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Back to 2007 Culture Awards

The Year in Architecture

15 Central Park West
The next time you feel awash in disposable junk, take a walk past 15 Central Park West. The lobby’s luscious agate-colored marble and English oak whisper of high ceilings and appliances that could double as SUVs. Architect Robert A.M. Stern offers those who built their fortunes on intangibles—hedge funds, software, music—a way to inhabit a building with the solidity of a railroad magnate’s palazzo. Stern does not claim to be an architect of great originality; instead, he has built the best knockoff money can buy.

The Glass House  

Philip Johnson’s Glass House
Philip Johnson built himself this impeccable box in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut, and populated it with articulate guests. Now, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has opened the house to the public. It’s a revelation to those who know it from photos: From within, the structure almost vanishes. Being there also answers those but-where-do-you questions. The answer is: in the cylindrical bathroom, or in the Brick House across the lawn.

Bob and Jane, Again
Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs represent irreconcilable visions of urbanism, and praising one meant demonizing the other—until a pair of exhibits replaced caricatures with nuance. A three-part extravaganza at the Museum of the City of New York, Columbia University, and the Queens Museum made a case that Moses’s damage (the Cross Bronx Expressway) was inseparable from the good he did (the Cross Bronx Expressway again: Those cars coming off the George Washington Bridge have to go somewhere). Now the Municipal Art Society has mounted a modest exhibit exhorting New Yorkers to observe the city as closely as Jacobs did. Even Moses wouldn’t scoff.

Tiffany & Co. on Wall Street
Tiffany returned to its downtown roots with a new store at 37 Wall, the former headquarters of the Trust Company of America. To preserve the landmark—and to make sure the sparkly wares aren’t overwhelmed—designer George Yabu carved the space up with glass partitions and an almost immaterial staircase. The resultant store seems to float inside the space, one era’s luxe paying homage to the last.

The New Bus Shelters
A year ago, when the city announced a deal with the Spanish company Cemusa to outfit New York’s sidewalks with new bus shelters, newsstands, and public toilets, the jeers came in various forms: too expensive, never gonna happen, too much advertising. Those toilets are reportedly on the way, but in the meantime, new bus shelters are filtering into view. Slender steel frames support glass walls (only one of which bears an ad, as before) and a canopy. The structure is nearly invisible yet easy to spot: The name of the stop glows in type readable from half a block away.

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