We're finally making our way through New York's double-size Summer Issue, and in it Justin Davidson assesses the imprint on New York left by Frank Gehry, starchitect of starchitects. "New York and Frank Owen Gehry should have made a perfect match," Davidson writes, but Gehry's East River Guggenheim never happened, his New York Times Tower design was passed over for Renzo Piano's rods, and Atlantic Yards?well, we all know what happened there. Which leaves Gehry's IAC Building in West Chelsea and?oh yeah!?the 76-story Beekman Tower rising to the east of City Hall. It seems a bit odd to dwell on Gehry's NYC disappointments (the story is titled "The Unbuilding of Frank Gehry") when his skyline-altering megatower draped in rippling steel is finally 100% happening, but Davidson explains that while the Beekman is Gehry, it's not quite Gehry.
As the Gehrmeister himself tells it, the goal was to Gehry up the outside a bit while not futzing with the luxury rental tower's innards:
"I started by doing a schlocky New York–style building. Then we analyzed the premium for adding some extra height. We modeled a twisting tower, but that doesn't work in an apartment building because the plumbing doesn't line up. At meetings, the layout lady kept saying There's no Frank Gehry here, I can't sell it! So I came up with the idea of bay windows." Gehry realized that he could preserve an economical structure but shift the windows so that they protruded from a different point in each apartment. Then he could costume those staggered bays in flowing steel. He wanted the dramatic drapery of Baroque sculpture. "I came in and said to a young designer, Do you know the difference between Michelangelo folds and Bernini folds? She said yes. I said, Fine, do Bernini folds."
For a while, it seemed as though this project, too, would add to the architect’s miseries. Ratner halted construction halfway up and toyed with the idea of saving money by leaving it stunted. Eventually, he extracted concessions from the construction unions, and the tower resumed its upward march. The result will be an ordinary structure in a shiny dress.