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Contextual Flattery

by Don Friedman on December 10, 2018


On the right, 15 Park Row, which I’ve written about a number of times: the tallest building in the world 1899-1907. On the left, 25 Park Row, to be completed in 2019.

Other than location, the buildings don’t have a whole lot in common. 15 is steel-framed, with tile-arch floors and a brick curtain wall, and was a technological marvel of its day. 25 is concrete-framed with two-way concrete floors and a precast-concrete* curtain wall, and is far from the most interesting structure in the works in New York at this time. But the architects of 25 – FxCollaborative, formerly Fox & Fowle – have done something interesting and unfortunately rare: they’ve acknowledged their neighbor.

15 Park Row is a landmark and it’s not going anywhere. So it’s not a bad idea to see how its 390 feet or so of facade will interact with the new building. If you look at the 15 facade at its most basic level, it has three vertical areas (one at each side and one in the middle) that are distinguished by the size of the windows; and it has a base (consisting of the first five floors) distinguished by the masonry detailing.

What’s going on at the partially-built facade of 25? There are three vertical areas distinguished by the size of the windows and a base distinguished by the facade details. This kind of echoing is quite common in the older buildings in the city, where a lot of facades pick up water-table lines or other facade details from their neighbors. People** don’t necessarily notice it on a conscious level, but there’s a certain harmony created that people like. It’s obviously less cooperative than rows of houses with identical or related facades, but given the chaotic nature of a skyscraper downtown, it’s about the best that can be done.


* I think it’s precast. When I walked by and took this picture, there were a couple of trucks waiting to deliver their sections of curtain wall and up close it sure looks like precast. If it’s not, it’s a dingy-gray limestone that manages to look just like precast.

** Including me, unless I look closely.

Sunset Behind Ellis Island

December 8, 2018

Click on it to expand: it looks even better when it’s full-size.

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It’s Not Invisibility

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Beautiful, isn’t it? What is it? It’s the joint between two sections of a fire-escape handrail in Brooklyn. Each section has a frame around its perimeter made up of small wrought-iron angles, which are bolted to the balcony framing below and to each other at these seams. So the angle on the left is part […]

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Memory Lane

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That’s a trellis at the┬áCentral Park Zoo, one of the new structures created as part of the renovation that opened in 1988. It’s also one of my earliest designs. More specifically, there were three people at Weiskopf & Pickworth who worked on the zoo in 1987, and as the least experienced (by far) I was […]

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One Hidden Detail

December 5, 2018

That is some fancy shoring. I assume that’s there because some or all of the interior floor structure adjacent to the street facade has been (or will be) demolished as part of whatever renovation is taking place. The floors brace the walls, so without the floors the street facade would be unbraced, hence all that […]

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A Close Imitation

December 4, 2018

That’s, obviously, the newly reopened Cortlandt Street Station on the 1 train. The station was badly damaged on 9-11 and the story as generally told is that it was rebuilt. That’s true as far as it goes, but leaves out some interesting details. The station is on the south end of the line, two stations […]

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Perfectly Suited Technology

December 3, 2018

That’s 135 Hudson Street, an 1887 warehouse most noted when it was new for its plainness and therefore its place in the new architecture of the late 1800s. It’s now, like pretty much everything else in Tribeca, very expensive apartments. The architect was Francis Kimball, who a few years later would be designing several impressive […]