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HomeBuildingsThe ‘Starchitect’ behind the Sutton Place Megatower

The ‘Starchitect’ behind the Sutton Place Megatower


The developer Bauhouse Group is seeking to force a megatower on Sutton Place.  Imagine this: a building almost as high as the Empire State Building smack in the middle of narrow East 58th Street.  The East River 50s Alliance, a neighborhood group, is fighting to stop it.

Our architecture writer, David Brussat, offers this decidedly non-admiring look at Sir Norman Foster, the British “starchitect” hired to design this ludicrous pencil east of  First Avenue.  (See David’s earlier post, Stepping Heavy on Sutton Place.)



Sir Norman Foster’s much-mocked “Gherkin” building in London. Cartoon by Leon Krier.*


The name Bauhouse is a riff on Bauhaus, the early modernist art cooperative in pre-war Germany where much of modernism’s early thinking germinated. But with modern architecture having supplied half a century of branding services for the 1 percent, Sir Norman Foster vies with fellow Brit starchitect Sir Richard Rogers for bragging rights as modernism’s dark knight. Both are expert at manipulating local permitting boards in full drool at the prospect of working with such king pins of design.

Foster’s Hearst Tower was the first major building project to break ground after 9/11. The tower, a mere 46 stories, is an accordion of black glass and steel atop an Art Deco base for William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper headquarters. Located at West 57th and Eighth Avenue, it tanked during the Depression. Finally completed in 2006, its developer spent millions to engineer a complex scaffold from which to clean its windows, but it failed anyway. Luckily, no window washers perished.

Foster lost a big job at the New York Public Library when its board canceled the famous building’s proposed evisceration last year, but he has at least four other projects under way in the city at this moment, not including the project in Sutton Place, which so far has not shown up on the Foster + Partners website.

*We thank Leon Krier, recipient of the Driehaus Architecture Prize, for letting us use his cartoon of Foster’s Gherkin building in London.  Krier wishes Sutton Place residents godspeed in stopping the megatower.