Hearst Tower Revives Interest In Diagonal Living

The Hearst Tower, Norman Foster's only building in Manhattan, is getting its curtain wall. (I'm not counting the fabulous Asprey store, gorgeous but interior). What struck me on the afternoon I took this was how the glass origami crystal candy building appeared like a fantastically alien construction, contrasting brutally with the brown brickness all around it.

The surrounding buildings is a little architectural history microcosm of New York. Below, 19th century brick. It is nice. Therefore, goes 'contextual' architectural thinking, Brick equals Nice. Fast forward through the period of real modernism, of which only a few buildings made it into New York anyway. To the west, late 1960s brick, where one attempts to create a Seagram Building, only...Brick! They demolished the nearby CCC, another white-brick modernist compromise, so we know how that is going to end. To the north, 1980s Multi-Brick, also known as Po-Mo Brick, where one attempts to create a 19th Century Brick building, only using brick (or in this case, metal panels, same diff, yo) in a lot of non-brick like colors and patterns, thus creating a recognizable extension of context for the building, only...it's completely flat, like a billboard. It's like irony, without the irony.

The Hearst tower isn't participating in Brick at all. In fact, the building reminds me of the period in the early 1960s when architects were obsessed with triangular geometric progressions, of which the Jacob Javitz Center may be called the New York Masterpiece. It was a wonderful period, where the concerns of function were entirely subservient to form's will. To this end, I would even entertain nuking the quirky but irrelavent base of the Hearst Tower. This building is so loud, it is very much at home, and doesn't need a roccoco ashtray to hold it up.

The building has Lord Foster's usual innovations. Most interesting to me and my form proclivities is the fact that the triangulated structural grid uses 20% less steel than a conventional perimeter frame, according to the promotional website.

I'd like to get Charles Gwathmey's attention one more time and say that when the curtain wall for Sculpture for Living in Astor Place falls apart, in 2009, please call Norman up for some advice on how to get your developer to NOT CHEAP OUT on the new one.


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