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Thread: Here, Preservation Meets Imagination - Corbin Building

  1. #1

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination - Corbin Building

    July 24, 2003

    Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    By DAVID W. DUNLAP

    IT won't be enough to say, "Don't tear it down."

    The redevelopment of Lower Manhattan is a challenge to the preservation movement in New York, which will have to shed a certain reactionary image — warranted or not — if it hopes to save the buildings that give downtown its sense of place. Imagination will be needed to find a meaningful role for these small 19th- and early 20th-century structures. Otherwise, preservationists will risk being identified as impediments to revitalization.

    The Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund is acting pre-emptively to ensure that the 114-year-old Corbin Building is not eliminated by plans for the Fulton Street Transit Center, which may take over its site.

    Instead, the fund is offering a plan of its own, by the inventive firm SHoP/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli, that would preserve the Corbin Building's main facades on Broadway and John Streets, with tiers of bold arches, and link the old structure to the new center through a membranous, almost transparent, party wall.

    The fund also engaged a highly regarded engineering firm, Robert Silman Associates, which is confident that the Corbin Building and the transit center can coexist structurally.

    The point is not to produce an actual blueprint for the site. SHoP is not even among those firms under consideration by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which may designate an architect for the transit center next week.

    What the preservation fund hopes to do is build a constituency before it is too late. "We're all trying to get out of running, screaming, at bulldozers at the moment of demolition and causing things to be turned upside down that have been expensively planned," said Frank E. Sanchis III, executive director of the Municipal Art Society, which is a member of the fund. "We're trying to get in there with something constructive and put them on notice well in advance."

    In recent years, the society has commissioned its own studies of how the former T.W.A. Flight Center at Kennedy International Airport could be reused as an airline terminal.

    No decision has been reached on the fate of the Corbin Building. The owner, the Collegiate Church Corporation, is "absolutely neutral" about the outcome, said J. Thomas Liddle Jr., chairman of the consistory that governs the church.

    And the M.T.A. has reached no conclusion, said Tom Kelly, the press secretary. "We're evaluating the situation and the physical requirements that would be needed for the operation of the transit center," he said, adding that all the architects under consideration have ideas about how the Corbin Building might be incorporated.

    The $750 million center is to become the hub of a sprawling network of stations, linking the A, C, J, M, Z, 2, 3, 4 and 5 subway lines and, through an underground concourse, the E, N and R lines. Its principal feature will be a great hall on Broadway between Fulton and John Streets.

    At one end of that site is the Corbin Building, designed by Francis H. Kimball and completed in 1889 for Austin Corbin, also developed hotels in Coney Island and consolidated several insolvent rail lines into the Long Island Rail Road. The eight-story building was one of the tallest in New York in its day and presaged the first generation of true skyscrapers.

    "It really is something we saw as an anchor to any type of new infrastructure," said Christopher R. Sharples, a partner in SHoP. The broad arches at the base would make perfect entrances to a train station, he said. And the new hall could have a roof garden and a curtain glass wall as intricately detailed as its old neighbor. "We're almost bringing the whole idea of the Corbin Building into the 21st century," Mr. Sharples said.

    PUTTING that idea on the table required images.

    "People who aren't devotees — as we are — of fixing up old buildings, you could tell that they couldn't see it," said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which also belongs to the fund. "We're not saying this is the only thing to do there, but it really helps to see it."

    Imagery matters tremendously in the debate over city planning.

    For instance, the Friends of the High Line group has been canny in its use of evocative photographs and provocative design proposals to stoke interest in salvaging and reusing the elevated railroad viaduct on the far West Side. (A hearing on that subject is scheduled today before the Surface Transportation Board.)

    And it might be argued that the plans for the World Trade Center site presented last summer by Beyer Blinder Belle suffered in the public eye because the buildings were shown on the models as blank masses.

    "We were so heavily criticized by everybody for the blandness of the schemes," John Belle recalled in a March interview. "We said a few times, crying in our cups, that it's amazing what a negative difference white cardboard made. If those had only been some glassy, shimmering material."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company


    Fulton Street Transit Center

  2. #2

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    July 29, 2003

    Preserving the Corbin Building

    A new downtown district will arise at the bottom of Manhattan when the World Trade Center site is redeveloped. But that new section of New York must coexist with the very oldest part of the city. Whatever goes up at and around ground zero must fit into the broader context of Lower Manhattan. In a city that often seems to be overly enamored with the new, the redevelopment must respect the old. There is no better place to start than the Corbin Building at 11 John Street.

    The Corbin Building stands at one end of the site, along Broadway between Fulton and John Streets, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes to build a $750 million transit hub that will knot together a dozen of the subway lines that pass through Lower Manhattan. Anyone who knows the present warren of tunnels at Fulton Street knows how desirable a new transit center would be. It would be easy, in the spirit of wholesale renovation, simply to knock down the Corbin Building and build a transit center that looks more toward ground zero for inspiration than toward the old city of New York. But the Corbin Building, an elegant nine-story structure designed by Francis H. Kimball and completed in 1889, is worth preserving.

    From an engineering perspective, there is nothing to prevent the M.T.A. from incorporating the facade of the Corbin Building into the new transit center. From an aesthetic and historical perspective, there is everything to recommend it. It would provide a seamless integration of old and new.

    To its credit, the M.T.A. has asked the architects who are competing to design the new transit center to consider the fate of the Corbin Building and not automatically assume that it will be torn down. We hope that the M.T.A. will choose a design with the most vibrant and inventive vision for preservation.

    We have all concentrated intently on what will be built at the center of ground zero, and for good reason. But the measure of that redevelopment will also be what happens at its edges. Keeping the Corbin Building — making it an inherent part of the transit experience of many New Yorkers — would be an excellent example of the possibilities that lie ahead.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  3. #3

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    Some images from http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%2...et/fulton.html


    Quite Richardsonian






    Seems they're looking for tenants, interested?

  4. #4
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    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    Looks kinda deteriorated. *It could certainly do with a bit of restoration work.

  5. #5

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    Seems like a good combination, but I want to see renderings of what the hub would look like with the Corbin.

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    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    There was a sketch of the concept in one of the two Times articles Christian posted. *It was pretty much the same glass box, except that the Corbin comprised the entire southern facade of the above-ground structure.

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    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    How come the building 2 over to the left is not being mentioned as protectable? *

  8. #8

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    I agree the new station should be cantilevered between the Corbin Building and the other old building on the left. What makes one historical and not the other, they look awfully similar to me.

  9. #9
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    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    They both could use a scrubbing.

  10. #10

    Default Here, Preservation Meets Imagination

    The Corbin building is prized for being an fine early example of the use of architectural terra cotta.

    Some more pictures and notes about it can be found here:

    http://www.nycjpg.com/2003/pages/0802.html

  11. #11

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    October 3, 2003

    M.T.A. to Include 19th Century Building in Downtown Transit Hub

    By DAVID W. DUNLAP

    The gateway to Lower Manhattan's 21st-century transit hub may be through the Renaissance Revival arches of an ornate 19th-century office tower.

    In planning the enormous Fulton Street Transit Center on Broadway, between Fulton and John Streets, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to preserve the 115-year-old Corbin Building at 11 John Street and, if it proves possible, incorporate it into the station.

    "Our new transit center and downtown's historic architecture are both important to the future success of Lower Manhattan," Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's chairman, said yesterday in a statement. "So we are pleased to work with preservationists and the community to design the transit hub in a way that can preserve the Corbin Building."

    Besides saving a notably handsome work by the inventive architect Francis H. Kimball, the decision signals that historical structures will be seriously considered in downtown redevelopment. Preservationists and neighbors have worried that the push to rebuild Lower Manhattan might claim many of the smaller and older buildings that give the area its distinctive character.

    Bernadette Castro, the state parks commissioner and historic preservation officer, called the Corbin Building an outstanding example of Renaissance Revival architecture and praised the M.T.A.'s effort "to recognize and incorporate it into the overall design" of the Fulton Street station.

    The nine-story Corbin Building has stood in particularly high profile because it occupies part of the site on which the M.T.A. is planning a transit hub intended finally to bring some order to the ganglia of subway platforms serving the A, C, J, M, Z, 2, 3, 4 and 5 subway lines.

    The Corbin Building was highlighted by the World Monuments Fund in its recently released list of the 100 most-endangered cultural heritage sites around the world. It was also identified as being at risk by a coalition called the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund in its list of some 300 historical sites, most of which are unprotected by landmark status.

    "It didn't take long to see Corbin as No. 1 on that list," said Robert B. Tierney, the chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Because it is not a landmark, he said, the question was how to save it.

    Mr. Tierney said he decided to forgo the process of a formal landmark designation because of the time involved and the fact that the M.T.A., as a state agency, could demolish a structure with landmark status anyway.

    Instead, he initiated discussions, negotiations and site visits that led up to a meeting about a month ago with Mr. Kalikow.

    Working with Mr. Tierney and Ms. Castro and in doing its own research, the M.T.A. concluded that the Corbin Building was architecturally significant, William M. Wheeler, the agency's director of special project development and planning, said yesterday.

    Only 20 feet wide on Broadway, but 160 feet long on John Street, the Corbin Building looks something like a Roman aqueduct with French Renaissance flourishes, arches over arches over arches. Though the ground floor has been badly altered, the upper floors, except for a chiropractor's sign, are remarkably intact. Under a sooty blanket are russet-colored bricks and terra cotta. Crouching griffins and grotesque masks greet visitors at the entrance.

    The building's developer, Austin Corbin, also consolidated several insolvent rail lines into the Long Island Rail Road, a slight but intriguing transportation connection that preservationists emphasized to the M.T.A.

    "The historic community has said to us that there are places all around the world where old and new have been mixed successfully," Mr. Wheeler said, "where you can balance meeting transportation needs in a modern way and at the same time respect the historic nature of the area you're working in.

    "They're right."

    The architect of the Fulton Street Transit Center is Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners, a British firm whose projects include the Waterloo International Terminal in London. The engineers are Ove Arup & Partners.

    Mr. Wheeler said there was not yet a design for the Lower Manhattan transit center because the project is still going through an environmental impact study. He said that document should be complete this winter.

    "We won't have a picture of the project until sometime next year," he said.

    But he added that it was possible that the Corbin Building might be incorporated into the transit center and not simply stand alongside it.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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    A good move. New York has some great buildings that incorporate historic structures. I'm looking forward to seeing this develop. A victory for both preservation and new development!

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    I'm not so sure that they should incorporate it. Looking at the architect's other designs, it seems like a stretch to add this building to it. I think it should stay but be seperate.

    Its interesting that Corbin was the LIRR consolidator and that this building may be on the site where lower Manhattan is linked to the island.

  14. #14

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    If done right, it could look snazzy -- It makes me think of a miniature 19th-century railroad station, with a brick facade in front of a metal train shed. Of course, this would be approached differently. The point they could pull it off.

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    I read this wrong. I didn't realize that it was going to be part of the *Fulton St.* transit station as opposed to the transit hub.

    I hope they make it part of this station. I think its a great idea in that context.

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