At Least They Did Modernism-Style


A servicable but uninspired building: the new Alvin Ailey Dance Theater building in Hell's Kitchen. I used to live around the corner from this, and I watched the site slowly develop from an old theater to a pit to a building. The project took a long time to build, so it disappoints me that the project is so boring. It's an example of Modernism-styled buildings. Why can't they just make it modern? There seems to be a decorative game going on with the tricky mullions, the brick volumes vs glass volumes, and the wavy street awning (get it? it's like bodies in motion! and it's a DANCE THEATER!!). At least they didn't go all-decorative, like muted brick patterns and almost-cornices, mimicking the older buildings next to it.

But no, I'm tired of settling for this "at least it's Modern style" stuff. It's possible to do a budget building and still have the detailing, siting, and overall form be powerful, to have some kind of effect on the city.

For instance, why is there a dead glass corner on the corner of 55th and 9th? The corner is left to fend for itself, while the lobby is discreetly tucked farther down 55th street. If the wavy awning wasn't there, you wouldn't know the entry was there at all.

For instance, why brick at all?

For instance, why not a super-simple, super-taut glass screen, instead of this patterned wall?

For instance, what is up with the cylindrical columns, which only appear on the ground floor and as some featureless material (again, suspiciously decorative)?

For instance, why not complete the disjunctive nature of Modern buildings by making the glass a less almost-see-through color, and turning the glass box into a sculptural glass object, one that can be seen for blocks as something uncanny and perfect?

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