Architectural Guide New York: Critic’s Guide to 100 Iconic Buildings in New York from 1999 to 2020
DOM Publishers, March 2019
Paperback | 5-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 256 pages | 270 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3869224312 | €38.00
This architectural guide brings together 100 of the most original structures built in New York City since 1999. Vladimir Belogolovsky pairs them with such nicknames as Guillotine, Peacock, Shark’s Fin, Turtle Shell, and Woodpecker. The New York-based author’s selection covers buildings realized by the world’s most renowned architects, in a period when their creations were celebrated as art, and personal styles were encouraged by the media, critics, and clients.
The featured time span begins with the rise of the starchitect in the late 1990s, and ends in the present day. But the mission of the book is not only to document; it is also to celebrate New York’s transformative energy. Many of the buildings were designed either by foreign architects or those who settled in the city and now call it home.
Through witty, incisive commentary, catchy nicknames, quotes from the author’s interviews with the architects, and detailed maps, this singular guide allows readers to see many of New York’s contemporary icons in a new way.
Having read and reviewed numerous architectural guides published by DOM (Berlin, Venice, Japan and Taiwan, even Pyongyang), I know what to expect when seeing a new one: great color photos, the occasional drawing, very well crafted maps, QR codes linked to Google Maps, easy-to-follow page layout that uses color to aid in navigation, a 5-1/2 x 9-1/2 inch trim size, and a simple cover with the DOM logo. The consistent format of the architectural guides is enlivened by one variable: the author. Not only do the authors inject their points of view, style, and knowledge into the guide, they direct the guide’s content. Therefore Clemens F. Kusch and Anabel Gelhaar’s Venice guide presents buildings and projects after 1950, for example, while Dominik Schendel’s Berlin guide is composed as four walks through about a century of the city’s architecture. Hence, the guides are as much about the author’s contribution as they are about DOM’s goal of creating “studious architectural reference books [and] expedition guides into the unknown.”
Vladimir Belogolovsky “Critic’s Guide to 100 Iconic Buildings in New York from 1999 to 2020” is the second NYC guide for DOM, but the first in English (it follows Bruno Flierl’s Architekturführer New York – Manhattan by five years). Belogolovsky and I are tackling similar ground, with our focus on contemporary architecture in NYC and the creation of guidebooks that were released within two weeks of each other (my NYC Walks came out on March 12, eleven days after his critic’s guide). But Belogolovsky, unlike myself, is very outgoing and therefore a voracious interviewer. He has actually published a couple books of interviews with DOM that I reviewed on this blog: the collection Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity and Conversations with Peter Eisenman. With so much time logged in conversation with architects, many of them based in NYC and with buildings here, it makes sense for Belogolovsky to include some snippets from them in this guide. And that’s what he does, with up to half the text for each of the 100 descriptions consisting of quotes, occasionally about the building at hand but more often generally about the architect’s own theories on design.
But this guide is not really about the ideas of Norman Foster or Rafael Viñoly or Steven Holl; it’s about Belogolovsky’s take on the 100 icons he assembled. Focusing on the “eccentric structures [that] popped up in [the city’s] most unexpected and far-reaching corners” over the last 20 years, the guide asks us to consider what makes a building iconic. For Belogolovsky it is legibility: “a memorable image… representative of its time and place.” Beyond image he tacks on a nickname to each project, examples of which can be seen in the spreads below; these examples signal that the last two decades have seen a blossoming of sculptural and structurally daring buildings in the city as well as the transformation of once-industrial artifacts for the development of such icons.
Belogolovsky’s nicknames accentuate the iconic nature of the buildings, though I think they work only about half of the time. “Jenga Tower” for 56 Leonard Street makes sense, since that’s a name that has been given it, much like every tower in London has been dubbed something like the “Cheesegrater” or the “Gherkin.” But most new construction in NYC doesn’t garner such nicknames, leaving Belogolovsky to use the architect’s name (“Gehry” for 8 Spruce Street or “Zaha” for 520 West 28th Street), reiterate the architect’s label (“Stealth” for WORKac’s Stealth Building or “Blue” for Bernard Tschumi’s Blue Building), or find it somewhere in a building’s form (“Bird’s-mouths” for Foster’s Hearst Tower or “Guillotine” for Raimund Abraham’s ACFNY). Much of the time he ignores the architects’ inspirations and intentions, such that the Spring Street Salt Shed is “Crown” rather than “Crystal” and SANAA’s New Museum is “Stack” not “Bento Boxes.” While I don’t see many of these nicknames sticking, I don’t think that’s the point. Rather than defining the next hashtag around a building, Architectural Guide New York sees Belogolovsky doing something deeper: discovering and documenting how the phenomenon of iconic architecture — often associated with China and the Middle East — took hold in New York City as well, in turn redefining the cityscape for this century.
Vladimir Belogolovsky is the founder of the New York-based Intercontinental Curatorial Project, which focuses on organizing, curating, and designing architectural exhibitions worldwide. Trained as an architect at Cooper Union in New York, he has written over two hundred articles, as well as five books.
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