Massacring Jean Nouvel’s Nightmarish Lobby

The first thing most New Yorkers see when they come home to their apartments every day is the facade of their building, followed shortly thereafter by the lobby. At Jean Nouvel’s spectacular 100 11th Avenue, residents are greeted by one of the most striking exteriors in the city, a multifaceted crescent made from hundreds of irregular window panes. Yet the real surprise is inside–and not everyone is so keen on what greets them.

For his lobby, the renowned French architect created a stark hallway of matte and mirrored black surfaces with irregularly pattern-punched windows that echo the facade. It is not exactly inviting, yet it is distinctively, explicitly Nouvel. After all, this is the designer of the MoMA Tower, 100 10th Lobby that scorpion’s tale of a building thrusting its way into the heart of the skyline, in some ways so crass Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden took 200 feet off its top before approving it.

The developer and its sales team have, according to The Times, taken to blaming the lobby for the building’s under-performing sales. (It certainly has nothing to do with their tactics or the recession…) They have brought on Jennifer Post, the Upper East Side designer known for her elegant minimalism. She is working on renovations, seemingly slight ones, such as adding three “grizzly-sized” boulders she has designed and furniture from her own line–not a bad deal for Post–as well as (gasp!) carpeting to the granite floors.

Nouvel is not happy, but not for the reasons one might think–it is not so much that he has had no input in the renovations as something else. “They have gone off course,” he told the Gray Lady. “They want to complete the building as inexpensively as possible and they want to take the money.” 

But what about the people who actually have to live with the lobby? Holly Parker, the Elliman broker overseeing the building says nine out of 10 residents favor the changes, though the Times finds no one who does and talks to three who are saddened by the changes. “I don’t want it warmed up,” photographer Todd Eberle told The Times.

He insists he bought in the building because of its architectural pedigree. To deaden that with some throw rugs seems foolish. So 16 of the 54 units remain unsold. That’s not a bad pace for the current market.

Parker said if residents don’t like the new lobby, they can always change back–once the building is sold out. But if new buyers are lured in by a bunch of boulders, while those who moved in before them want the oversized gravel gone, it seems bound to start a fight. Neighbors in New York seem predisposed to battle one another over the most trivial things, so why give the residents of 100 11th another reason to bicker? It seems that if one is buying in a Jean Nouvel building, that is what they should expect to get. If they don’t like the lobby, they can live elsewhere.

mchaban [at] | @mc_nyo

Massacring Jean Nouvel’s Nightmarish Lobby