Goldstein, Hill & West: How New York’s Most Anonymous Architects Have Taken Over the Skyline

Wary of Gehry? Call every developer's favorite architect.

In many ways, it hasn’t.

Arrayed behind the three partners in the conference room were two dozen poster boards printed with the firm’s latest projects, a fantasy skyline of glass, steel and brick that was taking shape quickly on the streets outside. That they have so much work while the real estate industry has barely recovered is astounding, but when you are the most amicable—and affordable—firm in town, the surprise begins to fade. It is the speed, the intelligence and the reliability that the city’s biggest builders have long relied on these three men for.

“They try to sense your needs,” Larry Silverstein said. “They are very cooperative, they are very helpful, and their participation is full.” Translation: they are not obstinate or ostentatious, like the starchitects who have come to dominate the city over the past decade, if less in actuality than in perception and press clips. (Mr. Meier, a New Yorker, has three buildings. Mr. Gehry and Mr. Nouvel each have two. Messrs. Herzog & de Meuron have one.) Even Mr. Silverstein has fallen under the spell, hiring Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki, all Pritzker Prize winners, to design his three World Trade Center office buildings along Greenwich Street.

Mr. Silverstein’s work is typical of what many developers have turned to these three architects for over the decades. He hired Mr. West back in his Kondylis & Partners days to design Riverwalk, a pair of 40-story brick rental towers on 42nd Street and 12th Avenue that opened in 1999. In an out of the way location, but with impressive views of the river and the West Side all the same, Mr. Goldstein came up with two stout crescents, offset just so to maximize visibility. Mr. Silverstein was ready to finish the project on the other half of the block when tragedy struck at what would become Ground Zero and he did not return the to the project until 2006.

In the meantime, glass was in while masonry, a mainstay in New York though little changed since the pyramids, was out. This was thanks in large part to Richard Meier’s sleek Perry Street lofts that opened in the Village in 2001. Mr. West was not enthralled with the style, but like all his partners, he was happy to oblige. “We are all susceptible to fashion,” he admitted. “Glass buildings may not be the most efficient or appropriate in New York, but we design what our clients want and what the market demands.”

The result is two 60-story towers, at once slender and gigantic, containing more than 2,000 apartments stretching across more than 1.2 million square feet. Mr. Silverstein was never going to rebuild the Twin Towers, so this is as close as New York will get.

Mr. Silverstein admits that with the few remaining parcels he controls in the area, he might turn to a flashier firm for his future projects, but he is also content to work with Goldstein Hill & West again. “They will shape it with you, and they will shape it for you, and they are very flexible,” he said. “With these guys, you always know what you’re gonna get, and you always get exactly what you want.”