Meier 3: A Culture of Threes

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Living near the third Richard Meier apartment building on the West Side Highway, at Charles Street, affords the unique opportunity to take in the previous day's construction work while eating breakfast. The building differs from its older twin siblings in significant ways, particularly its shape (an almost perfect extrusion of the lot it is on), and the fact that the back is as gorgeous as the front. Meier has pulled back on the clip-on accessories he put on the first two towers, and has instead focused attention on the triple-glazed curtain wall.

The mix of pure building volume with attention on the connection details defines, in my mind, classic modern elegance. It is satisfying to see another architect do this with the latest building technologies, and not treat this technique as something reserved for historical Modernism and Mies van der Rohe's oevre complete.

On that list of two dozen celebrity-designed development buildings built between 2000 and 2006 I keep proposing, I venture to guess that Meier tower #3 is going to be at the top.

What distinguishes this building, and raises it above most other buildings in the world, is its glass. The first two towers have a green-blue glass that is the color of the Hudson River: pretty, but flat. The slightly reflective glass on 168 Charles is always the color of the sky, whatever color that may be. Sometimes the building is the same color as the sky behind it, sometimes it's the color of the sky behind you. White on Blue. White on White. Blue on Blue. Purple on Black. It enables a color game that the other two can't.

It is also triple-glazed, so reflections are blurred. Like our Manhattan atmosphere, the building's glass is alternatively cloudy, misty, ablaze, blue, white, gold, orange, purple, and occasionally, in the early morning, utterly clear. Good morning, New York, and good night!

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