clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Robert A.M. Stern loves limestone and hates Hudson Yards

New, 8 comments

The famously curmudgeonly architect opined in a new interview

30 Park Place, one of Robert A.M. Stern’s downtown buildings
Max Touhey

Robert A.M. Stern is famous—some would say notorious, even—for not mincing words when it comes to the things he does and doesn’t like. In 1998, Reed Kroloff, who was then atop the masthead of Architecture magazine, said that Stern is “a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture, Disney party boy and notorious academic curmudgeon.” More recently, New York architecture critic Justin Davidson described him as “a cranky optimist with an acid wit.”

It’s the latter that’s on display in an interview that the legendary starchitect recently gave to the Commercial Observer, and if you want a sense of how the chat is going to play out, you need only look at this tidbit that authors Max Gross and Liam La Guerre included in the piece:

“Why am I saying this all to you?” he asked midway through our interview. And, then he answered his own question with a cutting: “because no one reads your magazine—that I know of.”


Stern also had some choice words about some of the bigger goings-on in New York architecture, including the lack of good architecture in Downtown Brooklyn, and the opening of Santiago Calatrava’s $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Read on for some of the best bits:

On Downtown Brooklyn architecture: “There is a boom in Downtown Brooklyn, but the quality of the buildings being built is not stellar.”

On Hudson Yards, which RAMSA’s Midtown office overlooks: “What is there to smile about? My view of the Hudson [River] is gone.”

On Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus: “It is a disappointing structure to me. I don’t love the way it looks [or] the way it works. … if you stand there for half an hour or so, you can tell when the PATH train has arrived: [Passengers] come through, most people don’t stop, they’re on their way to something else. Then you see shops ringed around the edge. I think they’re too far apart. It’s a shopping mall.”

On his well-documented love of limestone: “[Limestone buildings] take the light in a beautiful way, and they look solid. They don’t look like buildings you can open with a can opener.”

On NYC’s zoning codes: “I think the zoning code in 1961 was a terrible mistake. It favored the tower on the plaza, and we’ve spent 50 years tinkering with the bloody code to ameliorate that. I profess to be flummoxed by the zoning rule.”

On being asked if he would design Donald Trump’s presidential library: “I think if the interview ends on a note about Donald Trump, I’m ready to blow my brains out.” (Fair enough.)