Midtown's 909 Third Avenue, included in our Brutal NYC survey, features a gridded pre-cast concrete facade that beautifully captures the dynamic relationship between light and shadow.
This often overlooked, under-appreciated high-rise designed by Max Urbahn with Emery Roth & Sons occupies the entire eastern block of Third Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets in Midtown. The audacious facade sets the building apart from its postmodern neighbors, consisting of a deeply coffered grid of cast-in-place concrete window surrounds. This waffle-like structure resembles that of One New York Plaza, which instead uses aluminum to create a similar pattern. Unlike its East Midtown neighbors, 909 Third Avenue emphasizes its presence using both its volumetric mass and the practical subtle use of light and shadow along its facade. The twenty-nine-story tower sits atop a large windowless brick podium, elevated above the sidewalk with concrete pilings, forming a U-shaped arcade that extends around the front of the building. The podium is the New York zip code 10022 mail-handling facility and the United States Post Office’s Franklin D. Roosevelt station. Red Flying Group, a sculpture by Ann Gillen (1973-1987) on the sidewalk in front of the building’s entrance adds some color to the otherwise drab arcade and podium. The extended sidewalk where Red Flying stands is a POPS (privately owned public space) and wraps around each corner of Third Avenue along the arcade. The POPS and public arcade were likely added to the building in exchange for a height bonus, as introduced in the 1961 zoning law.
Brutal NYC, an ongoing project on nycurbanism.com, surveys #brutalist architecture around New York City.
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Photo credits on website (Pavel Bendov, Michael Young)