In the fourth essay in a five-part series for Casabella on Gordon Bunshaft, architectural historian Nicholas Adams examines 9 West 57th Street. Also known as the Solow Building, the 49-story tower features a distinctive, curved facade. This bold design faced early criticism following its completion in 1974, earning the building monikers like "the ski-slope building" and "the building with the bell-bottom pants."
In 1973, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable reviewed the building in an article titled "Anti-Street, Anti-People." Huxtable called the Solow Building and the W.R. Grace Building (also designed by Bunshaft) "disdainfully antistreet, excruciatingly awkward in their connections to their neighbors and [in the case of 9 West 57th Street] belligerently disruptive of the skyline..."
Despite the initial critiques, the building's success lies in its ability to meet New York City's complex zoning codes while remaining architecturally innovative. The design ensures that a proper amount of light and air reach pedestrians at street level while simultaneously maximizing interior real estate. Although the severe lines and dizzying height of the building were once symbols of corporate indifference, the building has become, Adams writes, "almost conventional by comparison with many of the new buildings."
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