New York has a lot of things worth ogling, and you see some crazy stuff in the streets. In addition to the odd people we come across daily, we’re also surrounded by really diverse and sometimes odd architecture. You know those buildings that just don’t seem to fit? The ones that always catch your eye? In the new series “What’s That Building?”, we plan on shedding some light on the obscure architectural gems or just straight up weird structures that stick out like a sore thumb and make you think “what’s the deal with that?”The first building we want to stop and take a moment to talk about is the “BLUE Residential Tower” in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Anyone who passes it for the first time is probably like “WTF is this big blue shiny thing doing looming over the grungy LES?” Who made it? Where did this come from? What is it?
The BLUE building is a Bernard Tschumi Architects’ project, an architectural company that works around the world constructing things like museums, office spaces, educational and cultural centers, and innovative design contributing to various forms of infrastructure. They’ve made some pretty remarkable stuff, like the Vacheron Constantin Headquarters in Geneva—whose design was based on a thin, flexible envelope. Another unique design was their proposal for a public building in order to commemorate the Chilean bicentennial (which was not chosen, but is still remarkable). Tschumi’s proposal “addresses ecological and economic conditions with a plan to build tunnels and wind towers along a prominent ridge in the middle of the city [Santiago] that separates the city economically and socially.” The way the six towers would have been constructed would work to eliminate air quality problems, and its multiple tunnels were proposed to serve as links between various disconnected parts of the city. Each tower was to be filled with art, educational spaces, shopping and entertainment.
The BLUE building was completed in 2007, is a 17-story residential project, and holds 32 different occupancy spaces. When this building was proposed and subsequently erected, it faced many challenges relating to zoning requirements. The zone in which it was built, for example, has a two sky exposure rule (accomplished with its sloping top of the building). The building was also challenged as it sought to accommodate both the residential and commercial regulations of the area, as it crosses the line between the residential and zoning districts. The architects wanted to create larger living spaces for residents, with its cantilever over the commercial space located at one end of the building.
Some like it, and some damn its glittering nature amongst the old tenements of the Lower East Side—calling it a blemish. Is it just another product of gentrification, or does its sustainable-material filled unique design, seeking to “reflect both the internal arrangement of spaces and the multi-faceted character of the neighborhood below” have any redeeming qualities?