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On 57th Street

On the IBM Building: 590 Madison Avenue, Edward Larabee Barnes (1983)

Nature has been held hostage at the 590 Atrium: canned sunlight, shrieking birds, unfamiliar flowers and ferns. The Suits are at home in this artifice, plunking sugar in a Bonhams’ coffee, and sprawling out on the patio furniture.

On 432 Park Avenue, Rafael Vinoly Architects (2015)

If it’s possible, the air surrounding 432 Park Avenue has been filtered; it tastes selective. Sure, the general public has privy to the current pastel-hued construction site, by way of a glossily lit marble slab viewing-platform, and yes, there will be a generous public plaza*. But the tucked-back nature of the site itself is, plainly, begging to be excused from the neighbourhood.

*That is, in addition to a private one.

On 111 West 57th Street, Shop Architects (Under construction)

On 57th Street, nestled next to a historic building from the 1920’s, is a peep show for pedestrians, and a promise to patricians: this is 111 West. Dutiful diamonds have been carved in the green barricades as viewing points into the development site, which reveal little physically — namely, the diet into the average American construction worker: a Red Sea of crushed Coca Cola cans, discarded Kit Kat wrappers and emptied Marlboro packs — but allude to the limited access of the building for the majority of the city’s inhabitants.

On One57, Christian de Portzamparc (2014)

The façade pitter-patters down, down, down, a cascading shower of tiles. Waves spurt out gently, a canopy, just overhead. Stems of birch have been collected, bundled, nestled at the entranceway. But One57 is a mirage; the natural world does not exist here: the rain, not sensual; the sea, too quiet; the trees, long dead.

On the Hearst Tower, 57th at 8th Avenue, Norman Foster (2006) + Joseph Urban (1928)

The past, stoic, is eclipsed by the future, which erupts in the form of Norman Foster’s origami-like Hearst Tower on 57th Street and 8th Avenue (has the Tower devoured an infamous “Eat-Me” cake from Wonderland?).

On Balsley Park, Thomas Balsely 

The café is closed, and the lonely few in Balsley Park are perched on metal chairs (likely, leftovers from a suburban garage sale in the 90’s), enshrouded by clouds of lingering cigarette smoke.

The trees are affixed with spikes. The birds have left.

On VIA West 57th at 12th Avenue, Bjarke Ingels Group (2015)

Blue-green glass, crisp white tiles, angles that dance with the morning’s shadows: VIA West achieves a playful depth that, on 57th Street, is simply not common. It lends itself to an apocalypse scene in a movie set; you can practically see a Tom Cruise like-figure leaping from slope to slope, narrowly escaping a climbing horde of angry zombies.  

On 57th Street, Pt. 2: To Developers-as-Designers

Digital Tapestries, Pt. 2