MAS Position on University Village, aka Silver Towers 1 & 2
June 24th, 2008, 4:09 pm
The Municipal Art Society supports the designation of the Silver Towers/505 LaGuardia Place complex. Silver Towers (formerly known as University Village) has been cited as the most enduring modern residential complex in the city, and its design is a success-story within the larger context of New York City’s Robert Moses-era urban renewal schemes. The complex provides a striking contrast to the historic styles in the nearby vicinity, and has been well-received over the years by the Greenwich Village and greater New York community.
I.M. Pei & Partners designed the towers in 1964, and oriented them within the five-acre modernist landscape that includes a large-scale version of Pablo Picasso’s Bust of Sylvette. The elegant 30-story cast-in-place concrete towers and their surrounding landscape work together in the overall design, and the site’s open space and site design are distinctive for their association with the larger modern movement in architecture. Richard Plunz, in A History of Housing in New York City, noted the ways in which the ‘tower in the park’ idea was quickly incorporated into the New York context. At the Silver Towers’ complex, Pei complemented the pre-existing street grid by retaining the views down the de-mapped Wooster and Greene Streets with generously proportioned view corridors. The view corridors, the overall design elements of the landscaping, and the architecture of the towers themselves are all important parts of the success of the complex’s relationship with the rest of the neighborhood.
This notable work of modern architecture and landscape by a Pritzker Prize-winning architect has undeniable significance. The Silver Towers complex enhances the variety of architecture and layers of history within the greater Greenwich Village area. I commend the Commission for hearing this worthy complex of modern buildings and urge you to designate it a New York City landmark.