March 26,2022

8 of New York's Most Eccentrically Designed Buildings

by David Stewart

A city can have many defining features: its layout, a public park, a monument. And its architecture, specifically one-of-a-kind buildings, can not only become a calling card for the city, it can draw international acclaim from architects, ire from residents, and a steady stream of curious tourists. New York City is no stranger to these aesthetic anomalies, and in fact has more than a few that make their own unique contribution to the local architectural landscape. Recent additions like Herzog & de Meuron’s stacked building in TriBeCa, nicknamed the Jenga Tower, instantly stands out from the crowd of glass skyscrapers, while Julian Schabel’s pink-hued Palazzo Chupi adds a pop of color to the historic West Village. Collected here are some of New York’s most extraordinary structures.

Known informally as the Jenga Tower for its stacked construction resembling the popular game, 56 Leonard Street is a residential tower in TriBeCa by Herzog & de Meuron. Completed this year, the distinctive building has been described by the architects as “houses stacked in the sky.” Location: Leonard Street, between W. Broadway and Church Street.

Near the bank of the Hudson River in New York City's West Village stands Palazzo Chupi, a condominium complex designed by artist Julian Schnabel. Dubbed "Chupi" after his pet name for his wife, the building was famously stuccoed a bright shade of Pompeii red, which has faded over the years to a pale shade of pink. Location: W 11th Street and Washington Street.

Set in Washington Heights, this topsy-turvy-looking building is the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University. The structure is described as a “Study Cascade” by the architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, and opened in 2016 for use by the institution’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Locatoion: Haven Avenue, between 172 Ave. and 171 Ave.

The Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn is home to a brownstone that was once this shocking shade of hot pink. The home was this color since the 1970s, when then-owner Bernie Henry painted it at the request of his wife, and remained that way for many years after the city ruled the area a historic district, preventing any changes to the façade thereafter. With permission from the city, the paint was stripped off by the new owners in 2012. Location: Garfield Place and Polhemus Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Located in the city’s NoMad neighborhood, this building was once the Gershwin Hotel, named after the late composer. Designed by architect William H. Birkmire, the Beaux Arts-style building was painted bright red and displayed the whimsical fiberglass “Tongues and Flames” installation by Finnish artist Stefan Lindfors. In 2014, the hotel was became The Evelyn, and has since lost its distinctive exterior. Location: E 27th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenue.

This zigzag townhouse in the West Village is known as the Weathermen House, named for the radical political group Weathermen Underground who occupied the space. In 1970, after a bomb they were making detonated prematurely, the house exploded and was reconstructed in 1978 with this modernist exterior by architect Hugh Hardy. Location: W 11th Street and 5th Avenue.

Known as Broken Angel, this building in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn was the home and work of artists Arthur and Cynthia Wood. Originally four stories, the building received improvised cathedral-like additions from the couple, earning admirers for its folk-art eccentricity before it was demolished in 2014. Location: Corner of Quincy St. and Downing Street in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood.

A National Historic Landmark since 1966, the Woolworth Building in the Financial District is one of the city’s most eccentric buildings, not for its exterior, but for the curious features within. Designed by Cass Gilbert and commissioned by Frank Woolworth, the Gothic Revival tower features interior carvings of salamanders, the architect, the owner, and others in his orbit. Location: Barclay Street and Broadway.

  • David Stewart
  • March 26,2022

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