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Thread: Silver Towers - by I.M. Pei

  1. #91

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    If these buildings are so great how come there's no mention of there fraternal twins at Kips Bay Plaza? These buildings have won awards too, like at the Silver Towers these awards were not time tested rather they were given after the buildings completion in an era of slum clearance, highways, and unadorned slab architecture. Living across from them I can attest that they are blight on the city both in planning and architecture. The east side of Second Avenue between 23rd Street and 34th Street dominated by public housing is the most desolate, cold, and unattractive stretch of 2nd Avenue in the City, comparing it to the walkups and interesting shops of the Village and Upper East Side and the skyscrapers of midtown. Architecture and planning are indelibly intertwine.

    Here's the siteplan:


    Between 23rd Street and 34th the east side of Manhattan past 2nd is essentially cut off from the city, I’d wager few here have crossed ways with these parts, for one there are no sidewalks in places, and where there are there is no retail, just the occasional building entrance to these towers in the park, NYU and Bellevue Hospitals. As you can see there is a nice sized park, but never you mind because unless you live here you will never have access to it. Its a playground for the rich or in this case the lucky few who live here, the rest are forced to look in through the fence that surrounds this project.



    A simple black fence, and what a view behind it. Luckily I don't have to walk this way with any sort of regularity, because its views like this that even on the nicest days makes the city an unlivable depressing place. You don’t have access but would you really want to when the view is of parked cars and a seemingly endless wall of concrete, with no differentiation to speak of except for a hodgepodge of blinds.



    Here's the view that residents enjoy, if it wasn't for the fence and total seclusion from the City no doubt this empty and barren passage would lend itself to crime. It certainly doesn’t lend itself anything communal.



    The aforementioned park. This is no Gramercy park; I don’t feel nearly as jealous that I cannot enjoy this space because I see that monstrosity sitting it in.

    If this too is great architecture, I don't want to see bad architecture.

    Here's some relevant reading for you, it mentions another architect you might have heard of and very well know could also have done no wrong:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/27/ma...wln_essay.html

  2. #92
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Having jumped in here rather late today it seems that a number folks who have failed to come up with a valid architectural / historical argument in opposition to Silver Towers (beyond, "They're ugly!") are eagerly dumping on Fabrizio, and going beyond a criticism of his reasoning for the Landmarking of Silver Towers and instead attacking him personally. Odd that Fabrizio is the one who is being called out for supposedly doing the same, when in fact he was bringing into question certain judgmental capabilities -- and not launching personal attacks.

    But back to Silver Towers:

    The question we have before us as NYers is what is the best way to deal with this superblock where the Silver Towers now stand.

    I suggest looking at the Landmarking issue for this site in a cold-blooded way. Certainly the Silver Towers do meet specific criteria which would allow them to pass muster required by LPC (influential, important architect, unique structure, emblematic of a time). Can the Landmarking process in this case be used to the betterment of NYC? I can argue both ways for these buildings.

    One argument is that Landmarking the three Towers and the land at the center of the block where they stand is worthwile. It would preserve Pei's creation while letting the east and west edges of the superblock be developed to the max.

    Another argument is to Landmark the entire superblock -- but this to me wreaks of anti-development / anti-NYU balderdash and has no basis in logic, art or business.

    A third argument is not to landmark any of the superblock and let re-development take place as NYU sees fit. Unfortunately NYU over the past few years has shown NO indication whatsoever of having much of an artistic eye. Nor does NYU display much common sense or concern for the common good. Given the boldness of the Silver Tower development, it seems that chances are slim that we'd end up with anything very satisfying if the option were to allow NYU to develop something new which would both integrate into the existing Towers while creating new and connected structures.

    A fourth and perhaps the best option would be to do a Moses -- clear this superblock and rethink the entire plot. NYU needs to develop & grow -- so they say and so the City seems to agree.

    This final choice ^ is my strongest argument against Landmarking. But the problem here is that the artistically challenged NYU gang would be the ones who are in charge of the design.

    I'm aware this choice is not based on "artistic" reasoning -- but is a cold-blooded assessment and compromise. And by taking that position it seems I've argued myself into the corner of "Do Not Landmark" (otherwise how could I advocate razing the entire block?).

    It's a conumdrum.

  3. #93

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    ARticles like these cited above always seem much too generalized (And the NYTimes mostly stinks). High rises themselves are not necessarily a problem, they can be luxury along some Gold Coast also, and inner city poverty blew up in diverse architecture in Harlem and Watts and many other places in the 60's -- as well as barricades in Paris and large avenues precisely to limit oddly shaped streets prone to insurgency and revolution. Anyways, there is some truth in anything often, but the problems of race and poverty and religion and drugs make the architectural problems really unimportant I would guess. Now if a million people are crammed together with no sunlight and no upkeep on the apartments and rampant crime and no police presence, you will have riots, certainly, even in the Taj Mahal.

  4. #94

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    Actually there was no rioting in Paris in the poor innercity.

  5. #95

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    Silver Towers (and Kips Bay) and it's concept of towers-in-the-park can not be compared to Le Corbusier's.

    There will be no rioting at these developments any time soon. They, like Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village, the developments behind Lincoln Center etc. are solidly upper middle class and successful. The only rioting might be over trying to find an apartment in one.

    http://www.kipsbaytowers.com/

    http://www.petercoopernyc.com/

  6. #96
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Actually the "rioting" was widespread in France ...

    Paris 1968

  7. #97

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    I was referring to the recent riots in 2005 which were limited to Paris’ tower in the park suburbs.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_ci...rest_in_France


  8. #98

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    Sorry, I was referring (and not being cute) to Baron Hausmann and the widening of streets in Paris, the laying down of Boulevards after the riots of 1848. There is an account of these by Baudelaire somewhere, he's drinking absinthe in a cafe while the riots are going on all around him and he doesn't give a **** about them or the politics, which is a perfect expression of anarchism. You could argue systematic dehumanized brutal architecture breeds anarchy, but you could also argue that weird streets and odd chaotic buildings also breeds anarchy. I am suspicious of all the money city planners of all stripes have made promising peace and getting their hands into the pot.

  9. #99

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    Muschamp in the Times:

    "Ms. Hadid has reached back even further in time but, again, to Le Corbusier. She proposes nothing less than our old friend and favorite postmodern enemy, the Towers in the Park. Entitled the Radiant City, the concept was presented by Le Corbusier in 1931. In the postwar years, it became the leading paradigm for urban renewal projects in the United States, where it became synonymous with the modern movement's ambition to engineer society."

    "It does not require a long memory to recall why both Corbusian models eventually came under attack. With both, the architect asserted a uniform control that all but eliminated urban diversity. They eliminated conventional streets and with them continuity with the surrounding urban fabric. They also eliminated the ''eyes on the street,'' the neighborhood self-policing that results from active street life. These powerful objections, raised by Jane Jacobs in 1960, went far toward discrediting modern architecture in the United States."

    "Times change. So do urban scale, the meaning of modernity and the relationship of cities to their past, including modernisms gone by. Not all towers-in-a-park designs were failures. A few, like Waterside on the East River and Silver Towers in Greenwich Village, contributed to the rich diversity of the cityscape."

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...=&pagewanted=2

  10. #100
    The Dude Abides
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    Waterside Plaza? Please. That place actually sucks. When you first pull up, it feels like you're entering the world's worst bus terminal. And as for how it's integrated into the city: it might as well be on its own island in the East River.

  11. #101

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    Waterside Plaza:

    Waterside Added to the Watch List of NYC Landmarks


    Waterside Plaza is included in the Municipal Art Society's Watch List of Future Landmarks. The Watch List, which is called 30 UNDER 30, is composed of thirty buildings built in the last thirty years. Because of their age, they not yet eligible for landmark status. According to the Society, today's buildings - which will be considered "historic" by future generations - must be monitored, or watched, now so that they will survive long enough to tell the story of the late 20th century.


    When it opened it drew rave reviews. Paul Goldenberger, then the architecture critic for the New York Times, praised the "visually exciting form" of the towers and said the complex "ennobles both the city and its riverfront." In 2001, architecture critic Herbert Muschamp described Waterside as a "great urban composition" that is "picturesque and historically informed."


    "People tend to overlook Waterside Plaza," said Muschap. The architects, Davis, Brody & Associates, successfully aspired to the stark geometric power of Louis Kahn's work, he said, "but the complex also recalls the towers of San Gimignano, the walled medieval town in Tuscany. In place of walls, it has the East River and the F.D.R. Drive, in a more stark geometric design artistically faithful to the urban concept. It is picturesque and historically informed" he said. "And if you drive along the F.D.R., the curve beneath the towers is awesome".

    The Municipal Art Society jury reviewed more than 150 buildings that were nominated to the Watch List by Society members, design professionals, and the public. They used a set of established criteria to judge the buildings based on their artistic, technological, historical, and canonic merits, and weighed the influence they had on design and culture in the city and worldwide. Landscapes, interiors, and master plans were not considered, but may be the subject of additional Watch List surveys conducted in the future.

    http://www.watersideplaza.com/waters...id=101&did=109

    ---

    IMHO: The towers are beautiful... but this kind of brutalism is not a taste that's easy or enjoyed by all. A couple of them would have been great, but the base and plaza are pretty awfull. Silver Towers are IMHO in a different class. The complex is smaller, almost delicate and the towers are exceptionally stylish.

  12. #102
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    This is getting very old.

  13. #103

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    Agreed.

    An intellectual conversation that's flowing beautifully discussing rare architectural points. A wonderful opportunity to learn about our modern epoch.

    Let's lock it.

    --

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juOQhTuzDQ0

  14. #104
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post

    Let's lock it.
    Awwww, ya big lug.

    We don' wanna read nuttin'.

    Why doncha just post more sad pics of long-gone buildings. And shuddup!


  15. #105
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    I've spent a few nights at Waterside Plaza. I briefly considered renting out an apartment there (through a connection) next year, at a dirt cheap price. The apartment itself was dreadful. And the outdoor environment was, how should I say this? Unwelcoming at best.

    I won't say the same things about Silver Towers, because I'm simply not as familiar with the complex. But praising Waterside Plaza really is beyond me. What is good about this?











    Just goes to show you: sometimes the "experts" really are just blowing smoke into the wind.

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