The Man in Black has been on quite the media blitz lately, chatting with Charlie Rose and now with New York magazine's Justin Davidson about his process, his inspiration, his shimmering insect and his guillotined tapering tower. Speaking on the latter, Tower Verre, Jean Nouvel echoes other statements made about his proposed mixed-use skyscraper next to MoMA (now 200' shorter and fighting off a legal challenge)?namely, that this is Midtown for cryin' out loud! Or in Nouvel's word's, "What is surprising is that Manhattan should be afraid of verticality." That's right, a Frenchman calling the Big Apple scared. Somebody get Bill O'Reilly on the phone! But Nouvel's defense of Tower Verre is what we were expecting from Davidson's story. Here's what we weren't.
For the first time we can recall (N.B., our memory goes back only 39 seconds), a prominent architecture critic has come forward against Tower Verre. It's octogenarian flame-thrower Ada Louise Huxtable, who told Davidson the apartments/hotel/art gallery contraption is "the wrong building in the wrong place," an "enormous real-estate deal with cultural window dressing" that would exploit zoning rules to sap whatever charm remains on West 53rd Street, which she admits is not much. (To compensate for Huxtable's harsh words, Davidson penned a companion piece begging for Tower Verre to be built.)
But we're most intrigued by Nouvel's comments about 100 Eleventh Avenue, his nearly complete Vision Machine in West Chelsea. Is the building and its 1,700 angled windows the luxury real estate market's version of Pong and dial-up modems? Yes. But that's a good thing! Davidson writes about the Nouvel Rules:
Second, a new monument shouldn’t aspire to timelessness, but speak with vivid specificity of an instant in a city’s life. You can grasp what this means at 100 Eleventh, which is already a poignant relic, containing within it a memory of the era that made it possible, the heat of the present, and the specter of a glorious obsolescence. Standing outside the building, Nouvel shouts over the traffic and imagines the impression his creation might make on future drivers. As they speed by, fleetingly dazzled by a reflection from the façade’s mosaic of windows, he suggests, they will glance up through the windshield and think of 2010. The building will date itself, Nouvel agrees, and that is the finest gift an architect can bequeath to posterity: "It will show what moved us in that period, which is to say ? now."And here we thought the only thing dated about the building was the method used for executing unruly staff! But keeping with the theme of looking at the building and thinking about the past, maybe condo buyers can suggest paying, say, 1990 prices?
· Colossus [NYM]
· The Point of the Skyline [NYM]