You’d think a building on 5th Avenue, right across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and down the street from Gilded Age mansions wouldn’t be so brash as to put up a fake facade. And with sky high rents in the pricey neighborhood, they could clad the entire building with the same material or build a real roof. But apparently, this was all done on purpose. And no, it’s not even a renovation of an older building as it was built from scratch on the site of two former townhouses.
In 1979, as the building was being completed, New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable used the building to make a case for the “Architectural Pathetic Fallacy” which she described as a “self-delusion in design, full of good intentions and bad results.
She continued to describe the building, designed by Phillip Johnson:
He trimmed his tower with a series of ‘classical mouldings’ in delighted defiance of ‘modernism,” and topped it off with a slanted roof that is mansard in front and bare behind…the ‘honest’ or tongue-in-cheek gesture of stopping the moldings short of the sides of the building may be amusing to those in the know, but their use just seems unresolved. It doesn’t help that the moldings look like sliced off tootsie rolls.
Apparently it affects the real estate prices in the building as well. Kathryn Steinberg, a managing director at Brown Harris Stevens, told the New York Times, “The prices are less, and the sales are much, much more difficult there. It’s not a coveted building.” The 2011 sale of a 3-bedroom at $4.5 million took in about $3 million less than the average 3-bedroom price on 5th Avenue between 77th and 86th Street. A sale this year of another 3-bedroom went for $3.7 million.
As for roof flourishes, we prefer these suburban homes that have been plopped on top of apartments in New York City.