Not The “Top” Ten

It’s that time of year again: the media are going to drown us all in top-ten lists. (There are sometimes top-twenty lists and a few brave writers have created top-hundreds, but the general assumption seems to be that our attention fades after ten items. That’s probably a good bet, as I know mine does.)

In this context, I found “NYC’s 10 most important buildings of the past decade” by Amy Plitt to be an interesting list. “Most important” does not mean “best,” so this list starts up the same debate that Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” used to cause on a regular basis: does recognition equal approval, even if the terms of the recognition explicitly state that it does not?

As it happens, the list contains constructions that I like (the High Line, which is quite obviously not a building) and some that I do not. My favorite is the smallest structure on the list, the Department of Sanitation Salt Shed on West Street. I like it partly because it seems like a good marriage of functionality and aesthetic design and partly because it is, for New York, small. Some of our better architecture is small for its style: for example, 500 Park Avenue is arguably our best pure International Style building

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