NEWS: Deadly Assesment of Foster Tower from the New York Sun

Babel of the Upper East Side
October 31, 2006

There was much merriment across the Upper East Side last week when Sir Norman Foster, the famed British architect, praised the neighborhood’s “tradition of radicalism.” Mr. Foster was addressing the Landmarks Preservation Committee about the 30-story high-rise he wishes to build atop the former home of Parke-Bernet auction house at Madison Avenue and 76th Street.

It occurs to me that, since Mr. Foster comes from London, perhaps he meant to say the East Village, which also has the word “east” in its name. But whether or not Mr. Foster has his directions right, he could hardly have contrived a more misdirected project for the Upper East Side than this hypermodernist glass and steel tower that would rise above the six-story plinth of the old auction house.

The evidence for Mr. Foster’s claim of radicalism consists of exactly two buildings, the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. But Mr. Foster misses the point. Surely the style of those landmarks was and remains radical in any sense of the term. But ultimately more important than their style is their fundamental respect for the forms and dimensions of the neighboring buildings. The problem with Mr. Foster’s proposal has nothing to do with style — only height. At 350 feet, it would fatally undermine the scale and spirit of the Upper East Side.

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