New York - It’s hard to miss Frank Gehry’s rumpled steel skinned residential tower on 8 Spruce Street. At a height of 870 feet, it is the tallest residential tower in the Western hemisphere. The exceptional and unconventional design of the building is a contemporary twist on the classic Manhattan high-rise, and Gehry succeeds in distinguishing his residential tower from the other neighboring buildings. The unique exterior façade was constructed using an impressive 10,500 steel panels. These rippled panels reflect changing light, and transform the tower’s appearance throughout the day. In observing the tower at mid-day when it is drenched in light, its steel panels reflect the changing light too well the direct sunlight bounces off the exterior to produce a head-ache inducing glimmer. This glimmer isn’t only headache inducing but, also is a fire hazard to the other buildings situated around Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street. On April 01, 2011, the New York Fire Department reported that the incredibly concentrated reflections from the shiny stainless steel were so hot that they ignited fires on the roofs of the nearby Verizon Tower, Pace University and New York Downtown Hospital. Clearly, when Mr. Gehry sought to reinterpret the classic Manhattan high-rise he did not intend to have his innovative design set fires to neighboring buildings. Another design flaw, aside from the fire hazards the steel causes, is the fact that the tower rises from a bland six-story orange elementary school. The brash orange brick and heavy steel framed windows of the school clash with Gehry’s sleek steel façade. However, according to James Russell at Bloomberg, Gehry couldn’t do anything about the school because it was part of an orchestrated deal by the New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The outrageous cost for the construction of the tower was a whopping $875 million, which explains the sky-high prices for the residential apartments inside. Apparently, the tower was financed when the markets were crashing, and was in jeopardy of being only 38 stories- but the developer Forest City Ratner Construction benefited from $204 million in government backed post-9/11 Liberty Bonds. The apartments in the tower are priced more affordably for the lower floors-studios for $2,600 monthly- while; the higher floors are exponentially more expensive. The highest apartments cost approximately $15,000 and they do not include hangar-sized living rooms, a balcony or a pool on the outside terrace! It is no wonder that Forest City Ratner Construction is having trouble leasing apartments on the uppermost part of the building.
Overall, Gehry’s design may be visually compelling but I certainly do not believe it is a “skyscraper for the digital age.” It is a residential tower that seen from the Manhattan skyline reflects America’s overabundance of individual wealth.
Archi & Design - Architecture
by Sara West | Friday, 13 July 2012