Sunday, February 10, 2008

40 Bond Rumination #3

My lapse in the as-promised series of posts on Herzog & de Meuron's 40 Bond has not gone unnoticed by yours truly. So to wrap this thing up (hopefully with something of substance), this is the first of two more posts to end the series. Here, I'll look at the "function of graffiti," and the last will try to sum up my thoughts on the Ian Schrager condo.

When I say "function of graffiti," what I mean is the purpose of the curvy, cast-aluminum screens/gates that demarcate public from private, sidewalk from townhouse, us from them, the screens whose patterns were "derived from contemporary graffiti tags, hybridized by computer."

40 Bond Graffiti Gates

These screens veer strongly from the simple curved-glass profiles that cover the concrete frame above. While the textured metal walls tucked behind these screens strive to balance these two architectural statements, the graffiti design is so strong in its own right to make that balance next to impossible. But why is such as strong artistic statement made with the ground-floor screen?

40 Bond Graffiti Gates
[Note the gate "cut" into the graffiti.]

My answer to that question is "to improve the relatively undesirable location of living at sidewalk level in Manhattan." Sure, New York has plenty of "life on the street," but most people don't want that life in their apartment, much less right out in front of it. One need only walk about the island to try and even find an apartment so vertically tight with the sidewalk to see what people want. It's simple to find units a half level above or below this level, but it is very hard to discover something like this, where a wheelchair -- though in more likelihood a stroller -- can roll into the apartment.

40 Bond Graffiti Gates

When I did come across a ca. 1960-70s building in a similar vein to 40 Bond, the prison bar-like gate was so unfriendly that the prospect of living behind it seemed, well, like being a prisoner behind bars, or like an animal in a zoo. So when the Swiss duo of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were faced with making these units desirable, or even tolerable enough for their asking prices, they went all out and created something as far removed from prison bars as possible. (One interpretation might see the screen as resembling bones, and equate their roles as structure and barrier as a parallel to prison bars.)

40 Bond Graffiti Gates
[Hinge side left; lock side right]

To me the most interesting moments of the screens that cover most of the street level elevation (minus the main entry) are where the functional gates occur. Given that the townhouses stretch the full depth of the building, entry from the sidewalk is necessary. The in-and-out and straight cuts of the hinge and lock sides respectively indicate these openings were either an afterthought or not worth influencing the design. I'm guessing that a sense of entry was not desired, as the owner knows where the entry is and others should not, lest they try to gain access.

11 comments:

  1. That certainly lacks even an iota of the lyricism of Paris 1900
    Of course, what can one expect from a situation with too many dollars and not enough sense.

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  2. not enough sense? How about, not enough rigor, talent and far too fashionable. Fashionable is what good architecture is today, gets one published which is the point, right????

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  3. Anon - The fickle tastes of a magazine only need satisfy for one monthly issue, maybe two if they have a follow up article. But architecture has to satisfy the requirements of the client and occupants for at least 25 years. In reality, architects should look out 100 years ahead. The interest of a developer who is only involved for a few years then sells to the HOA (and then crossed their fingers that no lawsuits appear) is also very shortsighted. The whims of fashion have absolutely nothing to do w/ architecture and it is a perversion of our culture reflected in the profession.

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  4. I fully agree, do not mistake my sarcasm, fashion is passing, like a new cola flavor.
    Lewerentz, Kahn, Saarinen, Pietilä, Wittgenstein.......... so many in the past, so few today.-Anon (EpEd)

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  5. I’m usually fascinated by Herzog & de Meuron projects but I find 40 Bond to be a gratuitous use of money (which Ian Schrager obviously has) and talent (which Herzog & de Meuron have had on past projects). I agree with Dr Doom – too much money. Constraints are, more often than not, a necessary factor in good design. Thanks for the up-to-date photos and documentation of this project – it’s nice to keep a pulse on NYC.

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  6. I would have to agree with you. Although its a very interesting structure, it is a little to pricey for a mediocre finished product.

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  7. I agree with you Dave. That is a very intersting point of view on the subject.

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  8. i believe that the picture above is not a very good example of architecure. what do u think was going through the mind of the person who made this poor piece of art. it looks like a 10 year old ws putting together a couple pieces of metal and made this. its intresting but not worth the time to make this.

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  9. I feel this is a great example of architecture! Architecture can be anything from a chair to a building and this gate is defenitly a unique piece of architecture. I think it is a very creative gate. The thought of graffiti wouldn't have been the first thought when I looked at this piece but i like it a lot.

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  10. amazing. give me if you have links with other blogs in architecture.

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  11. I work at a firm a couple blocks from here. What they failed to mention is the odd, green translucence that almost glows on sunny days from this building.

    Anyone notice this?

    I wonder if this strange green tint permeates into residents' units!

    Gag!

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