Notes from Manhattan: High Line to WTC
The newly opened section of the High Line offers views through caverns of New York high-rises in the distance, close brushes with small buildings built a century or more ago (with some apartments looking directly out onto it), and surprising new buildings, such as the glassy HL23 luxury apartment building by L.A.-based architect Neil Denari.
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In some spots along the new section of the High Line, you can spy just the top of landmark buildings such as Renzo Piano's New York Times Building and the Bank of America tower by Cook + Fox Architects.
And some tiny little apartment blocks just opened. Artist Sarah Sze's Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat), installed along the High Line's promenade just north of 20th Street, is a construction of metal, wire, and wood that creates a forced perspective into which are inserted birdhouses. At one point along your meandering you become aware of tweeting... look closer and you find some of the High Line's newest residents.
Head due south from where the High Line ends near 12th Street, toward the Brooklyn Bridge, and you can't miss Frank Gehry's new apartment building at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan.
Billed as the tallest residential tower in the Western hemisphere, Gehry's building is an arresting cliff of contorted stainless steel.
From a distance it looks (I hate to say it) like a plane ran into it. Maybe several planes — little ones. Or was there a nuclear blast around Central Park and this metal stalk began to melt? The detonation had to be from the north, because the facade that faces south is as smooth and somber as a parson's face on Sunday morning. What happened here to the stainless steel panels... did the contractor run out of the wiggly ones?
You can see Gehry's tower from all over lower Manhattan, and you follow its curvaceous panels like a lighthouse to arrive at its doorstep, which (surprise!) is a banal, five-story base of orange-colored brick. The base houses an elementary school — part of the package that gave the developer a tax break. But the tower and the base have nothing to do with each other. And Gehry did both.
Another landmark is under construction due west of Gehry's: the Freedom Tower designed by David Childs of SOM, and, around it, the museum entry pavilion by Snøhetta, and the 9/11 Memorial itself, designed by Michal Arad of Handel Architects and Peter Walker of PWP Landscape Architecture. The tower, One World Trade Center, is to be 1,776 feet tall (90 stories surmounted by a mast) and should be completed by 2013.
As of a few days before the tenth anniversary of the attacks, the tower's steel frame reached to the 81st floor, and glass panels were installed up to the 54th floor. Cladding on the memorial pavilion is complete, and some of the large artifacts to be exhibited have been moved into the building.
At the memorial, more than 220 of the roughly 400 oak trees have been planted, and one can see the large footprints of the original twin towers, which will be waterfalls descending into the earth. The memorial is poised to open to the public on September 12.
Of the other buildings under construction at the site, Norman Foster's 2 World Trade Center is barely above grade; 3 World Trade Center by Richard Rogers is under construction at the basement levels; and Fumihiko Maki's 4 World Trade Center tower is steel-framed to the 47th floor and its bluish glass facade is now being installed.
The new 7 World Trade Center by SOM was completed in 2006.
With construction proceeding around the clock, the new built forms at the World Trade Center site are beginning to take shape, but it is difficult to say what the final effect will be.
While the primary memorial is being rushed to completion in time for the tenth anniversary of the disaster on 9/11/2011, estimates are that overall construction at the World Trade Center site should be completed sometime in 2015.
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Architect Michael J. Crosbie is chair of the University of Hartford's Department of Architecture, editor-in-chief of Faith & Form magazine, and a contributing editor to ArchitectureWeek. More by Michael J. Crosbie