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In the spirit of the Olympics

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In the spirit of the Olympics

| Architecture Criticism | February 07, 2014

New York City architecture in 2013:  The great and the not-so-great

In the spirit of the Olympics, here are our three favorite projects from 2013 — plus one that didn’t stick the landing.

A toast to 4 World Trade Center, Sunset Park’s new recycling center and Walker Tower, plus a hard look at Prospect Park’s new skating center.

This seems like a stretch to tie in architecture criticism to the Olympics, but it did get me to read the post by Matt Chaban of the Daily News.  He brings his critique to a pedestrian level in my opinion, which is probably why I don’t know him as an architecture critic – that’s just my opinion. Do you agree with Matt’s Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal projects? Do you have your own medals you would like to award?

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Gold medal
4 World Trade Center

It may not be the biggest building on the 16-acre site, nor the boldest, but it is certainly the most beautiful — a quiet, dignified tower that honors its sacred home. Using simple geometries, Japanese master architect Fumihiko Maki put a notched parallelogram atop a trapezoid and covered the whole thing in a crystalline glass sheath. The result is a solemn sentinel watching over the site.

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Silver medal
Sims recycling center

Annabelle Selldorf is best known for designing Fifth Ave. boutiques, Chelsea galleries and luxury apartments. And now a recycling plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn (below). The firm used standard prefabricated beams and modules to create the hangar-like structure on the harbor. The surprisingly sleek industrial facility shows that simple components and a clever hand can achieve great results.

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Bronze medal
Walker Tower

There’s a reason the wealthy and celebs like Cameron Diaz have been flocking to Walker Tower (right). Take a neglected art deco telephone exchange towering over Chelsea, gut it and turn it into a modern throwback. Period details and newfangled accessories are expensive, which explains why the penthouse is in contact for $50.9 million, a downtown record.

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Dishonorable mention
Lakeside skating center

A good effort by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, but the new skating center in Prospect Park (right) is more of an unpolished diamond — nice rinks, but utterly lacking in necessities like changing rooms and benches for hockey. We can only hope the problems will be addressed.  By Matt Chaban

My Medal Picks are more simpatico with these projects

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About the author

After working at various design practices on a full-time and freelance basis, and starting his own design firm, David McFadden saw that there was a gap to be filled in the industry. In 1984, he created an expansive hub for architects and hiring firms to sync up, complete projects, and mutually benefit. That hub was Consulting For Architects Inc., which enabled architects to find meaningful design work, while freeing hiring firms from tedious hiring-firing cycles. This departure from the traditional, more rigid style of employer-employee relations was just what the industry needed - flexibility and adaption to modern work circumstances. David has successfully advised his clients through the trials and tribulations of four recessions – the early 80’s, the early 90’s, the early 2000’s, and the Great Recession of 2007.

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