2007_11_Nouvel.jpgNY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff reviews Jean Nouvel's future 75-story tower at 53 West 53rd Street, describing it as "the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation." He compares Nouvel's latest to the Woolworth, Chrysler and Seagram buildings.

Filling a 17,000 square-foot vacant lot next to MoMA, the structure will be the future site of a developer Hines' 100-room hotel and 120 "highest-end" (Hines' words) luxury apartments. MoMA, which sold the lot for $125 million (after completing an $858 million expansion), will use three floors for 50,000 square feet of exhibition space. Ouroussoff thinks this fusion of culture and commerce shows that Nouvel is "a master of balancing conflicting urban forces." Last spring, Ourossouff called Nouvel's Soho and Chelsea buildings "eye candy."

According to the Times, the building's design draws on the work of delineator Hugh Ferriss, who created renderings for Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building and others. Its contorted form features crisscrossing beams on the facade. The frame is pushed to the exterior, creating big open floor plates for the museum's 2nd, 4th and 5th floor galleries. A restaurant and lounge will be below ground, with the top sheathed in glass.

Nouvel has worked on buildings from Reykjavik to Abu Dhabi. Here, aside from designing 40 Mercer (quaintly called "Soho Apartments" on Nouvel's web site - we think they are one in the same) and 100 Eleventh Ave. (with its famed automated parking), Nouvel was a finalist for the now stalled Brooklyn Visual and Performing Arts Library designed by winner Enrique Norten.

Hines chairman Gerald Hines said of the design, “Nouvel’s exciting concept has the potential to become an international architectural design icon.” Work at 53 West 53rd is expected to begin late next year.