The Broadway-96th Street station, which was sloppily extended after WWII, is undergoing reconstruction.
The Broadway thoroughfare is being reconfigured to accommodate a station house in the expanded mall between 95th & 96th streets. This follows upon on the creation of a new station house between 72nd & 73rd streets, in the expanded Verdi Square. The structure there is a riff on the restored, landmark, 1904 entryway, that dramatically improved circulation, created a much used street level public space & somehow managed to visually anchor the Alexandria, David Child’s 1991 cartoon version of the beloved, eccentric Ansonia. Thank you Gruzen Samton.
The barrel vaulted structure envisioned for 96th Street seems to reference the suburban London Underground stations of the 1920s & 30s. Fingers crossed. There’s no stylistic context on the boulevard nor acknowledged pallet of colors or textures.
The interior tile work so far leaves everything to be desired. Whereas the past two decades of station modernizations have seen prefab tile panels hung over existing, deteriorated or missing stock or the older tiles scored before new are applied, neither format is being followed. Thin, low quality, rectangular white tiles are being applied directly to the post-war tiles. There is no effort at evenness, a fact revealed by how light plays on the tiles + the grouting varies from dark to white. Some of the new tiles have been painted over. Most are filthy. On the west wall of the station, a section is already grease stained. This doesn’t bode well for a project of this scope & cost.
A section of the remaining 1904 Art Nouveau style terra cotta & tile banding was removed for storage & ostensible restoration before this section of old platform at the northeast corner of the station, was sealed forever. For the moment, an adjacent, perfectly intact section remains.
Given the haphazard installation of the white, evidently background tiles, I was amazed this past week to first notice new “96’s” & then a frieze pattern, actually two. That work is beautiful. Everything else is shit. …. There is a section of rebuilt staircase at 93rd St (w/s) where the tile changes from something really stolid to what looks like cheap, bathroom tile… It would seem no one is officially observing this. Where will the old tiles & terra cotta go? Why is the station being given a new, albeit necessary, entryway, for which the closest New York reference is what’s now Asphalt Green but with an interior that’s not IND ’30s, industrial modern nor does it speak to nearby Symphony Space’s De Stijl citation courtesy of James Polshek: Boogie Woogie Mondrian.
If you think it’s impossible somethings amiss, please take a walk or a ride up to the next station at 103rd, restored in 2004 & see the difference in craft & care for materials.
Nine blocks south& 1 block west, the so-called grand luxe 535 West End Avenue, has just applied, factory-made composite panels with 1″ inch thick, brick-like veneers to most of two floors.
Apparently, there will be only four narrow, vertical sections of raised pseudo-brick on the entire West End Avenue & West 86th Street facades. The color might be described as muddy brown. The pre-World War II West End Avenue from 70th to 107th streets is solid masonry. Not here. The brickwork on the adjacent buildings ranges in a pallet of beige, cream, tan andyellow. The more daring buildings are white – not the failed 1950s & 60s white or orange to red. Brown tends to be found on the side streets are much further north or south on West End.
All of those buildings have trim & ornamentation, even modest ones. A urbane building would reference that pallet & at least nod occasionally to vertical banding.
Not this one.
It towers legally above the surrounding streetwalls in a suburban manner, meaning it’s there by itself. Some commercial avenues in Midtown & Water Street Downtown are like this but this is one of the city’s great boulevards of apartments – broken here & there by preceding townhouse blocks. A really good International Style residential structure, like, yes, Morris Lapidus’ Presidential on West 70th Street might have interrupted things with flare.
The developer – which has given the Upper West Side the unangelic Ariels at Broadway between 99th & 100th streets (without the promised LEED certification for “greenness”) has made a big deal of their Chicago architect. That architect, it seems, is to the Windy City – a great architecture town – what Costa Kondylis & his late mentor Philip Birnbaum are to New York – a developer’s dream. Someone who can squeeze the last salable square inch out of the zoning envelope.
That’s very useful, but it doesn’t always yield great buildings. Developers will often pair that skill with an architectural firm known for stunning exteriors.
Humdrum would be a step up at this site.
Meanwhile, this building & threats to others, has yielded a grass roots movement to get the entire aforementioned stretch of West End Avenue covered by a New York City Historic District. Take that Extell& please take Mr Lagrange with you.
For those wondering about terra cotta, until 1960, a great New York City architectural medium, check out the books by Susan Tunick. For a look at the 96th Street station plans -albeit sans the tile work, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/mancb7/downloads/pdf/irt_96.pdf. In keeping with renderings for all too many public commissions hereabouts, the commuters & pedestrians drawn are all white. This is 96th Street?… Lastly, to learn more about & maybe join the efforts to landmark WEA, see http://www.westendpreservation.org/.
Editors Note: Please be sure to read the comments below. Lily