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The Metropolitan

181 East 90th Street

View from the south

View from the south

By Carter B. Horsley

Philip Johnson was the dean of American architects in the second half of the 20th Century.

His many famous New York projects included the former A. T. & T. skyscraper on Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets, the "Four Seasons Restaurant" at the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue, Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Bobst Library at New York University, the "Lipstick" office tower at 885 Third Avenue, part of the Museum of Modern Art complex where he once served as the director of the department of architecture.

Elsewhere, he was famous for the Transco Tower and the Republic Bank tower in Houston, and many others including his own glass house in New Canaan, Conn.

As he neared his 100th birthday in 2004, the latest addition to his celebrated design portfolio was The Metropolitan, a 94-unit condominium tower at 181 East 90th Street on the northwest corner at Third Avenue, directly across the avenue from the mammoth Ruppert Brewery residential complex that has a large park on its eastern half along Second Avenue.

Over the decades, Mr. Johnson has had numerous architectural partnerships, one of the longest of which was with John Burgee. He did this project with Alan Ritchie. Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron were also architects on the project.

View from the west

View from the west

This was only Mr. Johnson's second high-rise residential tower in New York. The other was 1001 Fifth Avenue, directly across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 81st and 82nd Streets. That limestone-clad building was one of Mr. Johnson's forays into Post-Modernism and its façade sought to be in context with that of the adjoining luxury apartment house at 998 Fifth Avenue, which had been designed by McKim, Mead & White. The building at 1001 had a mansard-shaped roofline but it received considerable derision because it was only two-dimensional, much like a movie set.

Mr. Johnson also designed the renovation of the former Gulf & Western Building at 1 Central Park West into the mixed-use Trump International Hotel and condominium apartment tower, whose facades are among the sleekest in the city.

This 326-foot-high tower is purely modern with horizontal banding, dark windows and rounded corners. The two-tone-beige-brick structure is topped by a very nice banded crown with rounded corners that is softly illuminated at night. The building's form is simple but its soft corners are a nice exception to this area's hard-edged high-rise forms, with the exception of the large curved façade of the Monterey, six blocks to the north.

The 32-story building has a side-street entrance with a marquee and apartments ranging in size from one- to 4-bedrooms priced from $950,000 to $7,950,000. It has nice retail frontage on the avenue and no sidewalk landscaping.

The tower has two setbacks and was originally called The Carnegie as it is in the highly desirable Carnegie Hill that has many fine private schools, and many cultural and religious institutions.

The area has many restaurants and there is a wide variety of shopping nearby on 86th Street and Lexington Avenues.

The east side of Third Avenue in this area is highly developed with many tall towers but the Metropolitan has few nearby high-rise neighbors on the west side of the avenue and therefore many excellent views.

Roy Stillman and Martin S. Levine are the principals of Sherwood Properties LLC, the project's developers.

The last residential project associated with Mr. Johnson in the city was the Urban Glass House at 300 Spring Street on which Alan Ritchie collaborated.

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