Volume 17 • Issue 27 | Dec. 03 - Dec. 09, 2004

Gehry stays mum on Beekman tower project

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert
Architect Frank Gehry spoke at Parsons School of Design Nov. 29.

By Ronda Kaysen

New York is intense, even for famed architect Frank Gehry. During a Nov. 29 discussion with Parsons School of Design Dean Paul Goldberger, Gehry confirmed, among other things, that New York City is a very different town than his current place of residence — sprawling Los Angeles.

“It’s an intense kind of urbanity that’s different from L.A. It’s different from any city,” he told a packed audience at the New School University’s Tishman Auditorium. Dressed in a faded blue sports jacket and crumpled khakis, Gehry chatted with Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, about all things architectural. The interview marked the first of a new series on design and architecture dubbed ‘At the Parsons Table.’ “I just kind of go with the flow,” Gehry said about working in New York.

For Gehry, the flow is substantial. The 75-year-old architect du jour is currently immersed in three New York City projects — the theater performance space in the new World Trade Center and two Bruce Ratner projects: the New Jersey Nets’ new Brooklyn Stadium and a 75-story residential tower on Beekman St. in Lower Manhattan.

“We put in our name and lo and behold we got it,” he said of his bid for the W.T.C. performance space. The first round of designs is due by February, Gehry said. “It’s complicated, we’re just studying the program,” he said. The performance space will house the Joyce dance theater and the Signature Theater.

Gehry bowed out of the 2002 design competition for the W.T.C. site master plan. At the time, he said the nominal compensation offered to the applicants was insufficient. His explanation at Monday night’s discussion took a more sentimental approach. “I tried to stay out of that. It’s just too emotional. I didn’t know how to relate to it,” he told Goldberger, author of a book about the rebuilding of the W.T.C., “Up from Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York” (Random House, 2004).

Gehry made no mention of developer Bruce Ratner’s 75-story Beekman St. tower on a site owned by NYU Downtown Hospital. When Downtown Express later requested details, a spokesperson for the architect declined to comment on the project. Ratner said in October that Gehry’s renderings of the Beekman building are spectacular.


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