The Top Ten Designs

1. World Trade Center Memorial and Museum, Snøhetta
2. 23 East 22nd Street, Office for Metropolitan Architecture
3. 56 Leonard Street, Herzog & De Meuron
4. HL23, Neil Denari
5. Eldridge Street Synagogue, Walter Sedovic Architects
6. Bronx County Hall of Justice, Rafael Viñoly
7. Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, Polshek Partnership
8. Public Farm 1, Work Architecture
9. CityRacks Design Competition Winner, Ian Mahaffy & Maarten De Greeve
10. Buckminster Fuller: “Starting with the Universe,” Whitney Museum

1. World Trade Center Memorial
and Museum, Snøhetta
In the dispiriting saga of ground zero, the one glint of optimism is this Norwegian firm’s design for a 9/11 pavilion. Snøhetta offsets the politics and melodrama with an architecture of humane subtlety. The steel-ribbed glass wedge, sheltering the Twin Towers’ magnificently rusted columns, bows toward the memorial pits and supports the irregular form with an apparently crazed, structurally lucid tangle of tilted beams.

3. 56 Leonard Street,
Herzog & De Meuron
It looks at first like a parable about the modernism wars: A sloppy stack of pristine glass houses rests on a mirrored, pillowy sculpture by Anish Kapoor. Showy surface and austere forms balance each other, almost literally. The design, like the firm that produced it, looks both to baroque and minimalist aesthetics, pleased at not having to choose.

4. HL23, Neil Denari
No flamboyant West Chelsea condo more eloquently reflects the transformation of the High Line than this California architect’s first New York creation. At once adaptive and alien, the glass-and-steel building will sprout alongside the old railroad tracks and then widen, spreading its shine and shade over the new park.

5. Eldridge Street Synagogue,
Walter Sedovic Architects
A twenty-year restoration, opened just at the turn of the year, has revived the synagogue’s once-moribund Moorish magnificence. Though the Jewish millions of the Lower East Side have long since dispersed, a small congregation hangs on, and its home glisters again with stained glass, painted ceilings, and wooden columns disguised as marble.

6. Bronx County Hall of Justice,
Rafael Viñoly
A glass courthouse in the South Bronx: A generation ago, that concept would have made as little sense as a fur jail in Baghdad. Yet there it is, sun-filled, unforbidding, and eminently civilized, announcing that in this borough, the justice system can occupy a crystal palace, rather than a concrete fort.

7. Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant,
Polshek Partnership
At a time when New York architecture has been driven by a luxury race, it’s good to see Hervé Descottes’s blue spots light up the digester eggs of Greenpoint’s sewage leviathan. Those functional forms towering over Polshek’s color-coded buildings bring fine design to one of society’s least glamorous achievements.

The Top Ten Designs