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Thread: Silver Towers - by I.M. Pei

  1. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    Would SOMEONE answer this:

    "Rather than just dismissing them, it might be interesting to discover why Muschamp, Fortune Magazine, the American Institute of Architects (and etc.) unanimously consider them so highly. Or why Pei's similar towers-in-a-park in Philadelphia, have had landmark status for 20 years now."

    Are they all idiots?"

    (oh and let's add ablarc to the list...)

    Well? Are they?
    They're the same critics and publications that will say anything by Gehry, Piano, Calatrava, Pei, Wright, Mies, is gold. No architect has a 100% success rate, although those that play the architect name game will say as much.

  2. #47
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jasonik View Post
    I think there is generally a confusion about landmarking that may be at play here.

    Generally something is landmarked because it is significant, either historically or architecturally, usually a blend of the two.
    This is key to my rationale. These buildings are neither. If anything they are very close cousins to the residential cookie cuttter designs that most people abhor. Perhaps not exact but definitely in the spirit of those simplistic, developer-friendly profitable designs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasonik View Post
    I would argue this complex needs to be landmarked just to guard against the inevitable call to reclad or paint or some such heinous superficial fix to improve the ugly towers or build upon their greenspace.
    Maintenance of the status quote should not be a rationale for landmarking.


    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    What are they seeing?
    Well I can tell you what most of them who do not live in NYC (including Ablarc and yourself) dont see and that is the experince of looking at them everyday or a few times a week (not a few times a year) and enduring their presence in this citys fabric. You guys love to romantisize pictures on the internet but you dont constantly have to walk past them and grumble at their sights cuz they look and feel so out of place in the context of their surroundings. And not only that but looking at how much better archtiecture has gotten since the 60's emphasizes their mediocrity. The same goes for a tower like Metlife, look at it everyday and constantly try to tune it out because it goes against everything that you can consider appealing.

  3. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    And any tower going up on that corner will disrupt the "pin wheel" lay out of the Silver Towers -- as a new tower will rise somewhat in line with the Tower on the SW part of the SIlver site.
    Accurate observation; here as at Society Hill, Pei's placement of the towers is precise and essential to their effect.

    The fix here is simple, however: rotate the new tower above the supermarket 90 degrees about its own vertical axis. With its long side running north-south it'll then be quite harmonious.

    Of course you can expect the surface treatment to be screwed up and unsympathetic. This is, after all, 2008.

  4. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    Well I can tell you what most of them who do not live in NYC (including Ablarc and yourself) dont see and that is the experince of looking at them everyday or a few times a week (not a few times a year) and enduring their presence in this citys fabric. You guys love to romantisize pictures on the internet but you dont constantly have to walk past them and grumble at their sights cuz they look and feel so out of place in the context of their surroundings. And not only that but looking at how much better archtiecture has gotten since the 60's emphasizes their mediocrity. The same goes for a tower like Metlife, look at it everyday and constantly try to tune it out because it goes against everything that you can consider appealing.
    I moved into Washington Square Village as they put the finishing touches on these towers. I was as enthralled by them then as I passed them daily as I am now. In fact, I would detour off LaGuardia Place to stand between the towers, and was even more thrilled later when they installed the Picasso. I'd take visitors through circuitously en route to Houston, and they never failed to be impressed. (It was the supermarket tht depressed me.)

    Out of place? To be sure. But so was (is) Washington Square Village and (come to think of it) McDougal Alley. In fact, is there really that much difference between "out of place" and "delightful surprise"?

    Not all places have to conform. New Yorkers especially could be aware of that fact, living in such a diverse place.

    I can't agree that architecture has gotten better since the 60's. Urbanism has, but not architecture. And the urbanism is still full of dogma --as you illustrate-- though the dogma has changed.

    And I completely disagree with your assessment of MetLife (I assume you mean the one that used to be PanAm).

    So, you see, there is room for a diversity of opinion on these matters, and you don't need to assume that your opinions are universally shared.

  5. #50
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    The fact of the matter is that these towers are not going anywhere anytime soon. For one, imagine the outrage it would cause if someone even hinted at displacing all those residents in them just so they can be redeveloped and in all places, like Greenwich Village?

    Not gonna happen.

    Therefore, landmarking them is really redundant. The other argument is on whether the open space will get redeveloped and as someone has already pointed out, some of those spaces will get redeveloped regardless.

    With that said, this is really an example of how the landmarking process has become a tool for both sides (see I'm not being one-sided) to further their agendas. It has become less about art, architecture and more about what it can do to help each side's cause.

    I don't see the urgency to protect this complex since not much will happen to them other than what will happen anyway even if they were landmarked.

  6. #51

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    The fix here is simple, however: rotate the new tower above the supermarket 90 degrees about its own vertical axis. With its long side running north-south it'll then be quite harmonious.

    Of course you can expect the surface treatment to be screwed up and unsympathetic. This is, after all, 2008.
    The first statement is true but unless the facade treatement is flawless then its a waste of time. One only needs to look at Perry West to see that.

  7. #52
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    I did some deep digging and came up with some old photos (mostly circa late 20s / early 30s, after the IND Line had been cut under Houston Street) of the blocks where the Silver Towers & WSV now stand. Most of the buildings in these shots came down in the late 1950s ...

    1. The north side of Houston Street looking west from near Broadway (the Cable Building is seen at the far right)

    2. The NW corner of Mercer & Houston (current site of Coles Athletic Center)

    3. Wooster Street between Houston & Bleecker (site of the SW Silver Tower)

    4. No. 113 - 123 Bleecker, between Greene & Wooster (site of the southern block of WSV)

    5. BONUS Shot: A Berenice Abbott photo of a shanty town that grew up along the south side of Houston near Mercer
    after lots were cleared to make way for construction of the IND Subway under Houston Street

    ***
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  8. #53
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    So, you see, there is room for a diversity of opinion on these matters, and you don't need to assume that your opinions are universally shared.
    I never assumed anything. I was stating my personal and exclusive point of view of the nature of some folks' observations.

    I uderstand that both you and fabrizio both lived here but that is where my point of architecture getting better comes along (which we disagree about). Amidst all the new developments that were coming along and you saw everyday during the epoch that you lived here these towers could have been on the positve side of the contrast. Whereas many of the new towers that I see everyday today (and consider better) completely minimize their design.....all of this of course IMO

  9. #54
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Trepye: Do you honestly believe, from an engineering / architecture POV, that the Silver Towers are no better than the majority of residential towers built around NYC?

    I pass between these towers several times each week -- often taking different paths across the site.

    It's hard for me to understand how anyone could pass close by the Silver Towers on a regular basis and fail to recognize -- not to say like -- the expertise & skill that is apparent, not only in the execution of the construction but in the layout of the site as a whole (despite some of the indignities which various aspects of the complex have suffered over the years).

  10. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    Well I can tell you what most of them who do not live in NYC (including Ablarc and yourself) dont see and that is the experince of looking at them everyday or a few times a week (not a few times a year) and enduring their presence in this citys fabric. You guys love to romantisize pictures on the internet but you dont constantly have to walk past them and grumble at their sights cuz they look and feel so out of place in the context of their surroundings. And not only that but looking at how much better archtiecture has gotten since the 60's emphasizes their mediocrity. The same goes for a tower like Metlife, look at it everyday and constantly try to tune it out because it goes against everything that you can consider appealing.
    When I lived in NYC, I experienced looking at them often. And I still get a thrill seeing them. But then again, I also get a thrill seeing hand sewn button holes and perfectly set sleeves.

  11. #56
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    You forgot Vikki Carr!

  12. #57
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    Lofter, those old photos are fantastic, I always wondered what Houston Street looked like prior to the Razing, thanks. It's no surprise that it was once far superior from a pedestrian's perspective. The worst stretch today is the entrance to the underground parking garage right out onto Houston Street.

  13. #58

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    I moved into Washington Square Village as they put the finishing touches on these towers. I was as enthralled by them then as I passed them daily as I am now.
    My psychiatrist lived in the Silver Towers.

  14. #59

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    1960's + Greenwich Village +psychiatrist + Silver Towers + Picasso sculpture = very cool

    ---

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Dm9SnuH_CN4

    --

  15. #60

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    I hope these towers are landmarked so that one day decades from now when all the low income housing projects have been torn down these still remain as an example of towers-in-a-park that worked. After all, in the 1960's the city was tearing down buildings left and right that we today cherish, but we only cherish them because they have stood the test of time.

    Give these towers 20 more years and people will be happy they are still there.

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