View Poll Results: Do you like the final design of Beekman Place?

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Thread: 8 Spruce Street - Beekman Tower - by Frank Gehry

  1. #4351
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    Forgive me for being the skunk at the garden party, but this building is shaping up to be a major disappointment. First of all, has anyone noticed (or even cares) that from the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, 8 Spruce St. eclipses the Woolworth Building? This has long been obvious (see post 3904 on page 261 of this thread), but it has prompted little – if any – comment.

    This is bad enough, but there is much more. The most important design conceit (uh, I mean “concept”) of 8 Spruce - that its skin is somehow extruded so as to appear billowing and rippling – has been very poorly executed. The southern façade is flat, obviously because the billowing extruded forms were eliminated to save money (see posts 4201-4202, p. 281 of this thread). From the south, the cheap-jack result looks like nothing more than a very banal post WW II wedding cake office building churned out by Emery Roth & Sons on Park Avenue in the 1950’s, or 2 Broadway before it was reclad – only much, much taller, and proportioned with all the grace of a gawky teenager.

    Then there is the off-putting nature of the extruded forms themselves. Pasta makers extrude dough; biological organisms extrude waste. Architects are supposed to give form to space and materials, yet by all appearances, Mr. Gehry has abandoned this role for something else entirely. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

    Taste changes, and fashion with it - or is it the other way around? If perhaps we can call the work of Mies or Corbu Classical Modernism, and the buildings of Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei Baroque Modernism, today’s architecture exemplified by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Thom Mayne, (gee – this reads like a Herbert Muschamp list of favored starchitects, doesn’t it?) could equally be called Rococo Modernism. And I think 8 Spruce St. hints that it is just about ready to go out of style, and not a moment too soon. A city stuffed full of buildings like this would cause people to crave right angles, simple geometry, and classical proportions, because their community had become little more than a hideous pile of cacophonous junque.
    Last edited by ttk; August 6th, 2010 at 05:38 PM.

  2. #4352
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttk View Post

    ... there is the off-putting nature of the extruded forms themselves. Pasta makers extrude dough; biological organisms extrude waste ... I'll leave it at that.
    LOL best laugh of today (so far)

  3. #4353

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    Quote Originally Posted by ttk View Post
    1 A city stuffed full of buildings like this would cause people to crave right angles, simple geometry, and classical proportions, because their community had become little more than a hideous pile of cacophonous junque.
    Let us know when the city fills up with non-rectilinear buildings.

    You might have forecast the same thing 50 years ago when the Guggenheim was built.

  4. #4354
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    Let us know when the city fills up with non-rectilinear buildings.

    You might have forecast the same thing 50 years ago when the Guggenheim was built.
    It certainly achieves one thing; discussion. That is what art does, the good and sometimes the bad and in-between. Love it or hate it, at least it adds an architectural element to the skyline that can be discussed in a similar vein which is much preferable than another non-descript box.

  5. #4355

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    I think this would be an issue if there were a lot more buildings like this one out there. But right now there aren't. And if you stand at the Brooklyn promenade you see hideous, hulking rectilinear forms on the lower Manhattan waterfront. Beekman is a balm in this context. I think when Robert Stern's tower gets built nearby Woolworth, it'll balance out that group of towers.

  6. #4356

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    Quote Originally Posted by ttk View Post
    Taste changes, and fashion with it - or is it the other way around? If perhaps we can call the work of Mies or Corbu Classical Modernism, and the buildings of Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei Baroque Modernism, today’s architecture exemplified by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Thom Mayne, (gee – this reads like a Herbert Muschamp list of favored starchitects, doesn’t it?) could equally be called Rococo Modernism. And I think 8 Spruce St. hints that it is just about ready to go out of style, and not a moment too soon. A city stuffed full of buildings like this would cause people to crave right angles, simple geometry, and classical proportions, because their community had become little more than a hideous pile of cacophonous junque.
    The classification of Mies or Corbu as Classical Modernism is apt enough; but could also be well described as ‘formal modernism’ as opposed what I would classify as the ‘expressive modernism’ or even ‘romantic modernism’ of Ghery, Hadid, Mayne.

    Any more than those two stylistic distinctions; Classic Modern vs. Romantic Modern, or possibly Formal Modern vs. Expressive Modern, is just not clearly recognizable enough: in my view anyway.

    Is see why you might include ‘rococo modernism’ , but that term seems to be just a bit too nuanced to be of any real descriptive value.

    Interesting insight into categorizing what was for me (until now) an otherwise monolithic ‘modernism’ : no offense but I will be using the terms formal vs. expressive when referring to the stylistic distinctions between the ‘two’ modernisms. There is just more of an economy & clarity to those descriptors: besides I am a big fan of the policy known as KISS - Keepin It Sweet & Simple. (LOL)

    Cheers
    Last edited by infoshare; August 6th, 2010 at 03:47 PM.

  7. #4357

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    rococo? you dont mean hippity hop? If you have any complaints about downtown it should be about that hideous verizon building

  8. #4358
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    ...or the multitude of ungainly Post War boxes, ugly red brick housing complexes or brutalist government/institution buildings.

    Of course people don't complain about those just the ones that try to be architecturally better than those.

    It isn't Gehry's fault that this particular site blocks the view of the Woolworth. Furthermore, it Gehry and/or Ratner didn't build this, some other people would have built something here eventually and the Woolworth would be blocked anyway.

  9. #4359
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    Ugly buildings abound. Precious little of what has been built after 1945 has any merit. 8 Spruce St. was supposed to be better. I'm sorry, it isn't.

  10. #4360
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    This building is not ugly. Far, far, far, far, far from it. You lose all credibility if that's what you think.

    If New York had more buildings on the same high level of design as this, it would be the most beautiful in the world.

  11. #4361

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    Right and besides any building would block the view of the Wolworth depending on your vantage point. If you can see it from there then move and bingo there it is.

  12. #4362

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    The views of both towers from the Manhattan Bridge and Bk Bridge Park are incredible.
    The tower gets me giddy for the WTC towers.

  13. #4363

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    Quote Originally Posted by ttk View Post
    If perhaps we can call the work of Mies or Corbu Classical Modernism, and the buildings of Louis Kahn and I.M. Pei Baroque Modernism, today’s architecture exemplified by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Thom Mayne, (gee – this reads like a Herbert Muschamp list of favored starchitects, doesn’t it?) could equally be called Rococo Modernism.
    Quote Originally Posted by infoshare View Post
    The classification of Mies or Corbu as Classical Modernism is apt enough; but could also be well described as ‘formal modernism’ as opposed what I would classify as the ‘expressive modernism’ or even ‘romantic modernism’ of Ghery, Hadid, Mayne.

    Any more than those two stylistic distinctions; Classic Modern vs. Romantic Modern, or possibly Formal Modern vs. Expressive Modern, is just not clearly recognizable enough: in my view anyway.

    Is see why you might include ‘rococo modernism’ , but that term seems to be just a bit too nuanced to be of any real descriptive value.
    Every academic discipline claims to be somewhat scientific --whether it’s psychology or literary criticism. Even art history makes this claim; and credence is paid to its likelihood by the fact that art dealers pay for and make money from art historians’ judgments. A little scientific nugget every art historian knows is that today’s clever counterfeit is tomorrow’s obvious fake.

    As in history itself, the science is thin but not nonexistent. There’s even a law –you know, like the ‘Law of Gravity’ or the ‘Law of Supply and Demand’. Its formulator –one Heinrich Woelfflin—seems to have neglected to formally name his law, but de did devote several hundred pages of teutonic scholarship to demonstrating its existence. In a tome called Principles of Art History, he demonstrated that art unfolded sequentially in an order that was natural and inevitable --like the stages of a flower from bud to dried-out seedpod.

    He identified three stages that were always logically present, one after the other, in the development of an artistic progression. He called them “primitive”, “classical”, and “baroque.” He also identified a subphase between classical and baroque, and he called it “mannerism”. And finally he nodded toward the wretched infatuation with hypercomplexity of form (nothing left to do!) that leads an artistic cycle to its degeneracy. You can call this “rococo”; it’s decoration without real formal or cultural rigor. All three later phases/subphases are obviously romantic.

    If circumstances favor it, the cycle can re-start, as with say, the neo-classicism of Ledoux and David.

    Later cycles tend to be shorter; not much left to re-invent.

  14. #4364

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    If circumstances favor it, the cycle can re-start, as with say, the neo-classicism of Ledoux and David.

    Later cycles tend to be shorter; not much left to re-invent.
    To me, the future of Architectural design seems pretty obvious at this point : it will all be variations on the ‘modernist’ theme we now see all around us today.

    The works of designers such as Gehry, Hadid and Mayne being generally referred to as rococo/expressive/romantic/curvy contemporary architecture; and the works such as Maki, Mies, Corbu, Rogers being referred to as formal/classic/rectilinear contemporary architecture.

    So, not sure I can agree that we will (or even can) have a ‘return’ to previous architectural styles: only more attempts to integrate new technology, materials, solar panels, sod roofs and such into a somewhat cohesive and reasonably attractive architectural whole.

    It helps to maintin a clear distinction between the Fine Arts and the Applied arts: the applied/industrial arts such as product design & architecture will forever be required to follow the demands of the ‘end user’, ‘technology’, ‘cost’, ect. Architecture is in the final analysis a science/engineering/product design activity; the Art/Aesthetics is a secondarey ‘value added’ feature – so ulitmately all artistic classification schemes are purely arbitrar ay and academic.

    I know all this amounts only to an over simplification: but I think most will get the general idea.

  15. #4365
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    Interesting observations, ablarc at no. 4365 and infoshare at no. 4366.

    This skunk at the garden party would like to tell everyone a true story. My grandfather was a civil engineer with the City from 1922 to 1961. He spent his entire career with the City Comptroller, and worked in the Municipal Building, eventually rising to be Chief Engineer in the Comptroller's Office, which I have since learned was a position of some responsibility way back when.

    My grandfather was also an artist, who studied art at Columbia and painted, and had a deep interest in architecture , which he naturally imparted to me - we were rather close and fond of each other. Born in 1898, his aesthetic sense crystallized in the 1920's, when stripped classicism was the cutting edge of graphic arts and the buildings he worked on. (By the way, the best example of stripped classicism which I can think of is the Folger Library in Washington, DC.) This was the aesthetic he preferred, and held very strong opinions about certain buildings which preceded it.

    One Christmas when I was around 12, I was given my very own copy of Nathan Silver's "Lost New York." Among many, many other buildings, I was struck by the destruction of the old Post Office in City Hall Park. How could such a fantastic structure be destroyed as a WPA project? It was by Alfred B. Mullett, the Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury in the 1870's, who also designed the Old State, War, and Navy Building in Washington, which has become one of the Capital's favorite landmarks.

    Grandpa offered his unvarnished opinion the minute I asked: "It was hideous. I watched them tear it down on my lunch breaks. Everyone was delighted to see that enormous ugly thing disappear." Curious, and a little bit hurt because I liked the Post Office, I asked him about the other great vanished buildings around City Hall: on the Tribune Building, "we were glad to see it go. It was a grimy, red brick mess with this filthy narrow atrium that was supposed to light up the interior - but didn't;" on the N.Y. World Building "even uglier, if you can believe it - pink marble and yellow brick with a gold dome. Everybody knew Old Man Pulitzer was crazy to begin with, but this thing confirmed it." Unsurprisingly, Grandpa detested and wanted to tear down the Tweed Courthouse, and I'm very sorry to report, the State Capitol in Albany, too.

    From our perspective, and I am happy to agree, my grandfather's opinions were simply wrong. But he was a young man when these structures were 40 and 50 years old. They had been out of fashion for decades, and as any historic preservationist will tell you, they were at their point of greatest vulnerability for destruction. Across the country, people simply hated buildings like these, and WPA and "urban renewal" money was the perfect excuse to tear 'em down.

    This seems very strange to our eyes, but until the 1960's you could also buy museum-worthy Hudson River School paintings for a few hundred dollars (if they had not yet ended up in the garbage, which tragically was often the case) because they were out of fashion too. One reason why I think people loathed these buildings was because they were associated with the political machines which grafted onto their construction and stole rivers of public money as they were built, but that's another story.

    Back to 8 Spruce, and what I like to call Rococo Modernism. It is inevitable, dear forum posters, readers, and lurkers, inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun, that these buildings will go out of style, and when they do, I am willing to predict that they will do so WITH A THUD. Their snarky champion, Herbert Muschamp, has long been in his grave. Whatever virtues they may have now, will be seen as vices later. The way these buildings intentionally grab our attention today with their self-conscious, in-your-face novelty, frenetic animation, and deliberate otherness, will for our grandchildren have all the charm of someone afflicted with a Histrionic Personality Disorder that has overstayed his welcome. People will come to resent the fact that the once awe-inspiring view of the Woolworth Building from the Brooklyn Bridge promenade has been obscured by an enormous, silvery extruded mess.

    Once they go out of fashion, it will take a very long time before they are appreciated again. As Noah Cross, the character played by John Huston in "Chinatown" memorably observed, "'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough." The only unanswerable question is which one of Mr. Gehry's buildings will remain standing until then.
    Last edited by ttk; August 7th, 2010 at 05:49 PM.

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