Norman Foster's proposed redesign of 425 Park Avenue was the victor in a four-starchitect face-off to determine the future of the blah brick and glass building between 55th and 56th streets. Developer L&L Holdings will begin work on Foster's design in 2015, and it should be done in 2017. While we wait for it to begin construction, Foster's design and the three runners-up, by Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, and Richard Rogers, are on display at the Municipal Art Society's Summit for New York City. We got our hands on the renderings, so let's hold our own face-off, shall we? Above, some new looks at Foster's design, "a tapered steel-frame tower rising to meet three illuminated sheer walls." The 41-story, 687-foot building has low, medium, and high-rise tiers "defined by a landscaped terrace with panoramic views across Manhattan and Central Park," according to the exhibition materials by Foster + Partners. "The core is placed to the rear, where glazed stairwells reveal long views towards the East River, while at street level, there is potential for a large civic plaza with significant works of art."
Foster's design was chosen, in part, because it's meant for the changing workplace?there are plenty of common spaces for collaboration and the having of big ideas. The other three starchitect contenders, judging by the explanations of their designs written for the MAS exhibit, thought more about their buildings' impacts on NYC architecture than about the buildings' actual use. Here's the OMA/Rem Koolhaas design:
"For Commercial Buildings," OMA's explanation begins, "Manhattan's zoning laws prescribe a silhouette from which there is no escape (yet): a stretched pyramid. Our current aesthetics oscillate between nearly exhausted orthogonality and a still immature curvaceousness. Our building is an intersection of these two observations: it proposes a stack of three cubes??the lower one a full solid block on Park Avenue, the smallest on top, rotated 45 degrees vis-a-vis the Manhattan grid, oriented beyond its mere location in a sweep from Midtown to Central Park.The three cubes are connected by curved planes to create a subtle alternation of flat and 3 dimensional places, each reflecting sky and city in their own way." The archibabble describes the building, at 648 feet and 38 stories, as "a diagram of maximum beauty and maximum rentability," but apparently L&L disagreed.
Rogers Stirk Harbour Partners, meanwhile, submitted the above proposal for a 665-foot, 44-story building meant as "a contemporary homage to the quintessential New York skyscraper." A rather boring description for a building that turns out to have some fun features: sky gardens"we are reconnecting workers and the city with nature, by using different American landscape ecologies, from forest to alpine, to suit the different altitudes of each garden"?and exterior glass elevators.
Zaha Hadid's design (above) was the only one besides Foster's to touch on the building's actual function as an office. Hadid's write-up for her 669-foot, 40-story project mentions its "openness, flexible design and technological efficiency." As for the design itself, Hadid calls it "a structure of timeless elegance, yet with a strong identity that reflects the complex and sophisticated age in which it was created and mirrors the exceptional setting in which it is placed. Our approach has been to unite the four fundamental qualities for the project?—?Function, Design, Culture and Value?—?and fuse them into a single seamless design which incorporates these characteristics in a harmonious and unified architectural concept." We prefer to think of the design with the moniker given to some of the rendering filenames: WHOOSH.
So was Foster the right choice, or should L&L have chosen one of the other three starchitects? Let's put it to a vote: