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51 Astor Place Wins Some, Loses Some With the Archicritics

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The much-maligned new building rising at 51 Astor Place "should not be viewed as mediocre," argues The Journal's Robbie Whelan?but that doesn't mean it's exactly a success, either. What works, in Whelan's view: the building successfully divides "the energetic grime of the East Village and the gentrified civility of the West Village," with the western side hulking and office-like and the eastern side lighter and more fun. Unfortunately, though, the building fails to "live up to Cooper Square's legacy of edgy design."

The building is the sum of three main sculptural forms: the trapezoidal, dark-glass-clad office space abuts two shapes composed in the lighter glass: a highly regular, light-colored box with a triangular mid-rise piece on top of it. From certain angles, the building will look geological, resembling a pile of jutting, crystalline fragments. From others, it is frustratingly regular-looking and dry?.Mr. Maki's building, unfortunately, doesn't say much of anything at all, beyond advertising its cool, no-nonsense sense of propriety as an office space. City Planning's land-use guidelines for this particular building site made creativity tough for Maki, Whelan points out, though Maki's office hasn't used that as an explanation or a defense for the final design.

Here's another look at the site as of this morning:

· Mixed Messages in New Geometry at Cooper Square [WSJ]
· 51 Astor Place coverage [Curbed]

51 Astor Place

51 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003