(S. E. corner at 59th Street)

Developer: Park Tower Realty

Architect: I. M. Pei & Partners

Erected: 1984

By Carter B. Horsley

George Klein, the head of Park Tower Realty, took a clue from developer Gerald Hines and decided to hire world famous architects for his projects. Such architects, however, are not perfect and do not always produce masterpieces.

Pei has had his shares of masterpieces such as the East Wing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Although he lives in a non-modern townhouse on Sutton Place, Pei has yet to produce a great building in New York, although his best work so far is the Post-Modern style Four Seasons Hotel, originally known as the Regent Hotel, two blocks away on 57th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, completed in 1993.

This bland, black-reflective-glass, 27-story building is not bad, but its chamfered corners and V-shaped indentation on the avenue are too small in scale to be dramatic or subtle.

The black lobby, shown below, however, is very fine. Its main entrance is on the sidestreet and it opens onto a large skylight area filled with a solitary tree and a very good Dubuffet painting. The lobby continues on a diagonal to its smaller midblock entrance on the avenue. The main lobby's sparse, neat space is well proportioned and the counterpoint of the tree's green laciness and the brightness of the white, red and blue Dubuffet painting against the black walls and floor is elegant Modernism at its very best.

lobby of 499 Park Avenue

Contextually, one cannot argue with a glass curtain wall in the commercial section of Park Avenue, yet this modest black tower would have been better in another color, perhaps some shade of silver, or bronze, or even green. Its relatively small size, however, mitigates its otherwise austere Darth Vader appearance and is not totally out of line with the three other somewhat glitzy corner neighbors at this important intersection and its 59th Street entrance and lobby help the rather messy Park-Lexington streetscape on this block.

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