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February 10, 2011

Downtown Skyscraper for the Digital Age

The New York Times
by Nicolai Ouroussoff

Many New Yorkers have been following the construction of the new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street, just south of City Hall, with a mix of awe and trepidation.

Frank Gehry, the building’s architect, has had a rough time in this city. His first commission here, years ago, was for an Upper East Side town house that was never built; his client, an oil heiress, fired him over Champagne and strawberries. A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

Actually, more like an aging megalomaniac in bed with the devil. But we're quibbling.

The Spruce Street project (formerly called Beekman Tower) would not only be Mr. Gehry’s first skyscraper, but it was also being built for the same developer, Bruce Ratner. And as the tallest luxury residential tower in the city’s history, it seemed to epitomize the skyline’s transformation from a symbol of American commerce to a display of individual wealth.

So, care to guess how the Gehry-worshipping Times critic feels about this new Gehry edifice?

Only now, as the building nears completion, is it possible to appreciate what Mr. Gehry has accomplished: the finest skyscraper to rise in New York since Eero Saarinen’s CBS building went up 46 years ago.

Read on — if you can bear it — for more where that came from.

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Atlantic Yards Report, AY down the memory hole: NYT critic Ouroussoff says "local activists" depicted Gehry as "in bed with the devil," but he did too

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff reviews (and mostly approves of) Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower, aka 8 Spruce Street, offering this aside:

A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

Really? Ouroussoff's piece links to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but here's what he wrote in June 2006:

But if the Gehry-Ratner lovefest has raised an expectation of innovative design, it has also stirred unease. Few would question Mr. Gehry’s talent. The question is whether he has allowed his experimental ethos to be harnessed for the sake of maximizing a developer’s profits.

It’s also fair to ask whether Mr. Gehry and other gifted architects have made a pact with the Devil, compromising their values for the sake of ever bigger commissions.

(Emphasis added)

Curbed, Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower the Best Skyscraper Since the '60s?

But the best building since 1965 also has its faults, primarily its six-story base clad in orange brick, which will house a public school. It's "a letdown after you've seen the gorgeously wrought exterior of the tower above." As for the widely panned flat side of 8 Spruce Street, Ouroussoff writes that "some may find perverse enjoyment in the fact that the building presents its backside to Wall Street." So full of gags, that Gehry.

Posted by eric at February 10, 2011 11:36 AM