My recent posts at World-Architects


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bowery Livin'

The current Architect's Newspaper chronicles the latest developments in the five boroughs, presenting a helpful, all-in-one-place snapshot of notable -- and not so notable -- residential projects. One of the projects that stood out is 52E4, designed by Scarano Architects and located at the corner of the Bowery and East 4th Street.

[52E4 rendering | image source]

Living on the Bowery used to be less of choice and more of circumstance. The numerous flophouses and mission shelters have dwindled close to the number that one can only anticipate they will soon be: zero. These, and almost certainly the light and kitchen supply stores below Houston Street, are slowly giving way to places for the middle and upper classes, be it museums or condo developments, the latter in which 52E4 falls.

[Zoning map with notable buildings overlaid]

This project stands out, like the New Museum of Contemporary Art, because it protrudes so high above its neighbors. For this abandonment of context we can thank New York City's zoning, as well as the usual desire by developers and brokers to make some money. This 15-story tower is more slender than the SANAA project down the street -- owing in part to taller-than-normal floor-to-floor heights -- though the ins and outs are much subtler than the latter, bordering on the imperceptible.

[52E4 rendering | image source]

My interest in the project, and my decision to post it here, is not related to the relatively unexceptional design, but to the fact the building physically and symbolically acts as a marker. It stands out in its borderline context (between NoHo and East Village) and heralds more to come. The New Museum does the same further south on the Bowery, but with designs skills more than height. They are both part of a transformation occurring on an avenue long resistant to the change its immediate surroundings embraced.

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