Manhattan is set to get an exciting new addition to its skyline after the unveiling yesterday of plans for an ambitious skyscraper by the French architect Jean Nouvel that will rise on a slim empty lot next to the Museum of Modern Art.
Rising 75 storeys like a many-pointed shark's tooth in the midst of the busy Midtown office and hotel district, the new tower will be taller than the Chrysler Building a few blocks away and will compete with anything already standing in New York for its architectural panache and daring.
Destined to house a hotel and luxury residences, the tower will also offer significant new space on three of its lower floors for MoMA, which only recently celebrated a significant expansion with new galleries designed by Japan's Yoshio Taniguchi.
The empty lot, used for occasional outdoor events, was acquired by the museum after the City Athletic Club, which once stood there, went into bankruptcy. The Texas-based developer Hines then bought the lot, but the museum retained veto power on the choice of architect for the new tower.
Nouvel, a superstar of architecture whose competitors for the project included the London-based firm Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, has only recently started to make his mark on New York.
A compact luxury apartment building in SoHo is almost finished while he has won rave reviews for a bigger residential edifice with a crazed mosaic of windows, each different in shape and size, facing the Hudson river.
After months of secrecy and heated speculation about the site, the selection of Nouvel and the first renderings of his proposed structure were reported by The New York Times yesterday and its widely respected architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff.
He liked what he saw, asserting that the tower promises to be "the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation".
Twisting and tapering to multiple peaks high above the pavement, the building will bare its skeletal superstructure of steel on the exterior of multiple facades of glass. Also visible from the outside will be the lattice-like ventilation system. MoMa intends to punch through to its new expanses inside the tower directly from the second, fourth and fifth floors of its existing, often tourist-choked, galleries next door. No separate entrance will be required.
Manhattan, which for perhaps for too long has relied on long-ago conceived skyscrapers to retain its reputation for skyline grandeur, has burst into life recently with a series of new and daring projects. Construction is at last under way on the mighty Freedom Tower at Ground Zero where several other trophy buildings by architects Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Fuhimiko Maki of Japan are also in the works .
Now the regeneration of Midtown is taking off as well. Competing with Nouvel for attention will be Lord Foster's planned new Shangri-La hotel set to rise just three blocks to the east on Lexington Avenue and the already standing Hearst headquarters with its soaring atrium and striking diagonal grid system of construction also by Foster.