Much-reduced Parke-Bernet addition approved


980 Madison avenue

Proposed addition approved almost three years after initial proposal. On October 13, 2009, Landmarks voted to approve Aby Rosen and RFR Holdings LLC’s proposal to build a four-story addition to the former Parke- Bernet Galleries building at 980 Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side Historic District. The application had changed dramatically since January 2007 when Landmarks rejected architect Norman Foster’s proposal calling for a 26- story tower on top of the existing five-story building. 4 CityLand 9 (Feb. 15, 2007). The original plan drew significant comment from local residents and prominent citizens, including artist Jeff Koons, who spoke in support, and author Tom Wolfe, who opposed the project.

Foster and Partners architect Brandon Haw presented the revised design, which proposed a three-story addition plus a penthouse. Haw said that the addition’s “appropriateness to the Upper East Side” was a guiding principle in the revised proposal. The addition will be flush with the existing building’s cornice, but will feature an indentation that separates it from the original structure. Haw explained that a light-colored aluminum scrim will cover the addition’s facade, which will setback two feet. The scrim will create a varying amount of transparency of the layered facade depending on the viewer’s perspective. The design includes curved corners that Haw described as “a moderne, streamlined architectural motif.” Other aspects of the project include restoring the original building’s facade and removing its non-historic roof and rear additions.

Commissioner Fred Bland found that the project “brings up profound aspects of how new architecture can exist in historic districts,” and determined that because the original building had been significantly altered over time, it was appropriate to have an addition that created a “new ensemble.” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter said the aluminum scrim reminded her of the gothic tracery on nearby buildings and noted that the Parke-Bernet Building would benefit from the restoration. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz commended the architect’s ingenuity, but said the proposal ultimately constituted “a new building on top of a landmark base” and it overwhelmed the Parke- Bernet building.

Before calling for a vote, Chair Robert B. Tierney said the planned restoration of the original building was “critically important” in his deliberations. Tierney added that the original proposal had been “brilliant architecture,” but it did not meet the test of appropriateness.

Landmarks voted to approve the plan, with only Gratz voting no.

LPC: 980 Madison Ave., Manhattan (07- 2665) (Oct. 13, 2009).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.