The two have sat side-by-side for nearly a century -- both artifacts from the city's manufacturing heyday -- mostly ignoring each other. But now their fates have become intertwined by a proposal for an apartment house over a one-block section of the rail bed, which runs in an open trench behind the museum. The building's south facade would be just 60 feet from the Rodin's back door.
It is a project that manages to be at once both dismaying and intriguing. Commissioned by
The case is more difficult than usual because Cret's museum is among
The impact on the jungly landscape of the rail bed, which has been dubbed the "low line" by the group that wants to turn it into a trail park, could be equally profound.
Two stories below street level, the trench also benefits from the perception of isolation. Walking its two-mile length, you experience the city at a distance, occasionally glimpsing snippets of the skyline above its massive stone walls. Once capped by the apartment building, the pit behind the Rodin would be reduced, at best, to a dim tunnel. At worst, the corridor would be cut into two useless pieces, rendering the park idea stillborn.
For all that, Blumenfeld's proposal does offer the city something in return.
The building would immediately establish a strong urban presence on
Blumenfeld also plans a row of storefronts on
Still, as wonderful as a trail could be, the project remains a far-off dream -- the city hasn't even been able to pull off the more manageable high-line park on the
The real issue is whether Blumenfeld's architects,
So far, the answer is no. To be fair, its design is still in an early stage. Barton has simply sketched a site plan showing the size and arrangement of the building's parts. It hasn't colored in the fine details or selected materials, the magical alchemy that produces architecture. Blumenfeld (brother of Divine Lorraine developer
That group seems mostly concerned with traffic at the already congested intersection of 21st and
Right now, the architects are showing a building shaped like the number '7.' A long, curving facade would face the back of the Rodin, while the retail portion on
It would be better for the Rodin if the designers flipped this layout, placing the long facade on
Reconfiguring the site plan is fairly easy. Creating architecture that honors the Rodin is much harder.
Based on their portfolios, neither Barton nor Blumenfeld has ever designed anything approaching what is needed here. In the last few months, Barton has produced some smart urban site plans for
To realize a building on this site, Blumenfeld will be asking the city for a long list of favors, including a zoning change and an exemption from a provision in the building code. It is time for the city to demand something meaningful in return: a work of architecture that can stand proudly next to Cret's masterpiece.
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