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

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

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Memory Lane

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One Hidden Detail

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A Close Imitation

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Perfectly Suited Technology

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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 […]