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Vanity Fair Takes On the Supertall Towers of 57th Street

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From left to right, 432 Park, 117 West 57th Street, One57, and 111 West 57th Street

Everyone has an opinion on the supertall, super skinny, super expensive towers rising just south of Central Park. Only one and a half of these tower currently exist in the real world, but no one can stop talking about them. The latest expert author to chime in is archicritic Paul Goldberger, who spent 5,000 words on the towers rising along 57th Street in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. He thinks one is really ugly, a few are pretty nice, and all are changing New York. Here now, the 10 best lines of the piece:

1) "Four of [the new towers] are on 57th Street alone, which day by day is becoming less of a boulevard defined by elegant shopping and more like a canyon lined by high walls."

2) "If there is any saving grace to this tsunami of towers, it is in their very slenderness. From a distance they read as needles more than as boxes; what they take away from the street they give back to a skyline that has been robbed of much of its classic romantic form by the bulky, flat-topped office towers that have filled so much of Midtown and Lower Manhattan."

3) "One57 was the first of this new generation of super-tall, super-thin, super-expensive buildings, and it is astonishing to think that its height of 1,004 feet, just 42 feet shorter than the Chrysler Building, will make it the tallest residential building in the city for a few months only, until 432 Park is finished, probably next year."

4) "Even before the new wave of super-tall buildings, the condominium market in New York had become much more design-sensitive, and putting the names of well-known architects like Richard Meier, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, or Robert A. M. Stern on buildings has become a marketing advantage. In fact, at these prices it's now gotten to be something of a necessity, the same way some women will only spend $3,000 or $4,000 on a dress if it has a famous designer's name on it."

[Photo via transbay/Curbed Flickr pool]

5) "[One57 designer Christian de Portzamparc] hoped that the overall effect of the design would resemble a cascading waterfall. Once he had been through the meat grinder of the New York City development process, not much of a sense of cascading water remained, and the final version of the building turned out to be a flattened composition in various shades of blue and silver glass, striped on some sides and speckled on others. If the tower's slender height made it appropriate to New York, its garish glass made it look more like a tall refugee from Las Vegas."

6) "[Gary Barnett], took me to the topmost penthouse [of One57] on an exceptionally cold, clear day early this year, and the view of the park was nothing like what I was used to from windows 30 or 40 floors up in other buildings. From the 90th floor, you feel as connected to the sky as to the ground. The city is laid out like a map, and the enormous windows are less like frames for the view than wide-open portals to it."

[432 Park, photo by Richard Berenholtz]

7) "Despite the garishness of One57's exterior, I'm not ready to write off the entire super-thin, super-tall building type as incompatible with serious architecture. Viñoly's 432 Park, on the outside, is as sophisticated as One57 is glitzy. Its façade is a flat, minimalist grid of smoothly finished concrete."

8) "The tower [432 Park] is an essay in pure geometric form: it is a perfect square in plan, and rises straight up, without a single setback; all four façades are identical, made up of a grid of windows, every one of which is roughly 10 feet square."

[Rendering of 111 West 57th Street by SHoP Architects]

9) "[The SHoP-designed 111 West 57th Street] will rise straight up on its northern side, facing the park, but on the south it will gently set back in a series of steps so that the north-south dimension of the tower gradually gets thinner and thinner until it has no depth at all at the top and becomes just a glass wall at the building's crown. It is a subtle and graceful re-interpretation in modern form of the stepped-back, "wedding cake" towers of New York's past, seasoned by a sprinkling of a classic New York material, terra-cotta, all put together in a way that makes deft use of today's technology. Of all the new towers, it is the only one that gets ever more delicate as it rises, ending not with a climactic crown but by almost disappearing into the sky."

10) "Can height buy happiness? A few years after the [40-story] Ritz Tower opened [in the 1920s], the Waldorf Towers climbed even higher. Cole Porter maintained an apartment there for years. Could that be why he wrote a song that ended with the words 'down in the depths of the ninetieth floor'?"
· Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Tall? [Vanity Fair]
· Extell's Gary Barnett Defends Himself, Cantilevers, Tall Towers [Curbed]
· Hundreds Fret About Superscrapers' Shadows As Extell Rebuts [Curbed]

432 Park Avenue

432 Park Avenue, New York, NY Visit Website

111 W 57th St

111 West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY 10019

217 W 57th St

217 West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY 10019

One57

157 West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY 10019 Visit Website