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15 Union Square West, New York, United States

Tuesday 06 Apr 2010

Lost in Translation

15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States
Wade Zimmerman 
15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States 15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States 15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States 15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States 15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States 15 Union Square West by WAN Editorial in New York, United States
Your comments on this project

No. of Comments: 7

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07/04/10 Penn, Delft
I do not understand all these negative ideas about an interesting project. The architect has done very well considering limited possibilities of the site.
07/04/10 don doman, seattle WA usa
07/04/10 william rogan, shenzhen, china
while i am in complete agreement with other comments and about the disappointments in this project (and the seduction of computer renderings), i am slack-jawed at your editorial stance here: "lost in translation" is quite a critical summary. yet you present- without comment- the utter swill that is being retched out by developers and their architects all over asia. if this critical eye is a new development for WAN, then i welcome it; but compared with your normal presentation, this seems harsh.
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07/04/10 george, LA
this building is quite impressive. renderings often show the buildings in dusk which makes them more transparent. if the idea was to compare rendering to reality, that picture should have been taking afternoon. I am sure we would see a diferent picture.
06/04/10 walter chatham, new york, ny
This is another unfortunate example of the seductive power of computer renderings. I was pleasantly surprised by the original renderings, which showed the glass as transparent and therefore revealed the structure of the old building within. Much like I.M. Pei's Convention Center, which was originally conceived of as transparent, this building has reflective glass and the glass reads as a solid.
Furthermore, the jarring choice of black framing and the dark tint of the glass is sinsiter and completely out of character with the other buildings on this side of Union Square- all of which are light in tone. Another "object building" on a "fabric site" with nothing special to justify its self-important decision to be "different". The Architect should go look at Renzo Piano's addition to the Morgan Library to learn how great a humbler approach can be.
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06/04/10 Leo, NYC
This is a tragic waste of a very prominent site. Those barely visible vestiges of the cast iron facade are the only interesting part. Here was an opportunity to really engage the new with the old, and all the architect could come up with was to entomb it in reflective glass. While the Landmarks Commission never created a historic district around Union Square (probably not to stifle development), a spectacular group of (mostly late 19th c) masonry buildings remain on all sides. This clunker makes no effort to relate to them - the massing is jaw-droppingly clumsy, the materials Donald-Trump-tacky. It contributes nothing to its location - the most successful urban space in NYC. It is just a depressing example of a designer reaching beyond his abilities, serving banal real-estate speculation.
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06/04/10 George, NYC
ugh..so ugly. If there's 5 more of those around union square, imagine what that place would look like.

15 Union Square West nears completion 

15 Union Square West, a new luxury condominium building designed by Eran Chen of ODA-Architecture with Perkins Eastman is close to completion. The project involves the conversion of a five-storey building originally designed in the 1870s for jeweller Tiffany & Company and a new a seven-storey addition creating 36 residences with interiors designed by Vicente Wolf.

In designing the building, Chen endeavored to unearth the building’s original cast iron façade and make it visible by wrapping the entire structure with a glass curtain wall through which the original façade would be visible from the street and from inside the apartments where it would frame views out to the park. The early renderings, which were generally well received, depict a 12-storey glass box, detailed with a watchmaker’s precision with its upper floors cleverly stacked atop one another creating terraces. But as the building nears completion, some of its original promise appears to have gotten lost in translation – the cast iron façade is hardly visible, at least not by day; and the jewel maker’s precision that gave the façade its crispness such as the detailing of the mullions, is simply not there. Rather than resulting in an iconic structure on historic Union Square, 15 Union Square West has turned out to be more along the lines of typical developer fare.

Designer Eran Chen disagrees and credits the developer, Barak Capital, with seeing the project through completion amid the worst time of the recession. While Chen admits that value engineering did occur, he is for the most part happy with the results. “There are many things that are not as planned but overall I am pretty pleased ”, he said.

Chen points out that the building changes in character throughout the day and, depending on the time one visits, the cast iron façade is visible. While the 15th street elevation is a bit jarring from the pedestrian’s perspective, Chen said this particular façade is constructed entirely of reflective glass and intended to reflect the classical building across the street. The unoccupied building has yet to reach its full potential, Chen said. “It is the duality of the in and out that makes this project”, said Chen. “It will play much better when it is occupied.”

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

Key Facts

Status Near completion
Value 0(m€)
WAN Editorial

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