Art Society Awards 2006
BEST NEW BUILDING:
7 WORLD TRADE CENTER
By GLENN LONEY (www.nymuseums.com &
Muni Art Society)
NEW YORK, April 20, 2006 -- Gazing down at the
infinitely tragic footprints of the pulverized Twin Towers,
major American Architects and members of the Municipal
Art Society of New York had at least one Ground Zero
success to celebrate recently: 7 World Trade Center!
|Photo by Glenn Loney
It had just won the Best New Building Award
in the 2005 competition for the Fifth Annual MASTERWORK AWARDS.
[For some odd typographic reason, the first three letters of this
title must be set in larger case than the remainder. This is obviously
Although the prize-winners, fellow-architects
& developers, and Muni Arts members were only in the middle-range
of floors in this sleek new glass-clad high-rise, the views down
below, downtown, across the Hudson, and toward the East River are
What they will be like from the top floors—not
yet accessible to the public—should be fabulous.
The downtown side of the 25th floor
had been outfitted to give potential tenants an idea of how their
suites of offices might look. The other three sides of the glass-walled,
unfinished, wide open-space—around the central core of elevators,
stairs, and services—also promised unparalleled views, as well as
entire floors unobstructed by columns or other supports.
Photo by Glenn Loney
At the entrance to the awards-area, photographs
of the prize-winners were displayed on easels. Inside the furnished-area,
there was a model of the Downtown Area, centered on Ground
Zero, with models of what may one day rise alongside Number 7.
Chairman of the Awards Committee, Michael
Arad—designer of the World Trade Center Memorial—spoke
of the projects & plans underway. But several of the distinguished
guests, looking at the forlorn wasteland below—with the subway-loop
exposed—wondered aloud why it was taking so long to begin construction
in the architectural void.
That neither Governor Pataki nor Mayor
Bloomberg seem to be able, thus far, to "make things happen,"
and that Larry Silverstein—the lease-holder & developer
of the blasted site—has legal & legitimate concerns, is understood
by everyone who is interested in creating an Architectural Phoenix—or
two—rising from the literal ashes of the World Trade Center.
But who can really make this happen?
And, finally, when?
What no one wants at Ground Zero is an Architectural
Eyesore—or some High-Rise White-Elephants. Not to forget
that Old Folk Wisdom: "People who live in glass-houses
shouldn’t throw stones."
Curiously, unless you know your way around Ground
Zero, you might miss Number 7. It has, as yet, no Major Signage
outside, except for a strange kind of sculpture of thin metal-plates
on its cladding that suggests a Seven, if you look
at it from far enough away. Your scribe/photographer was standing
almost beneath it, unable to see it, until a doorman pointed it
One of the visual amenities of Number 7 is a
long, low, free-standing wall, behind the reception-desk, that features
a Jenny Holzer running-text in bright white lights. This
streams from right to left, possibly to confound future Arab
Terrorists, who read Arabic cursive-script or print in the opposite
In addition to the award for Number 7—Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill, architects and Tishman Construction
Corp. for developer Larry Silverstein—awards were also made
in four other categories. Two of these were in the Downtown Area,
The award for Best Privately-Owned Public-Space
went to the handsome shining glass-box at 55 Water Street,
designed by Roger Marvel Architects, with credits also to
Ken Smith Landscape Architects.
Best Residential Restoration Award was given
to Historic Front Street, South Street Seaport,
Cook + Fox Architects. In the language of the award,
this is a residential building "whose recent restoration captures
the original qualities and complements the surrounding area."
[That’s a matter of opinion, of course. Your
photographer/scribe was once something of an expert on this historical
area, having written a report—FISH & SHIPS—for
publication in Landmarks-concerned journals. The long street-side
of this structure looks more like the luxury decks of a Cruise-Liner,
but then it is just across the street from the South
Street Seaport docks.]
Awards judges included Aby Rosen, President
of RFR Holding LLC; Christopher Sharples, Partner, Sharples,
Holden Pasquarelli, and Annabelle Selldorf, Founding Partner
of Selldorf Architects.
This panel also gave an award to The Top
of the Rock, at Rockefeller Center, for the Outstanding
Commercial Restoration Project. In the long roster of credits,
the architects, Gabellini Sheppard Associates, stood
out. The citation was for "a commercial building whose historic
character has been recaptured while manifesting the highest standards
[When your photographer/scribe was Editor
of The Art Deco News, he devoted an entire issue to
the Art Deco Architecture & Decoration of Rockefeller
Center. This gave him a remarkable opportunity to inspect and
photograph the Center from the basements to the summits. Unfortunately,
he is no longer on Rock Center’s Press-List, so he’s never
yet seen the reported marvels of Top of the Rock.]
Only one award was given beyond the Borough
of Manhattan: The Gun Hill MTA Station, in the Bronx.
It won in the NEIGHBORHOOD CATALYST category. The citation
"recognizes a new or newly restored building that is spurring
revitalization in the surrounding neighborhood." [If you have
ever driven along Gun Hill Road, you may have some idea of the needs
in this area…]
Architects of record are di Domenico + Partners,
with other firms and names also honored. From the brochure-photo,
it looks like a two-story brick and glass-windowed structure proudly
standing beneath the Historic Elevated Tracks & station-platform.
[Your scribe was present at these awards—not
only as a longtime Muni Arts member—but also as a Nominator
for the Society’s annual Brendan Gill Award. As the founder/photographer
of INFOTOGRAPHY, he plans to take the subway/elevated to
record the Gun Hill Station both digitally and on film.]
The Muni Art Society’s MASterworks Awards were
sponsored by HELABA, Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen.
As East German Thuringia was—before November 1989—only
one state in a Warsaw Pact Nation, its state-bank has certainly
come a long way since then. Maybe it already had branches in West
Germany, in several of the various fractions of Historic Hesse,
such as Hesse-Darmstadt?
[Your scribe’s Berlin bank, in fact, was originally
founded in Dresden, but—with the Communist Take-over of East
Germany—in the West, The Dresdner Bank became one of the
richest & most powerful of German banks.]
In fact, have you noticed how many new Manhattan
construction-projects have been financed by major German
banks? Apparently, they have money, metaphorically, to burn?
But whatever happened to the Grand Old Tradition
of America and Americans financing their own projects, building
their own buildings, and managing their own facilities? Where, how,
and why did we begin to neglect doing these things for ourselves?
Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do
with the White House-inspired decision to permit a
Dubai firm to take over management/control of the Port
Authority—which not only owns Ground Zero, but also LaGuardia
and JFK Airports.
Actually, Dubai now boasts some of the most
spectacular new buildings in the world. Some Arabs must be doing
Maybe the Arab Emirates can rebuild the
World Trade Center, if Locals cannot make up their
minds what should be done and how and when?