Apartments outside the Box
by Peter Gaito Jr.
There has been a recent growth spurt of highrise apartment development along Manhattan's avenues. Although these buildings strengthen street-level pedestrian activity, replacing congested parking lots with shops and restaurants, their predictable appearance means that the population of New York is being denied high-quality design.
Presenting an alternative are the Perry Street Towers by Richard Meier & Partners, Architects. Confident and unassuming, these new buildings demonstrate that residential towers need not use the routine materials, construction methods, and rectilinear form that define so many of their midtown cousins. It is clear that these towers, now nearing completion, were designed by an architect, not a developer.
Most of New York's highrise residential buildings in recent years have been large, uniform brick boxes. There is no push and pull of the facade or play between solids and voids. The only variation in design may occur with alternating bands of different colored brick every few floors.
The exposed concrete floor slabs in these boxes circumscribe the entire building, creating a stack-of-pancakes effect, and this layering further emphasizes the predictable floor-to-floor intervals. The buildings' regularity reveals all one needs to know about the interior spaces before stepping inside: how tall the ceilings are, what the windows look like, how many floors the building has, and even how it is cooled in the summer. >>>
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Rendering of the Perry Street Towers by Richard Meier & Partners, Architects.
Image: Richard Meier & Partners, Architects
A typical "brick box" New York apartment building displays an uninspired facade.
Photo: Peter Gaito Jr.
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