It is one of the stranger developments in the city, but it could also prove to be one of the most spectacular. David Levinson is poised to tear down most, but not all, of 425 Park Avenue—were he to totally demolish the tower, what he could replace it with could be quite a bit smaller, given a quirk in the 1961 zoning that reduced the density of the site, where a rather unremarkable and outdated 1958 tower now stands.
To fix this problem, L&L Holdings, Mr. Levinson’s development firm, tapped 11 of the planets top architects to sort out this challenge. He has now winnowed the designers for 425 Park down to four, according to The Times, with an unveiling expected shortly. All of them are Pritzker Prize winners with a mixed history in the city.
Only Lord Norman Foster has enjoyed real success here, with his Hearst Tower and Sperone Westwater gallery on the Bowery. His fellow Brit Sir Richard Rogers has had a number of almost-built projects, from Vornado’s Port Authority tower to a vastly expanded Javits convention center. Both are also working on nascent towers for Larry Silverstein at the World Trade Center. Then there is Rem Koolhaas, who despite making his name here with the book Delirious New York, has only ever built a store for Prada, and Zaha Hadid. The first woman to win a Pritzker Prize (along with her three competitors), she has only one American project to her name, the Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center.
The six designers who did not make the cut have all built quite a bit here: Christian de Portzamparc, Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, KPF, Fumihiko Maki, Renzo Piano and Richard Meier.
Whomever should win, this project has the possibility to present the city with a new, daring landmark. That is if David Levinson will allow it. As The Times notes, a prospectus for the project warns the four designers not to be too indulgent: “While the client team is open-minded about material and aesthetic expression, a restrained elegance has often proven to be more successful for this building type than irrational exuberance.”
This is presuming, of course, he does not get carte blanche to design any kind of building, courtesy of the big Midtown East rezoning.