By Carter B. Horsley
One of the most eagerly anticipated and long
awaited designs in the city's history, the proposed, 74-story
skyscraper planned by Forest City Rattner at 8 Spruce Street in
Lower Manhattan was unveiled in late summer of 2006 and will have
a shimmering titanium façade and hundreds of setbacks.
The tower, which is located one block south
of the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and half a block
east of City Hall Park, will have five major "wedding cake"
setbacks and the others are stepped within each section in an
asymmetrical fashion. The "minor" setbacks are quite
shallow, but will give the tower a very complex appearance.
Furthermore, the "major" setbacks
will flare outwards slightly and the tower's verticality is not
sheer, but subtly curved with minimal asymmetrical undulations.
The 876-foot-high tower, which will be taller
than the 792-foot-high Woolworth Building on the other side of
City Hall Park, will contain 666 rental and condominium apartments.
It promises to be the city's most glistening tower, a serious
rival to the Chrysler Building stainless-steel top and spire.
The design by Frank O. Gehry, who designed
the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain that was the
most celebrated building on the last quarter century, was revealed
in an article by Nicholas Ourossoff in an edition of the Arts
& Leisure section of The New York Times.
Mr. Ouroussoff's article, "Skyline for
Sale," noted that Mr. Gehry created more than 70 designs
over a two-year-period for the tower, concluding that "The
result is an unusually tough design." "The massing is
a response to the bulky McKim, Mead & White municipal building
to the north and the 1913 Woolworth Building, its nearest competitor,"
Mr. Ouroussoff remarked, added that "the titanium cladding
will be rippled, as though etched by rivulets of water. As the
light moves across the surface, the waves will seem to change
form, giving the impression that the tower is quivering. Inside
the apartments, those curves will be repeated."
Mr. Gehry had recently unveiled his design
for the huge Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn for Forest City
Rattner, a proposal that has encountered considerable community
opposition because, in part, it is much bigger, though shorter.
That project is focused on a new sports area and its tall tower
resembles shifting glass shards and is not as graceful as Gehry's
Lower Manhattan tower.
Mr. Ouroussoff's article included 12 photographs
of models or renderings designed by Mr. Gehry for the Lower Manhattan
project and although the article and caption did not specifically
state that the model shown at the right is the "finalized"
version it was only one of two large photographs and from the
arrangement of the pictures it seemed to be the last chronologically.
One poster at WiredNewYork.com, Ablarc, commented
about the designs shown in Mr. Ourossoff's article that "they're
pretty much all good. Build them all; sprinkle them about the
The overall plan of the building is not asymmetrical,
but despite its nuanced irregularities it generally "reads"
as a rectilinear tower "wrapped" in grids of punched
windows with no indication of mechanical floors.
Mr. Gehry is the architect also of the ITC
Corporation's new mid-rise headquarters, now hearing completion
on West Street near the Chelsea Piers and his white-glass-clad
design there conjures a fleet of sailboats in a very close race
and is one of the most beautiful in the city. It is a white-glass-clad
building whose facades resemble sails and it is very, very impressive
and beautiful although only a medium-size building. Gehry's design
for the Bilbao museum has been the most acclaimed and influential
design in recent years. He designed a somewhat similar design
for the same museum for a site south of the South Street Seaport
along the East River a few years ago, but the museum unfortunately
abandoned the project recently because of funding concerns.
The designs of three of the four towers that
will accompany the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero was finally unveiled
a few weeks after the unveiling of this Gehry tower (see The
City Review article) and it appears that this tower will outclass
them even though it will be shorter.
Gehry's tower will have a new elementary public
school and some facilities and some facilities for the NYU Downtown
Hospital, which is adjacent to the large vacant site.
The building will have a garage, a bicycle
room, resident's cellar storage and the first floor will contain
two residential lobbies, a school lobby, a medical offices' lobby,
a cafeteria and retail space. The second through the fourth floors
will contain classrooms, a library and a gymnasium for the school.
The fifth floor will have medical offices as an accessory to the
hospital. The sixth floor will be mechanical and the seventh floor
will have an accessory gym, an exterior pool, and two community
Floors 8 through 14 will have 19 apartments
each. Floors 15 through 22 will have 18 apartments each. Floors
23 through 35 will have 14 apartments each. The 36th floor will
Floors 37 through 43 will have 8 apartments
each. The 44th floor will have a few apartments, an accessory
gym and a community room. Floors 45 through 48 will have 7 apartments
each. Floors 49 through 70 will have five apartments each. Floors
71 and 72 will have two apartments and the lower third of a triplex
the rest of which are on the 73rd and 74th floors.
If floors 23 through 43 are rental there would
be a total of 505 rental units and if floors 45 through 74 are
condominiums there would be 161 condominium apartments.
Earlier this year, some plans for the project
were "disapproved" by the Buildings Department, but
the application process was completed May 2, 2006.
The building's "block" number is
100. Its "lot" number is "1."
The tower originally was also intended to contain
expansion facilities for Pace University, which has buildings
in the immediate vicinity, but that institution withdrew from
Unlike Forest City Rattner's Atlantic Yards
project in Brooklyn, its Manhattan project has been far less controversial.
In an article in the Downtown Express,
Ronda Kaysen noted that at a public meeting about the building
held in September, 2006, some community activists voiced concerns
over it. "'I am absolutely appalled that a community
board that was against a 12-story building in Tribeca has allowed
a 75-story building on a narrow street,' said Phylis Salom, a
resident of nearby Southbridge Towers, referring to a recent fight
by Community Board 1 to reduce the height on a waterfront development
in North Tribeca. 'Tribeca is a community of millionaires and
we're middle class people. We have been walked over and stepped
it is immoral that this real estate company is destroying
our neighborhood.' Unlike the Tribeca development, which required
public approval, the Beekman tower fits within the neighborhood's
zoning laws and involved no public review process....An 11,000
sq. ft. public plaza, designed by Gehry, separates the building's
Nassau St. facade from two residential buildings at 140 and 150
Nassau St. Gehry will also design a second, smaller plaza on William
St., used mainly for school children headed to a new 630-seat
public school in the lower levels of the tower."
The building will tbe topped off in winter
2008, after which point the curtain wall will envelope the steel-and-concrete
structure. The tower is scheduled to be complete by mid-2009.
The building will also have hospital-controlled, public parking
in the building's basement, and will have ground-floor retail
This new tower is almost conservative by Gehry's
standards and several of his earlier designs for the site involved
twisted forms with more abrupt vertical breaks. This design, however,
would appear to be the best and is a vast improvement over such
ungainly Lower Manhattan skyline intrusions as 60 Wall Street
and One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Its shimmering facade, moreover,
will be a strong reminder of the shimmering and now lost twin
towers of the World Trade Center.