Robert A.M. Stern, the celebrated designer of dozens of massively expensive residential buildings in New York City (and elsewhere), has always had somewhat of a contentious relationship with other architects. When he was appointed dean of the Yale School of Architecture in 1998, former Architecture magazine editor Reed Kroloff was quoted describing Stern as a "suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture, Disney party boy and notorious academic curmudgeon," which, whether or not you agree with the sentiment, is a pretty great burn. Recently, Stern himself fired a shot across the bow at the contemporary architecture of his peers, telling Louisiana Channel, "Buildings should not look like Lady Gaga." Regardless of how you feel about Stern's design approach (and, full disclosure: we're into it), there are few, if any, modern architects that have contributed as much to New York City's skyline. As such, we decided to put together a pretty much completely arbitrary ranking of Stern's top 10 New York City buildings. This list is based on nothing so much as bald-faced subjectivity, so if you have opinions on the matter please do lay them out in the comments section.
10) Tribeca Park
The first building on this list is also the oldest: luxury rental building Tribeca Park was completely back in 1999 and was being marketed as last April as a potential condo conversion. One thing that won't change, though, is the beautiful exterior. As Stern's website describes it, "The building has a metal cornice recalling neighboring Tribeca's historic building fabric and the tower is capped by an exposed wooden water tower – a reference to one of New York's ubiquitous rooftop elements."
9) Bronx Community College North Hall and Library
The only non-residential building to grace this list, the new library for Bronx Community College was finished in 2012. "If you walk into that library, and you think, This is what it's like to be at Yale or at Harvard!, I think I've done something good for people," Stern said of the design, which is meant to resemble the world's foremost research library, Henri Labrouste's Bibliothèque Ste.–Geneviève in Paris via the double row of barrel vaults supported by slender columns.
8) 20 East End Avenue
Some of Stern's most interesting projects are the ones that haven't been built yet, hence the inclusion of 20 East End Avenue, the condo development on the far East Side where developer Corigin is trying to recreate a standard of super-luxury living that is preserved for the most part exclusively in Central Park-bordering co-op buildings designed by Rosario Candela and Emory Roth. Such a concept is perfect for Stern, history buff that he is, and the building's exterior evokes the Gilded Age apartment buildings of yore, including the city's first newly constructed porte-cochère since the 1930s.
7) 520 Park Avenue
The 780-foot-tall, 52-story limestone-clad tower that Stern has designed for 520 Park Avenue would undoubtedly seem a lot more exciting if it wasn't being upstaged by Stern's larger, pricier, also-limestone tower that is being built just around the corner (of the park) at 220 Central Park South (more on that later). 520 Park is nothing to be sneezed at, though, with a planned $130 million triplex penthouse.
6) The Chatham
The Chatham, a 2001 brick and limestone tower on the Upper East Side, is one of Stern's many classically inspired buildings, and it also happens to be the one that he calls home. It consists a two-story limestone base with a brick shaft accented with limestone above, not unlike the existing luxury housing stock in the area. The top features a series of setbacks culminating in a lantern.
5) 30 Park Place
Stern's most highly anticipated project, and the one that may one eventually unseat 15 Central Park West as his signature building (unless the next building on this list has anything to say about it), is 30 Park Place, which became the tallest residential building in Lower Manhattan when it topped out a couple months ago. Even in designing such a gigantic skyscraper, Stern was loathe to abandon the limestone (or, rather, concrete meant to look like limestone) in favor of glass, and archicritic James Garner writes that it "stands as an implicit reproach" to Downtown's former tallest residential tower, Frank Gehry's 8 Spruce Street. "It has had to take sides, literally and figuratively," Garner writes, "and it has done so by sidling up to the Woolworth Building, which it resembles in hue, and in material as well, in the granite facing that adorns its façade." It is scheduled for completion in earl 2016.
4) 220 Central Park South
Although Davidson wrote in his 2013 profile that "Instead of indulging in outrageous height, bendy walls, or glittering façades, Stern beguiles with details." Now it's 2015, though, and the times they
are a'changin' have a'changed. Outrageous height is the new black, and Stern is not one to be left behind. His 950-foot-tall limestone 220 Central Park South will join Midtown's Billionaire's Row, and the word on the street is that a penthouse in the skyscraper will be priced at $175 million.
3) Superior Ink
Davidson describes the 2010 Superior Ink Condominiums as "New York's handsomest newly built evocation of the industrial past ... Superior Ink is the kind of building you think you remember from a grittier time, only better. What might have been an ersatz knockoff is instead a thoroughly modern memory of a past that's quickly being erased." The Hudson River-facing building combines large windows with a factory-like aesthetic, with its limestone base, string courses, and cornices referencing the classic architecture of the West Village.
2) One Museum Mile
Stern's works of public architecture are often inspired by their namesakes. In the case of East Harlem's African Museum of Art, which he topped with a 16-story condo tower, Stern has said that the structure is "not built around a person, but around a continent." The museum's signature feature, a wall of thin angled "dancing mullions" between the windows, is meant to evoke "the woven shapes of baskets and so forth — and weaving is so much a part of African art."
1) 15 Central Park West
Of course, the building that Stern is known for above all others is 15 Central Park West, a.k.a. the Limestone Jesus, which for years (until the far less attractive One57 showed) held the title as the undisputed king of stratospherically priced New York City luxury real estate. Stern's website describes the 2008 tower as having been "designed to complement its neighbors ... completely clad in limestone, complementing the light-toned brick and stone of the older towers and contrasting with the dark reflections of the newer buildings around Columbus Circle."
· Robert A.M. Stern coverage [Curbed]
· Unfashionably Fashionable [NY Mag]