Architecture & Real Estate | November 13, 2021 4:57 pm

Norman Foster-Designed Glass Penthouse Faces Resistance in NYC

Will it enhance or confuse the neighborhood?

The Beresford
The proposed penthouse is situated not far from the Beresford in NYC.
David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0

What happens when ambitious architectural plans and a homeowner with a substantial array of resources at their disposal face a crucial decision by New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission? That’s precisely what’s happening in New York City right now — and, as described by a new article at Curbed by Kim Velsey, it’s a particularly complex situation on all sides.

It began at a notable pre-war building on the Upper West Side, where billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman lived for a decade. There, he took notice of the penthouse on a nearby building at 6–16 West 77th Street that for years the author Nancy Friday had called home. Friday died in 2017, leading to her penthouse going on the market — which in turn led Ackman and his wife Neri Oxman (of the MIT Media Lab) to purchase the penthouse for $22.5 million.

The couple planned to rebuild the penthouse, using a design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster. (Velsey describes the planned design as “a two-level modernist glass box.”) And while some residents of the building — which has largely pushed back on renovations that deviated from the existing design — have been skeptical of the new penthouse design, Foster’s plans were approved by the local community board.

Up next, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will have to give the design its approval before things can proceed any further; the same is true for the building’s co-op board. In the latest election for the latter body, the two candidates vying for a seat have differing opinions on the penthouse.

Ackman himself spoke of his fondness for the building’s location. “We like the location,” he told Curbed. “We wanted the opportunity to build something beautiful.” And some noted architectural authorities, including Paul Goldberger, have also voiced their approval of the plan. Next week, we’ll know more about whether or not this ambitious plan will become a reality.