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Old November 15th, 2007, 05:36 PM   #1
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75-story Nouvel tower near MoMA




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New York Times
November 15, 2007

ARCHITECTURE

Next to MoMA, a Tower Will Reach for the Stars

By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF


A rendering of the Jean Nouvel-designed tower to be built adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art.


The interior of Jean Nouvel’s building, which is to include a hotel and luxury apartments.



Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building, William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building.

If New Yorkers once saw their skyline as the great citadel of capitalism, who could blame them? We had the best toys of all.

But for the last few decades or so, that honor has shifted to places like Singapore, Beijing and Dubai, while Manhattan settled for the predictable.

Perhaps that’s about to change.

A new 75-story tower designed by the architect Jean Nouvel for a site next to the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown promises to be the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation. Its faceted exterior, tapering to a series of crystalline peaks, suggests an atavistic preoccupation with celestial heights. It brings to mind John Ruskin’s praise for the irrationality of Gothic architecture: “It not only dared, but delighted in, the infringement of every servile principle.”

Commissioned by Hines, an international real estate developer, the tower will house a hotel, luxury apartments and three floors that will be used by MoMA to expand its exhibition space. The melding of cultural and commercial worlds offers further proof, if any were needed, that Mr. Nouvel is a master at balancing conflicting urban forces.

Yet the building raises a question: How did a profit-driven developer become more adventurous architecturally than MoMA, which has tended to make cautious choices in recent years?

Like many of Manhattan’s major architectural accomplishments, the tower is the result of a Byzantine real estate deal. Although MoMA completed an $858 million expansion three years ago, it sold the Midtown lot to Hines for $125 million earlier this year as part of an elaborate plan to grow still further.

Hines would benefit from the museum’s prestige; MoMA would get roughly 40,000 square feet of additional gallery space in the new tower, which will connect to its second-, fourth- and fifth-floor galleries just to the east. The $125 million would go toward its endowment.

To its credit the Modern pressed for a talented architect, insisting on veto power over the selection. Still, the sale seems shortsighted on the museum’s part. A 17,000-square-foot vacant lot next door to a renowned institution and tourist draw in Midtown is a rarity. And who knows what expansion needs MoMA may have in the distant future?

By contrast the developer seems remarkably astute. Hines asked Mr. Nouvel to come up with two possible designs for the site. A decade ago anyone who was about to invest hundreds of millions on a building would inevitably have chosen the more conservative of the two. But times have changed. Architecture is a form of marketing now, and Hines made the bolder choice.

Set on a narrow lot where the old City Athletic Club and some brownstones once stood, the soaring tower is rooted in the mythology of New York, in particular the work of Hugh Ferriss, whose dark, haunting renderings of an imaginary Manhattan helped define its dreamlike image as the early-20th-century metropolis.

But if Ferriss’s designs were expressionistic, Mr. Nouvel’s contorted forms are driven by their own peculiar logic. By pushing the structural frame to the exterior, for example, he was able to create big open floor plates for the museum’s second-, fourth- and fifth-floor galleries. The tower’s form slopes back on one side to yield views past the residential Museum Tower; its northeast corner is cut away to conform to zoning regulations.

The irregular structural pattern is intended to bear the strains of the tower’s contortions. Mr. Nouvel echoes the pattern of crisscrossing beams on the building’s facade, giving the skin a taut, muscular look. A secondary system of mullions housing the ventilation system adds richness to the facade.

Mr. Nouvel anchors these soaring forms in Manhattan bedrock. The restaurant and lounge are submerged one level below ground, with the top sheathed entirely in glass so that pedestrians can peer downward into the belly of the building. A bridge on one side of the lobby links the 53rd and 54th Street entrances. Big concrete columns crisscross the spaces, their tilted forms rooting the structure deep into the ground.

As you ascend through the building, the floor plates shrink in size, which should give the upper stories an increasingly precarious feel. The top-floor apartment is arranged around such a massive elevator core that its inhabitants will feel pressed up against the glass exterior walls. (Mr. Nouvel compared the apartment to the pied-à-terre at the top of the Eiffel Tower from which Gustave Eiffel used to survey his handiwork below.)

The building’s brash forms are a sly commentary on the rationalist geometries of Edward Durell Stone and Philip L. Goodwin’s 1939 building for the Museum of Modern Art and Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 addition. Like many contemporary architects Mr. Nouvel sees the modern grid as confining and dogmatic. His tower’s contorted forms are a scream for freedom.

And what of the Modern? For some, the appearance of yet another luxury tower stamped with the museum’s imprimatur will induce wincing. But the more immediate issue is how it will affect the organization of the Modern’s vast collections.

The museum is only now beginning to come to grips with the strengths and weaknesses of Mr. Taniguchi’s addition. Many feel that the arrangement of the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries housing the permanent collection is confusing, and that the double-height second-floor galleries for contemporary art are too unwieldy. The architecture galleries, by comparison, are small and inflexible. There is no room for the medium-size exhibitions that were a staple of the architecture and design department in its heyday.

The additional gallery space is a chance for MoMA to rethink many of these spaces, by reordering the sequence of its permanent collection, for example, or considering how it might resituate the contemporary galleries in the new tower and gain more space for architecture shows in the old.

But to embark on such an ambitious undertaking the museum would first have to acknowledge that its Taniguchi-designed complex has posed new challenges. In short, it would have to embrace a fearlessness that it hasn’t shown in decades.

MoMA would do well to take a cue from Ruskin, who wrote that great art, whether expressed in “words, colors or stones, does not say the same thing over and over again.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Last edited by desertpunk; April 5th, 2013 at 02:55 PM.
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Old November 15th, 2007, 05:37 PM   #2
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That looks to be well over 1,000'.
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Old November 15th, 2007, 10:07 PM   #3
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75-story infill. Wow... what a city!
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Old November 16th, 2007, 01:06 AM   #4
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it is breathtaking
It will be as tall as the Chrysler building, and it might just bump the Bloomberg tower off my avatar

It has the potential to become an icon
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Old November 16th, 2007, 01:41 AM   #5
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im glad to see another 1000 footer being proposed in new york city and its a nice building to
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Old November 16th, 2007, 01:47 AM   #6
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sick
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Old November 16th, 2007, 02:54 AM   #7
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A marvelous tower and an incredible example of desperately needed architectural creativity.

Another plus: it appears to be well over 1,000 feet.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 05:06 AM   #8
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Any skyline composites yet?
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Old November 16th, 2007, 08:18 AM   #9
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Discovered by Stern at WiredNewYork:

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Old November 16th, 2007, 09:54 AM   #10
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wouldnt this make it like 3+ new 1000 footers in manhattan not even including the FT cluster? I sense a trend and maybe even a wake up call to the slow 80s and 90s here in NYC.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 04:43 PM   #11
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Luv it!
It's so refreshing to see a design that is actually interesting and not just another glass box.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 06:01 PM   #12
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I think this building along with the Girasole tower are the most exciting projects right now!!......Then you've got the Freedom Tower complex going up.....good times in New York!!
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Old November 16th, 2007, 06:03 PM   #13
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More Renderings (Hi Res)
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Old November 16th, 2007, 06:51 PM   #14
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High number of floors.....check
1000+ Feet..................check
Soars gracefully............check
Unique design...............check
No spire.......................check

We got a winner. Reminds me somewhat of LBT in London.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 07:54 PM   #15
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That's plain beautiful. It's so cool to read that the developer passed on the more conservative design and chose the more exciting one.
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Old January 6th, 2008, 04:05 AM   #16
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Waouh!! What a fabulous shape !! I love it ! you new yorkers are lucky because Jean nouvel is not always as good as it !! it depends of his mood....we 're waiting his tower for Marseille (provence- south France)

I can't wait to visit your so HUge city, which makes me dream for years... The eclectic architecture between old heritage and modernism is so UNIQUE in the world !!?

greetings & sunshines from Marseille
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=365162

Zaha Hadid designed our first real skyscraper (under constr.), CMA-CGM world headquarter, 2007 to 2009:

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showth...140486&page=33

NB: sorry for my english...i'm french..
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Old January 6th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #17
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they changed the hight a bit now its going to be 1150 feet tall so im happy and i hope it gets built
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Old January 6th, 2008, 04:57 PM   #18
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Amazing design...I hope this gets built.
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Old January 7th, 2008, 06:23 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by New Jack City View Post
High number of floors.....check
1000+ Feet..................check
Soars gracefully............check
Unique design...............check
No spire.......................check

We got a winner. Reminds me somewhat of LBT in London.
Only better.
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Old January 7th, 2008, 09:14 PM   #20
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I don't understand why people say it looks like the LBT
they're completely different shapes, even the cladding isn't quite similar
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