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26 Astor Place: An Appraisal

Following up on yesterday's coverage of the new luxury condo/retail development at 26 Astor Place, Curbed reader Theodore Grunewald offers an architectural critique of the plans. He's not happy about what he sees.

Passed by the Cooper Square site last week, and noticed that while the two-story retail box fronting on Astor Place is framed out, there is still no sign (literally) posted on the construction fence that shows what the tower?projected to rise above this retail box?will actually look like. Frankly, given the high quality of new New York residential design now either completed or emerging from the drafting rooms of some of the world?s most innovative architects (SHoP/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli?s The Porter House Condo, Richard Meier?s Perry Street Towers, Jean Nouvel's "Landmark" Meat Market tower straddling the High Line, and Santiago Calatrava's 80 South Street Tower, it appears that all parties involved with the Astor Place tower?owner Cooper Union, developer the Related Companies, and their architect Gwathmey Siegel & Associates?are either embarrassed by, or ashamed of what they?ve up to, and for fear of criticism are hell bent on keeping the project under tight wraps.

Judging from the renderings of 26 Astor Place that have surfaced, Related appears intent on making the south side of Astor Place resemble as much as possible the south side of Union Square where their One Union Square South commercial/residential tower was completed some 10 years ago. What I find disappointing is that given the client Cooper Union's educational mission taken together with its design chops, and with all the exciting new architects now practicing, it appears that Cooper couldn't have chosen a duller, less artistically experimental building. The tower now under construction is excruciatingly boring. No amount of primary-colored cardboard in the shop windows is going to bring this dull, glassy-eyed street front to life. That's really a shame, considering the prominence of the site and the richness of the surrounding historic architecture