The Beekman Tower and the NYC Skyline
Friday, August 20, 2010
The dramatic steel of Frank Gehry's new Beekman Tower makes it one of the flashiest skyscrapers on the Lower Manhattan skyline. Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for The New Yorker and a professor of design at the New School, joined WNYC's Richard Hake to talk about the building.
Frank Gehry's best-known work is with museums, concert halls, private residences -- but he's not known for skyscrapers. Was he successful at turning his design aesthetic into a skyscraper?
I think he was actually. You're right, it's a new world for him. He's tried it a couple of times, but a couple of designs have not been built. This one has. He's managed to do something, as Frank Gehry usually does -- a little bit different and rethinking the form. But in a way that feels comfortable and not so weird that you don't want to go into it.
Now if anyone has seen this building, it's huge. This is actually real close to where WNYC used to be located, and there are a lot of historic buildings. There's the South Street Seaport there, you have City Hall. Talk about the building a little bit. Is it out of context there?
Well, it is very tall. But in fact, there are a lot of tall things nearby, too. In fact, it looks across from City Hall park at the Woolworth building, which was the tallest building in the world for a number of years. And it's relatively slender. And one of the key things about skyscrapers is in terms of the skyline at least, they can be really tall if they're thin. It doesn't have that sort of ugly impact on your eye and on the skyline. So I don't actually think it's out of context even if some of the other buildings are lower. That just allows the tower itself to be seen more clearly.
Do you know how many apartments will be in there? Now we know that it is completely rental -- these will not be condos or co-ops, but complete rental buildings. But how many are in there?
I don't know, actually. I do know the building has a million square feet, which is the kind of size that is usually associated with an office building. I don't know the actual number of apartments, no.
Now Gehry has yet to design an iconic building for New York, like his Guggenheim Museum in Spain, his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Lose Angeles, or even his Bard College performing arts center in the Hudson Valley. Will the Beekman become a signature piece for the New York City skyline?
Well, I think it will be, because it's downtown, because it's the tallest residential building in the city, and it's one of the first tall residential towers, apartment buildings, that's tried to make an impact on the skyline. That was once the case years ago. If you look at Central Park West, the buildings like the San Remo and the Majestic, which were once the tallest buildings, tallest residential buildings, they're kind of quaint now. They're only 30 stories tall, but they have beautiful tops and they really made a contribution to the skyline in a general way. They weren't just for the people who lived in them. They provided something for everybody.
I'm kind of thinking in that neighborhood, you have the Woolworth building, which obviously was once the tallest building in New York, and it is kind of a quaint building. Do you think it will take away from the Woolworth?
I don't think it will take away from the Woolworth at all. I think it will, in fact, communicate nicely with the Woolworth. You have two different generations talking to each other, which is good. And it's not right up against the Woolworth; it's actually a little distance away, so they can really communicate with each other, but also stand alone in a certain way.
A critic called the Beekman building “an ordinary structure in a shiny dress.” How would you react to that characterization?
It's true that the most interesting thing about it is the skin. That sort of metallic skin that looks wavy as it goes up, a whole different sense on how a skyscraper can look. I think the interior of the apartments themselves are relatively conventional. Then again, on the other hand, I think in terms of the market, I think that's what people want. I don't think people want strange space inside. I think they just like the idea of regular space inside an unusual and beautiful building. By the way, I've checked while we've been talking -- thanks to Google -- I can tell you there are 903 apartment buildings.
Brooklynites, what do you think? Is this going to block your view or brighten the skyline? Let us know, please post your comments below.