Starchitecture Visits Lower Manhattan

Today Nicolai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic for the New York Times, published a glowing review of 8 Spruce Street, Frank Gehry's new high-rise residential tower in lower Manhattan.

I disagree with his review for a number of reasons that I don't really want to get into - suffice to say that I find the Gehry style of asymmetrical, wavy metal plates overlapping and interlocking with each other to be whimsical, exciting, and, frankly, fun and unique to look at on a short, squat, fundamentally square building like a (to pick a random example) a museum. Extended to 76 stories, I think it looks clunky and garish. I also think Ouroussoff too easily glosses over the politics of the building - it's kind of obnoxious that part of the deal forcing a public school into the base didn't also insure that the school would be designed by Gehry. Whatever.

Mr. O does make a good argument, however, for the building as an antidote to the conservative and businesslike high rises that predominate in the area. There is something to be said for difference. Ironically, he calls 8 Spruce the best high rise in New York since Eero Saarinen's CBS Building in went up in 1965. CBS was indeed a very well designed, classy and understated modernist skyscraper. It is also the model for many of the dull and conservative downtown high rises that O derides.

Anyway, in the interest of pointless list making and needless comparisons, the best post-war 60s high rise in New York is definitely Norman Foster's Hearst Tower (off to the right).

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