Rebirth of Reason


Roark Rising
by Alexander Butziger

Looking at the Manhattan skyline (kneeling if you will), let's talk about life imitating art. After more than half a century, it looks like two buildings out of The Fountainhead are finally getting built in New York.

New York Times Tower


The lesser of the two contenders, Roark-wise, is a real-life newspaper skyscraper rising in Hells Kitchen. Still, Renzo Piano's New York Times Tower is a beautiful building. Its clear, simple lines and vertical thrust let the building soar. The tower has logical floorplans, and no unnecessary setbacks that apologize for its greatness.

Unlike the Wynand Building, the 1,046-foot Times Tower will not be "the tallest structure of the city." Today, it is tied with the Chrysler Building for the second-tallest building in the city. However, when all new super skyscrapers now under construction or approved in Manhattan are finished, it will only be tied for the sixth place. In fact, without its flimsy toothpick of a spire, much less elegant than that of the Chrysler Building, the Times Tower is only 801 feet to its false fronts, 748 feet to the roofline.

Like the Wynand Building the Times Tower is built on immoral foundations. No, I don't mean how much the Times resembles the New York Banner. What I'm driving at is eminent domain abuse: The State of New York confiscated the land from local businessmen, paying them a few cents on the dollar, and passed it on to the Times and its developer, Forest City Ratner.

80 South Street


The true Roark spirit, however, may be found in a residential skyscraper approved Downtown, by the East River, at 80 South Street. Sure, at 835 feet to the roof, plus a spire reaching 1,000 feet, it is not particularly tall for a twenty-first century super skyscraper. Yet one wonders whether architect Santiago Calatrava read The Fountainhead, or if he arrived at this masterpiece independently.

The Enright House, from The Fountainhead, pp. 233:

It was a structure on a broad space by the East River. He did not grasp it as a building, at first glance, but as a rising mass of rock crystal. There was the same severe, mathematical order holding together a free, fantastic growth; straight lines and clean angles, space slashed with a knife, yet in a harmony of formation as delicate as the work of a jeweler; an incredible variety of shapes, each separate unit unrepeated, but leading inevitably to the next one and to the whole; so that the future inhabitants were to have, not a square cage out of a square pile of cages, but each a single house held to the other houses like a single crystal to the side of a rock.

Then, 80 South Street may have been inspired by the Howe & Lescaze design for what ultimately became the Museum of Modern Art and its Museum Tower.


Like the Enright House, 80 South Street will be a luxury apartment building consisting of individual townhouses in the sky. The skyscraper will be subdivided into only ten residences of four stories each, asking price $29,000,000 and up. Now, wouldn't that make Toohey howl?

Ironically, while 80 South Street embodies the spirit of the Enright House, it is a pile of square cages or more exactly, a stack of cubes. While useful to emphasize individualism in a work of literature, "an incredible variety of shapes" etc. would have been rather hard to put into practice successfully unless the architect were a real Howard Roark.

However, having those boxes stacked offset around the building core even improves on the Enright House as described in the book. Firstly, the offset arrangement of the individual "townhouses" underscores individuality and adds privacy; secondly, the roof of the townhouse below serves as the garden for the townhouse above: kudos to Calatrava.

Sadly, it looks like it doesn't take a Toohey to keep this real-life Enright House from getting built. In another twist of irony, plain capitalist lack of demand for such multimillion dollar luxury apartments may do the trick just as well. The skyscraper was supposed to be completed by late 2006 or early 2007. Now it is 2007, and construction hasn't even started. That may have something to do with the fact that the developer had not been able to line up any sales as of February 2006. Yet, in recent interviews, neither the developer nor the architect seemed ready to throw in the towel. So if you're an Objectivist entrepreneur with some extra cash for only $29,000,000 you can own part of the Enright House.



Sanctions: 8Sanctions: 8 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (5 messages)