It's rare that the Landmarks Preservation Commission tells architects to do something unexpected and make a design more modern, but such were the instructions for the designers of a new single-family, five-story limestone house at 110 West 88th Street. Currently vacant, the property sits among the charming brownstones of the Central Park West Historic District. The local community board rejected the plans for the site as being out of context with the neighborhood, but the commission actually asked architect Jordan Rogove of DXA Studio to make the 4,778 square-foot home more modern. "Don't worry about what's next door, just do what you want to do," said Commissioner Joan Gerner.
DXA Studio attempted to negotiate between the features that make the area architecturally interesting (like bay windows and pediment ornaments) and a fresh approach to a spot that's been vacant since an 1886 house (above, left) fell into disrepair and got torn down. The commission actually approved a new house for the space in 2007, but the owners' attorney said developers ran out of time before starting the project.
The current plan incorporates a new common green space in back for the new house and an adjoining one, as well as colorful flora picked out by Patrick Cullina Horticultural Design+Consulting for a rooftop balcony and front windowsills. But the main window of the second floor, made to look like an alternate approach to the bay windows nearby, provoked criticism in testimony by Community Board 7 landmarks committee member Jay Adolph. "Frankly it's just like a big glazed rectangle," he said. "It looks kind of like a Kindle."
Yet the commissioners encouraged Rogove to add more distinguishing features to the top lip of the front façade, something "interesting or unexpected," as Commissioner Roberta Washington put it. Commission Chairman Robert Tierney summed up the design's frustrating mix of old and new by paraphrasing a quote from an old Yankee great. "You got to a fork in the road, and, instead of taking it, as Yogi Berra said, you went both ways."
· All Landmarks Preservation Commission coverage [Curbed]