A few weeks ago, we shared Jean Nouvel’s design for 53 West 53rd Street, a 1,250 foot project that would dominate the site. Reactions to the project were different across the board as some felt the tower would push New York forward in the architectural world, whereas others did not agree with the scale or aesthetic of the project. As we previously mentioned, Nouvel’s project had a long way to go before construction, and this week, as Nicolai Ouroussoff reported for the New York Times, it seems that the City Planning Department has decided to shorten the proposed tower by 200 feet.
Conceived as a giant spire, the tower’s sleek silhouette and proportions, “particularly the exaggerated relationship between its small footprint and enormous height” would have certainly left an impression on the Midtown skyline. The top of the tower, with its three uneven peaks, seems to have caused most of the problem. Ms. Amanda Burden, the city planning commissioner, said that the top did not meet the aesthetic standards of a building that would compete in height with the city’s most famous towers. Ms. Burden explained, ”Members of the commission had to make a decision based on what was in front of them,” she said. “The development team had to show us that they were creating something as great or even greater than the Empire State Building and the design they showed us was unresolved.”
The project was not fully developed, as the “three peaks were too symmetrical, which gave them a slightly static appearance.” Nouvel would have needed to clearly address such design issues, yet some argue that the Pritzker winner is fully capable of doing so. The new height restriction will also account for a loss of 150,000 square feet. This loss of space could lead to “cuts in the design budget, which could mean cheaper materials and more cramped interiors.”
The project is still getting a lot of attention in New York, and across the architectural world as some are bitterly against the project whereas others are in support of it. As Nicolai Ouroussoffconcluded, “…now, one of the most enchanting skyscraper designs of recent memory, may well be lost because some people worry that nothing in our current age can measure up to the past. It is a mentality that, once it takes hold, risks transforming a living city into an urban mausoleum.”