One of the city’s noblest professions is “sidewalk superintendent.” These intrepid pedestrians love to peer through holes in the wall to watch large equipment playing the construction game. The more sophisticated of these curiosity-seekers also look for holes in the city’s facades to glimpse the progress of larger-than-normal, future skyline stars.
You can imagine the astonishment, therefore, when I noticed, a couple of days ago, that 432 Park Avenue had adopted a “patriotic” stance, and that its fenestration grid now is highlighted, from top down, in red, blue and white, the colors of the American flag, and also the French flag — a stark divergence from the pristine, streamlined design set out by the building’s architect, Rafael Vinoly.
For sharp sidewalk superintendents the Emperor wears clothes sometimes in the beginning…
432 Park Avenue is the replacement building that Harry Macklowe and his partner, CIM, for the Drake Hotel on the northwest corner of Park Avenue and 56th Street. The Drake was a stately Emery Roth-designed building that for a while housed the city’s first public discotheque, Shepheard’s, in the early 1960s.
It’s now rising above the very tall and elegant, I. M. Pei-designed Four Seasons Hotel across 57th Street. Eventually, it will grow much more to its full 1,392-foot height, which will earn it the title, at least temporarily, of the city’s tallest building without a spire.
Designed by Rafael Vinoly, it is notable for its bright white, “polished,” concrete façade that rises essentially without any setbacks except for a little “bump” at its southeast corner on the avenue and its 10-foot-square windows that uniformly cover its humongous scale.
The finished building, of course, will be lily white and pure, the architect’s bold minimalist answer to Stanley Kubrick’s famous black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
No one is accusing Macklowe of trying to camouflage his burgeoning architectural baby. When Vornado erected One Beacon Court nearby (on the former Alexander’s site on Lexington Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets) it had very pretty, thin blue banding during construction. Upon completion, that banding was removed to reveal stainless-steel horizontal elements between floors. The blue masking tape had added an attractive element of color to the mixed-use skyscraper and its “unmasking” came as a surprise to a naïve architecture critic who does like stainless steel, but is always hoping for more bursts and dashes of color in his hometown.
One could almost wish that 432’s patriotic flurry was permanent as it is quite pretty and a good addition to staid old red-and-brown brick residential Park Avenue (Though admittedly, the “red” that adorns the tower is actually more orangish, as in construction netting). And as far as I know there is no planning rule that says that the tower should be palette-wise a bit contextual with the travertine marble of the Four Seasons Hotel.
Until the recent explosive developments of supertalls in the general Central Park South corridor one generally expected buildings of note in Manhattan to be somewhat permanent fixtures, but as seasoned, veteran, skyline-obsessed New Yorkers know, almost nothing in the city is permanent, so don’t blink…
Neighborhoods : Midtown