Architects the Recession Claimed

Lucien Lagrange just can't win—between the neighborhood outrage over the parking garage, the messy public divorce, and now the news that the Chicago architect has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy just after completing his first New York project, at 535 West End Avenue. "By the look of things, it will also be his last," writes The Real Deal.

To soothe the sting somewhat, the article heaps praise on the new condo. "The result," says The Real Deal, "is an experiential richness that you simply don't find in the work of their imitators."

Don't worry, the legendary Frank Gehry and his firm are still alive and kicking. But his vision for Atlantic Yards, alas, is not.

"So long, Frank Gehry," the Daily News declared of the end of the architect's glitzy design for the project, which was doomed by skyrocketing costs. 

"We remain extremely proud of our work on the Atlantic Yards master plan and on the original arena, which we designed in close collaboration with Forest City Ratner," said Mr. Gehry. 

Not everyone was so stoic about the decision. The decision "to defer or eliminate the four surrounding towers is defensible from a business perspective ... also feels like a betrayal of the public trust," New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourossoff. Alas, so likely would have been the $950 million-plus price tag.


Even as he continued to produce stunning work like this stunning condo conversion in the Exchange Building, Mr. O'Hara's firm filed for Chapter 11. The firm said in court documents that it was still alive, but definitely hurting.

"Between the downturn in the economy, not getting paid [by clients] and getting hit by these unexpected tax issues, [it] all combined to form a perfect storm from which I intend to land on dry shore," said Mr. O'Hara. "We feel strongly we will emerge from this Chapter 11 and be back."

Then, of course, the building, which belonged to beleaguered developer Kent Swig, also went bankrupt. Curbed reports that within the last couple of weeks, there have at least been signs of life once again.

Grad Associates closed its doors in February. The New Jersey architecture firm designed the Essex House Hotel, a 40-story 1930s Art Deco tower on New York’s Central Park South, as well as one of New Jersey's tallest buildings, the 1929 Raymond Commerce building.

Of course, the firm that was once a giant, with 135 employees at its height in the 1980s, had already endured a long fall from grace. By the time it shut its doors, only 15 staffers remained.

Still, principal Vasant Kshirsagar had this poignant farewell: "I said, 'Take your computers home.’ All the (architectural) models, we returned them to the clients. We cleaned the space, and we said, ‘Goodbye.’"


Reportedly architect John Morefield made $50,000 in commission after he set up this booth at the Ballard Farmers’ Market in Seattle.

Michael Hanson, The New York Times

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