Oculus - Spring 2013 - (Page 20)
one block over
Oculus Spring 2013
swath of Manhattan’s East Midtown is about to experience the kind of
change not seen in the area since the mid-1900s, when the slaughterhouses along the East River were shut down to make way for the United
Nations. Since then, the UN has been the catalyst for most development in the
area, including the “Envoy” and “Diplomat” apartment buildings for its workers, office buildings, apartments, and the UN Plaza Hotel. Most were built
between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s.
The UN remains the impetus behind much of what is happening now. A
new 22-story United States Mission on First Avenue opened in 2011. It was
designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects to replace a much
smaller building that had grown obsolete. The United Arab Emirates is likewise building a new mission on East 46th Street.
Foster + Partners is behind 50 UN Plaza, a 44-story, 87-unit luxury residential tower at the corner of First Avenue and 46th Street, adjacent to Dag
Hammarskjold Plaza. The target is the international clientele, “particularly
those attached to the UN,” says Brandon Haw, senior partner. Unit owners
will be able to walk to work, he explains, thus creating a more holistic 24-hour
liveliness for a neighborhood that remains quiet after business hours.
To keep the streets’ brownstone character, the building will have a terracotta-colored exterior and bay windows. Stainless-steel highlights will pick up
the sunlight. “It is not a dull building,” Haw says. The structure will stand in
stark contrast to the nearby black behemoth, Trump World Tower, designed
by Kondylis Architecture and completed in 2001. At 72 stories, it manipulated
the zoning regulations of the day, which decreed that the 544-foot height of
the UN Secretariat be the maximum allowable for surrounding buildings.
The Trump building still seems out of place, but will likely be less so when
a large parcel south of the UN is developed over the next decade. Owned by
the Solow Organization, the property is reportedly for sale and has approval
for six residential and office towers, according to New York Assemblyman
Brian Kavanagh. It will also have a public school at the south end.
The UN is also planning to build offices on the south side of 42nd Street,
on what is now Robert Moses Playground. Acquiring the parcel required a
land swap with New York City, resulting in the new East Side Greenway and
Parkland Project. It will include a waterside esplanade and fill a need for
more green space in this part of the borough. Two UN Plaza buildings may
be sold by the city, with the proceeds going to park development.
Currently undergoing a $1.9 billion restoration, the UN has built a temporary structure on the North Lawn. Designed by HLW International, it houses
all the conference facilities and was the location of temporary offices for the
Secretary General. It will be the site of the annual UN General Assembly in
September. The restoration team includes Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, HLW,
Helpern Architects, Perkins+Will, R.A. Heintges & Associates, and Syska
Hennessy Group, with completion expected in 2014.
After decades of quiet, East Midtown is undergoing
BY CLAIRE WILSON
©dbox/Foster + Partners
Breaking the Peace
at the UN
(from top left) Foster + Partners’ 50 UN Plaza, a 44-story luxury
residential tower, broke ground in November 2012 and is scheduled for completion in 2014; view north up First Avenue with 1 &
2 UN Plaza Buildings by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates (1976 and 1983, respectively), and Kondylis Architecture’s
2001 Trump World Tower; the temporary UN Secretariat building,
designed by HLW International; the new U.S. Mission to the United
Nations, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates.
The new buildings will forever change the character of a breezy, wide-open First Avenue corridor
rightfully prized for its low density. According to
Haw, such changes are the appeal of Manhattan.
“Something happens in one neighborhood, while
another goes quiet for a few years,” he says. “These
neighborhoods have agglomerated into the great
city we know.”
Claire Wilson writes for the New York Times.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2013
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: Sandy’s Watery Wake-up Call
Global Waterfronts: Green Growth, Great Rivers, and Port Cities
Civics in a Shaky Paradise
Where Nature Meets Modernity
Green Retail in the Sky: Hong Kong’s Hysan Place
Flows and Ripples: Shanghai Cultural Square
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2013