This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.
At 76 stories, 8 Spruce Street is currently the tallest residential building in Lower Manhattan. Located between Nassau and William Streets, this T-shaped tower was the Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry’s first true skyscraper. Prior to this commission and the 2007 IAC headquarters in Chelsea, most of his Manhattan proposals garnered considerable buzz but in the end fizzled. Of particular note was his gargantuan 40-story scheme for the Guggenheim Museum, which, had it been built, would have occupied three East River piers in the vicinity of Wall Street.
8 Spruce Street is 870 feet tall, almost 80 feet taller than the nearby Woolworth Building. Built almost a century apart, these towers are frequently compared, especially when viewed together from the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge. Though Gehry’s signature material – titanium – was not used, the rippled elevations make it one of Manhattan’s more striking works. Like the diaphanous folds of a Bernini sculpture, the gleaming stainless steel facades billow like drapery, creating an estimated 200 different apartment layouts. To produce these kinds of dramatic effects and gauge their cost, Gehry developed his own three-dimensional modeling software, which he markets to developers and architects.
Construction occurred during grim economic times. Not only was this project originally conceived in 2006 as condominiums, but due to rising debt and related costs rumors briefly swirled that owner Forest City Ratner might halt construction midway, at the 38th floor. This happened several times during the Depression years of the 1930s but, thankfully, did not occur here. Such concerns, however, have affected the way many people perceive the finished design, particularly Gehry’s use of orange brick on the lower floors and the absence of folds on the sleek south facade. Though some observers deride these features as value engineered, the celebrated architect claims both decisions were deliberate and part of his original design. From the adjoining streets and plazas, you can examine these elements yourself, especially how in certain places the bottom edge of the tower curls out uneasily over the more prosaic base.
8 Spruce Street is flanked by twin plazas. These modest public spaces, along with various community facilities, such as P.S. 397 and offices for Lower Manhattan Hospital, were provided by the owner in exchange for additional floor area, increasing the building’s final height and visibility. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape firm responsible for the High Line, the plazas feature patterned paving, brightly-colored movable chairs and wood benches.
– Matthew A. Postal