A somewhat grim Department of Transportation parking lot on the Lower East Side is getting a major facelift (or facade-lift, as the case may be), courtesy of Michielli and Wyetzner Architects and the city's "design excellence" initiative. Michielli and co. have come up with striking designs for the 24/7, 356-car lot's two entrances on Essex and Ludlow streets. The layered, angular, three-dimensional surfaces are weaved out of layers of cables, inspired in part by the Lower East Side's historical significance in the garment industry and also the desire to have them appear to move (ah, like the cars inside) depending on the perspectives of passersby. It's certainly contemporary, but will it stick out like a sore thumb on the Lower East Side? The architect responds!
"They [the DOT] realized the neighborhood is changing, and they realized the dense precast concrete existing facade was almost scale-less. When you look it from the oblique angles, it's almost impenetrable," said Frank Michielli, a principal on the project. Our design "is very light, [letting] as much daylight deep into the garage as possible. For the first time, we didn't have to worry about water infiltration or keeping the elements out." The LES has seen other modern construction in its midst, and, to put it very mildly, not all New Yorkers have been thrilled about the trend. But Michielli sees his metallic creation as one that doesn't mess with with the area's overall flow. "There is fine steel work on the fire escapes, so it will fit in on that level... I don't think it will stand out as something that doesn't belong here," he says. "There are good contemporary buildings, and then there are ones that are not as well-scaled."
Construction, which also includes interior renovations and overhauls of the offices at the ground level, is set to start next month and will take 16-18 months to complete. Whatever results, let's all hope it's big step up for a building that usually "reeks of pee," according to one Yelp reviewer. Our verdict? It's about time that someone besides Herzog & de Meuron thought about parking lot design.