house as many families as could be squeezed into place for the greatest profit to the developer.