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October 09, 2009

Scraping Sky or Scraping Bottom?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

It's time for me to start picking up the architectural slack now that Michael is a part-time blogger.

Therefore, I give you Jean Nouvel -- please!

Nouvel is is a French architect who has been awarded the Pritzker Prize (in 2008). Last year it was announced that he would be architect for an Eiffel Tower sized skyscraper in Paris' close-by La Défense district.

Then there's a proposed 75-story (or maybe 82 or even 85 story -- read here) building he's designing to fit just west of New York's Museum of Modern Art (a favorable article about the project is here, another take is here.) Apparently, enough people have reacted in horror that the City Planning Commission voted to chop 200 feet off its top.

I like tall buildings, if they're done right -- as was often the case in the 1920s and early 30s. I don't know enough about the proposed Midtown spire to form a strong opinion, but its neighborhood already has plenty of tall buildings of questionable aesthetic quality, so what's wrong with dumping yet another into the mix?

Actually, my main reservation is that it might be a little too close for comfort to the old RCA Building in Radio City (I love using those archaic names!).

The proposed Paris skyscraper strikes me as being a huge mistake. The city already has the despised Tour Montparnasse. Existing La Défense high-rises are not terribly obtrusive, but something about as tall as the Eiffel Tower would be as unsightly as the Montparnasse structure.

I haven't heard if the Paris building is still set for construction; when I was in town in May, I saw no sign of it. Better-informed readers are encouraged to bring us up to date in Comments. Your opinions on both projects as well as about the issue of tall buildings in general are also welcome.



posted by Donald at October 9, 2009


Montparnasse is really in the city, and the Tour looks like a giant upended shoebox bearing no relation to its surroundings. La Défense, on the other hand, is way out on the periphery and is already populated by giant buildings. Why not another? Why not have a zone near Paris where it's OK to build gigantic iconic buildings? Nouvel did the Musée du monde arabe, which is pretty cool as modern buildings goes.

Posted by: robert61 on October 10, 2009 1:03 PM

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