In New York, we decided to focus on cool new stuff we hadn’t seen. And pastrami. Our pastrami quest was thwarted as we trekked up to Carnegie Deli, only to discover that it was closed for repairs. (And while we considered our next move, a dozen other people came along to be equally disappointed. Someone should set up a pastrami cart there.) We did see Alwyn Court (even if we couldn’t afford to eat at Petrossian).
We only had two days to spend in New York, less than we did in Cincinnati. The focus on this trip has been on places where I haven’t been in a long time, places where we’re not likely to go to again soon, and places that you need a car to reach. We had just been in New York last winter, and it’s likely we’ll be back soon, since we have a lot of family and friends there. Then Greta and I came down with colds while staying with my brother in Mamaroneck, so our time in City got cut in half. We decided to not spread ourselves too thin, and missed a lot of places and people we wanted to see (including an abortive attempt to schedule a Facebook-based meet-up with a lot of friends). It was disappointing, but we’ll be back soon.
We wandered through the Park, and felt the full impact of the new residential tower at 57th and Park. It’s kind of unbelievable, the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere, and a portent of things to come.
But the real pleasure was in the park. Back in the 80s, I was one of very few people who ever roamed into this territory – some homeless people managed to find gaps in the fence, and I would come from the river side in a row boat. I was especially drawn to the remnants of the wharves that were there, as seen in these photos from the late 80s:I expected that some day this would all get swept away in a real estate development, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the park design, by Balsley Studio, incorporated these pieces into a sophisticated design that covers the range from hard to soft and industrial to natural.
And at the end of the park, there’s something else new to see:Bjarke Ingels’s new condo building is his usual showstopper. Once again, he lets the building form be driven by the site conditions, and doesn’t worry about conventional ways of making buildings. I think this has worked really well in some of his projects, such as the 8-house, and less well in some others, such as the Mountain, where the concept may be strong but the execution is flawed. It may be too early to tell with “Via 57West”, but I do wish they had hired a Danish branding consultant too and come up with a better name. (Maybe they’re trying to attract Italian residents, and want to distinguish it from the buildings full of Russian oligarchs down the street.) I haven’t seen the plans, but we spoke to a construction worker who said there were lots of weird, unusable spaces, which has certainly happened in some of his other projects, and seems like a natural result when you let the building volume drive the scheme. I’ll withhold judgment.
But I think this may be a real New York building at heart, with the form driven by real estate economics. One way to look at the massing is that it provides a graceful transition from the 57th St. canyon to the open space of the River:
Another interpretation arises when you find out that the whole block is being developed by the Durst organization. The more conventional building further back on 57th St., seen to the right in this photo,now has a view of the River because the Ingels building slopes back. So instead of one building with a view of the River and one with a view of 11th Avenue, you now have two buildings with river views. The first one may be inefficient, not maximizing its potential floor plates and with funny unit designs,, but you can sell the units to hipsters who want to be in the cool building with great views, regardless of functionality. Then you can have conventional units with normal floor plans in the second building, which will be bought by more pragmatic people. The origin of this building is similar to that of Central Park – it may be a good design, but it would never have happened without the financial rationale. I just wish it had a less cheesy name.