When a dozen designer sukkahs showed up in Union Square in September, the area was mobbed—more than usual—by gawkers. Not only did New Yorkers get to learn about a relatively obscure Jewish holiday, but they did so while exploring a passel of the coolest sculptural structures the city saw all year, each with a different look showing just what design is capable of.
The Chicago architect went bankrupt just as this project was wrapping up, yet his first and only work in the city, like the nearby 15 Central Park West, proves that classical architecture still has currency. With only 12 apartments in the entire building, all taking up an entire floor or two, this neauvou prewar is the height of luxury—assuming you can afford it.
It was not the new flagships from Hermès or Ralph Lauren or Victoria Secret that offered the best new shopping experience in town but that scourge of fashion, Crocs. No matter how ugly their shoes may be, the company took great pains in restoring a 1818 townhouse on Spring Street in Soho, exposing bricks and adding metal beams to the inside while also expanding the space with an unusual glass box that neither overwhelms nor ignores its neighbor, creating a dynamic relationship between new and old. Hopefully its more bland neighbors on the Broadway mall will take notice and follow suit.
This pin-striped tower is just like the Goldman suits who work inside—from afar, it may not look like much, but when you get up close, you notice the bespoke tailoring. Looking so simple is surprisingly hard. Yet it is behind that demure facade that the real fireworks take place: some of the city's best architects, including SHoP, Office dA, Gensler and others, have whipped up the kind of custom conference rooms and cafeterias only Goldman money can buy. Too bad no one but bankers will ever get to see it.
Can a bunch of hipsters from the Northwest, with the help of an eccentric local design duo, transform a neighborhood? That may not have been the point of the new Ace Hotel, but unlike with its rivals—the Standards, the Bowerys, the Janes and the Gansevoorts—there was nothing cool about the locale (Broadway between Madison and Herald squares) before the hotel showed up. Now, this is arguably the coolest spot in town. And all it took was some vintage lamps, distressed couches and tattitude.
The most compelling new restaurant (not inside the Ace Hotel, that is) is the Wright, Andre Kikoski's transformation of the old Guggenheim cafeteria into a compelling new eatery. The food hasn't won much acclaim, but it may be worth it just to enjoy an hour in this whimsical room that won the James Beard Award for restaurant design earlier this year. It almost outshines the architect who built the museum and gave the restaurant its name. Almost.
For all the ills of the housing boom, including a fair amount of ugly, slapdash buildings, the city's developers still turned to architects as never before to create some true gems in hopes of standing out among the flood of apartments. The faceted facade from the Pritzker Prize-winning Frenchman is one of a kind, with 1647 different window panels, no minor expense. Hopefully, this does not mark the end of lovely lavishness.
Lincoln Center has long been considered one of the city's architectural showpieces, having been championed by David Rockefeller, planned by Philip Johnson and designed by some of the best architects of its era. Still, the arts complex had its issues, primarily that it was uninvitingly cold and as a result often empty. One of the city's top firms has peeled back many of the problems, such as difficult access and imposing blank facades, while adding a few flourishes to make this one of the greatest piazzas in the city, as it was always meant to be.
No, that is not a rendering. That is an actual picture of the Toren condominiums in downtown Brooklyn. Striking, isn't it? And buyers agree. According to Streeteasy, it was the best selling building through the first three quarters of this year, which is saying something because the neighborhood has been flooded with similar, if far less impressive, towers. Units command top-dollar for the area, so if there is hope for high-flying designs once housing recovers, this will be Exhibit A.
A public space to rival Diller Scofidio + Renfro's High Line is taking root just across the East River. After decades of planning, piers 1 and 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park have opened. Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenbeurgh has created a surprisingly spacious waterfront park that provides unparalleled views of downtown. And the 85-acre, 1.3-mile showpiece is not even half done.
Almost no one has heard of the Mott Haven Educational Complex, and that is a shame. It is the largest project undertaken since the School Construction Authority was launched in 2000, with 2,300 seats occupying six boutique schools. Yet it also demonstrates the city's, and especially the Department of Education's, commitment to superior design for all of its new buildings, not to mention everything from bus shelters to waste water treatment plants. Oh, and naturally it's a "green" school, too.
New York finally has the Frank Gehry building it has been hungering for for years. We missed out on the Times Building, the East River Guggenheim and Atlantic Yards, and the IAC Building is meh. This tower, soon to be the city's tallest residence, makes it plain why Gehry is the world's most famous living architect. While the rentals at 8 Spruce Street will not open until early next year, this building came into its own in 2010, as an underwhelming concrete frame was transformed by those rippling steel panels. The curtain wall has been pulled back and a masterpiece revealed.