Because I am not 15 years old and this is not a Livejournal called “b e i n g g r e e n” or something, I am not going to go into why posts have been so hard to come by of late around here. But obviously I apologize for that — tough professional times for your blogger of late, although things are looking up somewhat there. If you want more info, you can check out my (imaginary) MySpace page, where I’ve upgraded my mood to “mischievous.” Or something. Look, I’m here to write about green buildings and green real estate in New York City, you know? And I wasn’t doing that, and now I’m doing that and while I know this sentence is hurtling towards the bloggily agrammatical already, I don’t want to let it end without thanking Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times for making my job easier today with his lively, super-smart review of 100 Eleventh Avenue, Jean Nouvel’s new LEED-certified condo building in Chelsea. Whew. That was a long sentence, and I am out of blogging shape. Let me… okay, just meet me in the next paragraph.
That’s not technically true, of course — it was actually made to offer second homes for multi-millionaires, with really nice views and low-VOC finishes — but it’s our sort of thing. Ouroussoff, as is generally his wont, skips over the green features at 100 Eleventh Avenue — they’re listed here, and they’re generally nothing you haven’t seen before, from recycled content to FSC-certified wood. But while it’s nice to see that Beyer Blinder Belle and Nouvel made nods in the direction of green building, the real value of 100 Eleventh Avenue probably has less to do with its low-VOC finishes than the impressive finished product that it is. To wit:
“It is a luxury building, and who would argue that we need more of those?” Ouroussoff writes. “But its mix of grit and glamour — embodied in a glittering facade that seems to have been wrapped around the curved front of a black brick tower like a tight-fitting sequined dress — is apt to temper whatever you may feel about the Wall Streeters and art-world insiders who are likely to move into its apartments. It conjures a downtown New York we once loved and can now barely remember, where rundown manufacturing buildings buzzed with cultural vitality.” Which, first of all: pretty well put, even leaving aside the sort of dodgy way in which architecture critics talk about buildings as if they are sexy ladies. (They are not, they are buildings) But that last bit, about how it recalls something about New York while looking nothing like what that old New York looked like, that is what really stands out to me.
I’ve been debating, for the past few days, a post about a wildly non-green development. Which I might as well tell you is the controversial Domino Sugar revamp, and which I may yet wind up writing about. But what struck me about it, beyond the corniness of its conception — great expanses of parking lots and anonymous luxury condos in a city that doesn’t need/want more cars and definitely doesn’t need more luxury condos? – is its immense and overarching mediocrity. The whole Domino project is tossed-off, heedless, dumb — like so many other buildings built in the city, it’s not only innocent of any sense of obligation to sustainability, but ignorant of any consideration but the basest of bottom-line watching. Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue might be a bit of an egocentric statement from the architect — I dig it, personally, but I can see how one might arrive at that conclusion — but it’s also a building that reflects a purpose and a sense of its own place in this city. It’s nice that it has air filters, but the fact that it’s there at all, as an inspiration and a challenge, is a different sort of sustainable statement. Green building should be, must be a big part of the New York City of the next 100 years, but great building — in the tradition of the stuff that sends tourists wandering our streets, eyes turned upwards — is as much a part of a New York City worth sustaining as, like, passive solar.