16 October 2006

40 bond update

I got a chance over the weekend to snap a few photos of the rapidly-progressing 40 Bond project, an Ian Schrager residential development designed by those Swiss hot-shot duo Herzog and de Meuron. Although I do enjoy much of Herzog and de Meuron's formal research, material treatments, and patterning techniques, I tend to regard their buildings critically and almost categorically as nothing but over-dressed boxes. 40 Bond fits perfectly into this genre: the billboards claim that "Herzog and de Meuron radically reinvent the cast-iron building," when in fact the building is nothing other than a "cast-concrete" building, soon to be covered in fancy glass tubing. Material substitution does not suffice for reinvention. And furthermore, by ignorantly invoking the imagery of New York's cast-iron architectural legacy for such a blatant cause of gentrification, H&dM neglects the typology's rich social history. The same can be said for the bling-bling, one-liner appropriation of graffiti imagery for the street-level facade. In the end, 40 Bond is nothing but another developer project, albeit one with a larger budget for ornamentation. And surely the ornamentation will be stunning and the details expertly executed -- but isn't it time for our most famous architects to take on more critical architectural pursuits?

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