Month: September 2014

Old Gotham Returns

Walker Tower

(The Chelsea Beetle, New York, NY. 2014)

An interesting phenomenon is occurring over the New York skyline; The return of The Old Gothic & Art Deco Style, made popular during the 20’s and 30’s.

Most notable are the new buildings going up at 30 Park Place (By Robert A.M. Stern) and the Gothic Revival addition to Ralph Thomas Walkers’ infamous Verizon Buildings in Manhattan’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods. Of the two, The Chelsea Beetle makes a more notable appearance due to it’s height and sizeable addition to his existing structure, crafted in a similar style as the original by the Architecture firm Cetra/CRI Architects.

As an addition, and partial imitation of an existing building, The Chelsea Beetle appears to be a success in an Urban environment which is often littered with cheap copies of style. From a distance (and up close) the details of Art Deco Ornament have been carried forth with careful attention. The Beetle’s top is adorned with a slightly taller Bell Tower, and capped with four tapered antennae, perhaps a nod to the Communications history of the earlier building’s past?



(The Chelsea Beetle in profile, New York, NY. Photo by Greg Gordon Canaras. 2014)

Turning South into the Lower Financial District of Manhattan, we see 30 Park Place rising against the skyline. Crafted in a similar Deco Style by the architect Robert A.M Stern, albeit much taller, the tower is meant to evoke visions of Manhattan’s early 20th Century Grandeur; Another imitation which seeks to fulfill a void of sorts. This Void is the lack of quality in The Urban Form, and as quality is subjective, it commonly refers to a level of “appropriateness” as to how a structure serves its inhabitants, and in turn the greater City at large.


(30 Park Place by Robert A.M. Stern. Under Construction. New York, NY. 2014)

For some reason, these imitations, much like 15 Central Park West (another Stern Building) evoke a quiet confidence in a New York which is both progressive yet seeks to hold true to its Roots. We love the established buildings which are the Cornerstone’s of The City; The Chrysler Building and The Empire State, similar in style to the time. The Chelsea Beetle and 30 Park Place fulfill a Historical spot in Our City’s collective mind; one which is moving ever so swiftly forward…with a backward glance to The Past.


The Central Park Spire


(Rendering of The Central Park Spire, New York, NY. Under Construction. 2014)

The Urban Critic: As far as the new Super-Tall Towers go, popping up in and around The City, the Central Park Spire looks to be on the side of The Spectacular. Anchoring the corner of Southwest Central Park and adjacent to Columbus Circle and the recently constructed One 57 luxury tower, this one tops them all at a whopping 1775 Feet at the tip of its Spire. Designed by the Chicago architects Gordon Gill and Adrian Smith, the tower brings a bit of International flair and understated muscularity to an area which respects a bit of restraint. It’s image, at least in renderings, brings to mind a more updated Sears Tower, our favorite Mid-Century neighbor in The Heartland.

Cantilever Tower_3

(Earlier rendering of The Central Park Spire next to The Art Students League Building)

Refined and updated for the New York scene, the tower sports a cantilever which looms over the Art Students League of New York structure, a late 1800’s building with impressive facade facing 57th Street. The League sold it’s air rights in a transaction called an Air Rights Transfer which effectively grants a portion of the sky above the League to the tower (about 20 feet) while rendering the rest undevelopable. From some perspectives, this is a violation of the sacred space above The League. From other perspectives, this deal secures the future of the building from the wrecking ball.

Turning back to The Spire; This addition will add yet another exclamation point to the Southern end of Central Park. In a race to climb higher, in a City which seems a bit insatiable in this matter, The Spire looks to In-Spire future generations as a building which achieves its height with a respect toward proportion. Let’s hope that the actual result will live up to the Towers’ potential both as a retail anchor of Central Park South and as a future New York Icon glimmering on the Skyline.

Map Locator for The Central Park Spire: Click Here

Between Metropolis and The Land


(Container Village, New Jersey. 2014. Image by Greg Gordon Canaras)

On the outskirts of New York, On the Jersey Side, reside stacks of colorful boxes. Shipping containers, at first glance appear as buildings along the din roll of the highway. Spontaneous Architecture brought about by the passing of commerce. These structures for transport invite ones curiosity about the use of “The Modular” unit in the fabric of The City.

This subject, highlighted in our prior post “Modular New York” explored the concept and its potential as a building type in our Urban Landscape. As an architecture which is flexible and temporary, the idea of the container which serves as an environment for human habitation has been readily explored; most notably by the UK based company Urban Space Management and the construction of Container City’s 1 & 2 on the outskirts of London.


Container City II, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London. Photo by Urban Space Management

Between Metropolis and The Land lie spaces of semi-permanence; Landscapes rarely viewed as places of Spontaneous Architecture. And as the dense core of Our City eventually pushes outward, into these spaces of the in-between Docklands, perhaps the use of this modular unit may become accepted as a common sight. This fleeting landscape viewed from the car, colorful like a village, may someday transform into a place that is Occupied.

Links of Relatable Note:

Urban Space Management, The Creators of Container City 1 & 2

Between Metropolis and The Ocean, a prior musing, from Gordon’s Urban Morphology