The Lower Manhattan skyline lost a great deal of its iconic power when the Twin Towers, soaring above everything else, were destroyed in 2001. Even before that, the slender early to mid 20th century towers were robbed of their elegance by bulky monoliths closing off the gaps of sky between. No longer like a spiky seismograph, Lower Manhattan’s profile from many angles became a solid wall of glass and masonry.
There is a building under construction, however, that will significantly alter the visual dynamic of the downtown skyline. Designed by Frank Gehry, Beekman Tower, situated near the open space of City Hall Park, has already established itself as a clear punctuation mark on the horizon. It is an exceptionally tall, relatively thin, tower. For good or ill, depending on your perspective or vantage point, it interacts visually with the filigreed spire of the Woolworth Building and the stone/wire yin and yang of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.
The skin is now about a third of the way up, undulating silvery waves, accentuating the extreme verticality of the structure. That’s something the pinstripes of the Twin Towers did–if banally. Beekman Tower will never dominate the skyline like the World Trade Center, then or in the future. But Gehry’s “No Viagra” (his words) erection downtown will be one of the few postwar skyscapers that join company with the Empire State Building and Chrysler in providing a sense of urban thrill, and unabashed New York bravado.