Lost in Translation

Tuesday 06 Apr 2010

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:

United States
Residential Urban design

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