Moderne Twist Update

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The redesigned 837 Washington (at right) lops off two floors from the original seven story version.

It’s been few months since Morris Adjmi presented plans for his twisted tower at 837 Washington to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. He returned on Tuesday with a scaled-down version of the original design. The architect brought two 3-D models to better illustrate the before and after versions. The body of the exoskeletal steel structure still pivots clockwise atop a 1938 art moderne market building, but now it does so at a reduced height of 84 feet, instead of 113. Still, lopping off two of the seven stories from the original design may not be enough to satisfy commissioners who seem to be scratching their heads over how to address the major mood changes in Gansevoort Market Historic District, which sits within the ever expanding design glow of the High Line.

The new design as seen from the High Line.

For some commissioners the historic district’s line of demarcation remains sacred and even renderings showing views of the new building from the perspective of the park strikes them as misleading. Nevertheless, the building does sit beside the Highline and several commissioners argued that park’s influence should be embraced.  Commissioner Michael Goldblum suggested that while the commission’s objective was to preserve the district, they were participating in a dialogue with the surrounding area. To that end, he said, the building worked fine, as though the building were saying, “I’m not of the period; I’m sitting in it.”

Model of new proposal for 837 Washington.

Embracing the Highline was a cornerstone of William Higgins‘s segment of the presentation. Higgins, a consultant for preservation issues, was blunt. “The Highline is very much a part of this site,” he told the commissioners, adding that the railroad park provides the diagonal from which the structure’s twist spins off of. Later, Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea concurred that the newly added green elements respond to the spontaneous greening of the former railroad.

Detail from above reveals plantings.

But Commissioner Robert Tierney concluded that it didn’t yet look like the board had enough votes to move the project forward. He sent the architect back to the drawing board with a few words of encouragement. The original building “reads legibly”, he said, but the addition was still slightly out of scale. He then warned the architect not to over-restore the original building. It would seem that there’s still room for meat hooks and grit in the district.

From the side

2 Responses to “Moderne Twist Update”

  1. Seattle Architect says:

    The Historical Preservation Board is not supposed to base their decision on the aesthetics of design. Their vote is on whether or not a design preserves the historical neighborhood either by integrating into the context or by setting itself aside. They have already agreed that the building sets itself aside from its context. It should be an objective vote, not an aesthetical one. As much as I don’t like the design, the Board has no reason not to pass the vote.

    Seattle Architects Coates Design specializes in green building and sustainable design.

  2. Tom Stoelker says:

    You’re not alone Seattle. Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan said as much at the last meeting and reiterated it again yesterday. “I like it, but not here”. On the other hand, as was pointed out by another commissioner, the board green lighted Diane Von Furstenberg’s addition with its glass oculus atop that structure. “If we can approve the Dian Von Furstenberg, then we can do this.”

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