Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 26, 2011
This is our first critique of a building…..Last week Jamestown Properties made a presentation to Community Board 4 showcasing the proposed addition to the rooftop of Chelsea Market which involved an additional 90,000sf for a boutique hotel and about 250,000sf for office space. While I think it is generally unfair to critique anything till it is fully built, this building design caught my attention and I could not remain silent.
It is obvious that the developer has asked for much more square footage than he expects to get (a tactic used by most developers) as this procedure was part of requesting additional buildiable square footage not currently allowable in the FAR and zoning. While most will think I am writing this because of the scale of the building alone, let me stop you immediately. It is true that an addition this size is probably inappropriate for this location, and that yes, it will block the views of some apartments at The Caledonia that are currently getting record-breaking pricing because of their views (although the building and location are so strong, I would doubt they de-value much). I believe in change, and building big buildings in a city like New York, even in West Chelsea, even close to the Highline Park. I want to address the lousy design.
Studios Architecture came up with this mess, and what a mess it is: In its horrific attempts at being contextual, the end result is a design so vulgar that it rates as one of the worst messes we have seen in a long time. The combination of 101 Warren-esque facade intertwined with a flat glass Trump-Soho-esque growth atop a somewhat-Hearst-esque base all piled on top of a classic brick warehouse has to be one of the worst ‘designer’ attempts I have seen in quite a while. So instead of arguing how to improve this design, I suggest starting from scratch. This is a mess, pure and simple.
My suggestion to the developers: Take another look at the neighborhood and see what works and what does not. If you want to be bold and daring and modernist, that could work, but only if its done the right way. With authorative style and conviction. If you want to be contextual, maybe its time for a walk around the neighborhood to understand what it really looks like.
The lousy design of additions on top of beautiful buildings (although the base building here does not really qualify….its just OK at best)is a bad tradition in Manhattan real estate that has to end. Think of all the hideous stucco/plasticy/bad-glassy penthouses built on top of beautiful buildings around the city, when if removed from the building and placed in a suburban setting would qualify as trailer-park architecture at best. This building’s addition is not the first culprit. Good design can add value not only to the neighborhood, but also to the development itself.
Back to the drawing boards!