New York

Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village: FOR SALE


Metropolitan Life dropped this bombshell right before the Labor Day news cycle (Curbed is on vacation this week, nuff said right there): Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are up for sale. All 80 acres of prime Manhattan real estate, all 110 apartment buildings, all 11,000 apartments: yours for $5 billion. While we're sure the bulldozers won't be coming in anytime soon (the lawsuits alone are going to keep the neighborhood as is for years), we are counting on approximately 2 architectural competitions, 135 developer-requested housing schemes, 1 tasteful exhibition at the AIA Center For Architecture, several dozen symposia at New York University, one tasteful symposium at Columbia University, 580 posts on Curbed, and 23,820 comments on said posts.

And don't forget: there will be one large new shiny development, probably with no restored street grid (easier to keep in the 'luxury' ethos), definitely with some new buildings, and definitely priced as cutting edge-luxury. In short, New York will never be the same.

The housing complexes were the brainchild of Robert Moses, built in 1947 for returning WWII veterans, and served as a model of public housing throughout the city. The idea: get the insurance companies and banks involved in slum clearance! The project is also entered into architectural history books as an example of housing projects that "worked".

One question we pose to our readers: will the developper make a quick return on this? The New York luxe housing market has cooled in the last year, and with all the new luxury apartments still coming to market, I wonder if this is the kind of investment that looks good in 2006, but looks like a colossal mistake in 2007. We'll keep an eye on it.

High Line Construction Progress: Phase 1 Section 1 Completed


We usually don't like reposting press releases, but this one from the High Line is unusually detailed.

The first phase of construction, removal of debris and nonstructural concrete, has been completed for Section 1, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. This phase included removal and storage of all the original rail tracks, which were tagged and mapped so that some can be integrated into the design of the new High Line landscape.

The contract for the next phase of construction has been awarded, through a public bidding process, and work is set to begin in September. The scope of work for this phase will include lead paint abatement, repainting of the structure, concrete and steel repair, and the installation of drainage systems and pigeon deterrents on the underside of the High Line. During the lead paint abatement process, the construction team will use a mobile containment structure to protect surrounding areas while sandblasting.

This phase of construction is expected to continue into summer 2007, after which the next phase, construction of access points and the public landscape atop the structure, will begin. The first section of the High Line is scheduled to open in 2008.

Richard Meier's First House: Pictures!


The owner of Richard Meier's first house has kindly sent us pictures of the house in its current state, as well as notes on their pending restoration:

The original Meier house was largely a glass rectangle,the bottom half of the pictured house.There were four indented corners of the house, front and back. The porch indentation in the current photo is the only remaining original design. The center portion of the rectangle (oceanfront) was not windowed, but a walled internal utility area (showers/tubs washing machines ). Definitely a waste of prime real estate.

In a 1960's picture( Vanity Fair 2005), Mel Brooks is seen writing "The Producers" on one of these porches.

The expand their space, the Brooks eliminated three porches by popping the outer walls to the eaves. In this way they converted the design to a four bedroom house. The upstairs was their large balconied bedroom. They adding a pitched roof and shingle siding.It is apparent that Richard Meier did not participate in this decision. The current owners are restoring vertical siding to the structure while trying to maximize the extraordinary siting and unique vistas envisioned by Meier. The comment about Anne not having it both ways, "Meier and shingles" is relevant to the design issues.

Click Continue Reading for a second photograph.

Dear Owner: Tropolism thanks you. You have made our summer.

Richard Meier's First House: The Owner Writes

Amongst a busy week here at Tropolism, a reader, who happens to own Richard Meier's first building, writes us some notes on the structure:

My husband and I own Richard Meier's first house that he built in Lonelyville,Fire Island. It was named the Lambert house after Saul Lambert, an illustrator. The house was owned for 40 years by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. We were friends with them and knew the house well as our sons grew up with their son on Fire Island. The original design (1962) was a prefabricated two bedroom house built in two weeks by six workmen. There are pictures of the house and floor plans in Richard Meier's newest biography. The Brooks added a second floor and shingled siding and turned the house into a four bedroom structure.

As a friend said to me upon reading this: "I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Anne Bancroft can't have it both ways, a Richard Meier AND a shingle style...". This is the world we live in, people.

Would anyone care to send us pictures from said book?

LMDC Closing Its Doors


It's not every day we see a public agency declare its mission accomplished. Of course, in this day and age, we declare mission accomplished after the first bombs have been dropped, but no sooner, and so it should probably come as no suprise that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has declared they have done what they said they would do.

By some measures, they have many accomplishments. The organization spearheaded the WTC Memorial competition, the WTC "Master Plan", the Fulton Street Corridor Master Plan (a great idea, connecting Lower Manhattan's coasts with a revitalized Fulton Street), several other parks, and allocation of a couple of billion of dollars in grants.

There are many pieces of unfinished business, and while we could list them, we also recognize that the LMDC has been toothless for a long time; and from the beginning unable to powerfully influence the actual building of anything downtown. We're still looking for that leadership; this announcement simply makes it painfully clear that there's still a vacuum at Ground Zero.

Eyes On The Street Totally Not Looking At The Right Stuff


Lisa at Polis is probably the only sharp-eyed eye on the street in the East Village, because the folks in the all-glass, all-undulating (allundulating?) Sculpture for Living totally missed someone spray painting the newly restored Astor Place cube. At least when the losers with drugs put graffiti on the cube, it was with chalk.

This is not a wholesale disregard for street art and graffiti. In fact, we adore graffiti. Just not on nice sculptures or good buildings.

Frank Gehry Adds To West Chelsea Skins


We seem to remember telling you how much we love lists. Another addition to the List Of Interesting Curtain Wall Experiments In West Chelsea, Manhattan, New York City is the InterActiveCorp building Frank Gehry designed for Barry Diller's company, between 18th and 19th Streets on the West Side Highway.

The building continues Gehry's technical innovations in panelized buildings where each panel has a unique shape. However the building carries the innovation to a level that surpasses even the American Center in Paris, where each block of limestone carried a unique curvature, or to an extent the curved brick at Case Western. The IAC building's panels are curved glass curtain wall units; has he done this before?

Click Continue Reading for more observations and a picture show...



Over the holiday a friend pointed us to the interesting StreetsBlog, a production of the Open Planning Project (itself a great locus of open-planning processes and public effect via the internet).

Our favorite entry so far: a piece on the Defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway, a proposed freeway in Portland, Oregon, planned by NYC's very own Robert Moses.

BLUE: So Totally Ouch


Our coverage of The Case Study In Average continues: BLUE has been photoblogged by Test Of Will. One word: ouch. Or thud, take your pick. Tropolism means taking your pick.

Curbed rounds out the morning by linking to the rest of the current talk.

Pod Living, The Old School


In Manhattan's overheated and soon-to-be-totally-over celebrity real estate moment, apparently all that is required to sell some apartments is the inclusion of a few pieces of unique furniture in the renderings. Greg Allen writes a brilliant comparison of old skool pod living and the overhyped and underdesigned Jade by Jagger. Nuf said.

Freedom Tower 3.1, Beta


David Childs announced a Freedom Tower "update" today. The update: a few new renderings, and a material choice for the exterior: prismatic glass covering the concrete bunker that is really surrounding the "Freedom" Tower's base. Glass covering concrete, transparency disguising bombproof, will the irony never cease? We here at Tropolism classify this as "no news is good news". We think.

The part of the design that seems to be unremarked upon, but is in the forefront of all the renderings, is the hideous public plaza on the exterior. First of all, the entry to the tower appears to be a couple dozen steps above the sidewalk on West Street. What are those bleacher-like concrete jersey barriers rammed up against the pretty glass prism camouflage? Will security really let you sit there? The one think that I think would be obviously improved upon over the World Trade Center's design would be the end of bland, stepped, program-free plazas.

Continue reading my captions for the released renderings after the jump...

Chelsea Arts Tower Gets Black Metal-like Skin


Continuing Tropolism's theme of Towers in West Chelsea With Interesting Skin Systems, the Chelsea Arts Tower is finally getting its non-glass cladding: a gorgeous black panel system, with what appears to be a variation of gloss finishes, creating a subtle texture to the side of the building. While we were holding out for a brutalist all-concrete finish, we're happy to see something just as severe: Black Monolith. More pictures to come as work progresses.

Closeup pictures after the jump.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the skin is plastic, is "metallic looking", and made by Trespa. Which product? Anyone who knows, just email us. West Chelsea: land of new cladding systems.



MoMA has named Barry Bergdoll the next Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. Mr. Bergdoll will take his post January 1, 2007; until then, Paola Antonelli will continue as interim curator.

The speculation about who would succeed Terrence Riley had us preemptively dejected about this position. However, this choice puts us squarely in the "interested" column, because it brings some weight and academic rigor back into the crazy dialogue of New York's architecture world. We had Mr. Bergdoll as an instructor in Architectural History I about ten years ago. He was the only professor who wasn't from Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation: he was from the Art History department. As such, his historical constructions were based on things that actually happened, not current theoretical speculation. Yet his views were always refreshing, particularly when applied to subjects I was just being introduced to. We're happy to see him elevated to a prestigious position. We hope MoMA can handle it.

Alerted by The Architect's Newspaper.

WTC Memorial Design Revision: Cheapskates


Construction Engineer Frank Sciame announced the value engineered World Trade Center Memorial today. It all sounds so reasonable: it's only $510 million! The sound of the waterfalls will totally make up for victim's names being next to the West Side Highway! The mayor and governor agree on it!

In its typical copy-paste-the-press-release fashion, the New York Times then casually mentions that $510 million doesn't include the $178 million in Port Authority site infrastructure that was taking the project over $1 billion in the first place. The project actually costs $700 million. And the waterfalls, from below, without their parapets, look like a visit to Sea World, minus aquatic life. All to save $300 million dollars (half of which was Port Authority infrastructure anyway). So the memorial was pared down by $162 million dollars. I know that's a lot of money, but it seems like peanuts given the project went from thrilling to tame.

Lame new renderings, side-by-side with interesting earlier renderings, are available at the LMDC website.

Moving Madison Square Garden


While we still have concerns about how, exactly, a stadium is going to sit upon and be accessed through a former post office and future rail station, we were shocked to discover in today's Times that the current plan for Moynihan Station will only take care of 20% of the current riders flowing through Penn Station. The idea of accessing Moynihan Station through the center of the block current occupied by Madison Square Garden is also intriguing. But we're still left with the question: MSG killed one McKim, Mead, and White building; is it going to squish a second one?

BLUE: Not Really Last Anymore


It's been a frightfully long time since we here at Tropolismo! have looked at The Two Dozen List. The same List that put BLUE, Bernard Tschumi's, er, blue curtain wall building on the Lower East Side, dead last. Even below Sculpture for Living and whatever Lindy Roy was working on. That's really last.

However, we are always willing to change our minds, and be pleasantly suprised. In this case, Curbed's fascination with floorplan porn tipped us to some interior renderings of the pixellated space. And behold, what do we see? A generic apartment with so many windows there's no place to hang any art. And an annoying slanted wall. While it's not really exciting, it's not quite as crap-ass as place #24 would seem to suggest, given that the two previous mentions are on that list. So, we're moving BLUE up, to place #20. Gwathmey gets pushed to #23, Lindy #24.

Look for a full Two-Dozen list update next week. In the meantime, send suggestions for additions (I already have a place for Herzog & De Meuron's project), and any construction photos you think would be helpful.