On the Waterfront: The Architecture Reshaping the Face of the East River

More than ever, New York City developers are recognizing the valuable potential of building on Manhattan’s East River waterfront. From South Street Seaport, to large residential buildings rising in Long Island City, we are seeing an unprecedented extent of real estate investors capitalizing on the demand for apartments and offices near one of the city’s main water arteries. As a result, the East River has become a unique focal point for architectural statements, some standing out among the crowd.

With project such as 9 DeKalb in Downtown Brooklyn and 111W57 overseeing Central Park, it is no surprise that developer JDS Development Group perused a unique, luxury residential development for the copper-clad American Copper Buildings with SHoP Architects, intent on redrawing the New York City skyline. Located at 626 First Avenue between East 35th and East 36th Streets, the zoning requirements included a height limit and a mandate that should two towers be built, they could not be connected at grade.
“We challenged SHoP [the project’s architect] to come up with something that would be architecturally dynamic but not upset the applecart of the existing zoning,” JDS’s Michael Stern stated. “With the height limit, there was no way to fit the floor area in one tower. It would have been more efficient to build one tower, but we’re very happy with where we ended up.”

“I appreciate that they’re high-rise buildings that are not exclusively glass,” commented Justin Davidson, Pulitzer-Prize winning architecture critic for New York magazine. “They’re using a material that has a long New York history and that will change as it ages. Materials like stone, brick, terra cotta and copper, when they’re cladding high-rise buildings, respond to time.”

Fellow Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic and writer Paul Goldberger added. “I do find, whenever I pass it on the FDR Drive, that it holds my attention. Part of good architecture is providing a certain amount of visual entertainment.”

By Rey Mashayekhi, Commercial Observer

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