R5 Cool Architecture

Cool Architecture


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Slick, hip, and innovative, these buildings prove there’s more to Westchester architecture than brady bunch Colonials and shopping malls.



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Office building on Route 9, Mt.Pleasant, designed by Edward Larabee Barnes (Above)

Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano may not be putting up sleek, modern, talk-of-the-universe buildings in our county, but that’s okay. Westchester’s cool buildings are not about show, but about ethics. Here, “cool” means smart, “green,” progressive design that’s good for us and for the environment.

Take the RiverWalk (a pedestrian/bicycle trail expected to run 45 miles from the Bronx border to Putnam County) that the government is building. In Tarrytown, the new Tarrytown Ferry Landings has condominium and townhouse housing, a pool open to village residents, and a park that Scenic Hudson, the environmental group, is promoting.  

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In Ossining and Peekskill, there are other waterfront developments that are preserving the waterfront while adding shopping, housing, and restaurants. In Yorktown, the county acquired Hanover Hilltop Farm, a 19th-century farm on 183 acres, to use as an environmental education site to promote organic farming and landscaping. There’s even going to be a greenmarket there.

In the world of architectural planning, there’s a trend to “smart” growth—away from the McMansions and towards denser housing (like condos) within walking distance of the train, the river, buses, and services. That’s smart because it puts density in the downtowns and leaves a smaller “footprint” on the environment than sprawling, single-family homes. Right now, my firm is doing the first geothermal multi-family housing project in Westchester—in Hastings. Architecturally, the buildings blend with the rest of the village but they’re heated and cooled by geothermal energy, the natural, stable warmth stored in the earth. (A heat pump uses the extracted water or transfer fluid as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer.)

There’s a new, energy-efficient Visual Arts Center at Sarah Lawrence College, and a geothermal office building in Irvington on the waterfront that is somewhat retro architecturally. The Irvington office building, however, looks like a brick high school. The offices I love are the low-slung, mid-‘60s and ’70s buildings, like The Landmark on Route 100 in Eastview, or the building on Route 9 near Route 117 in Mount Pleasant, which was designed by Edward Larabee Barnes as offices for IBM World Trade Americas/FarEast Corporation. (He also designed the former IBM building at 590 Madison Avenue in Manhattan and the Katonah Museum of Art.)

As far as new architecture goes, Frederic Schwartz’s 9/11 memorial at Kensico is pretty cool. It won an AIA (American Institute of Architects) award. And if you want to look even further back into Westchester’s past for cool architecture—the old Power Plant in Yonkers, Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, Sunnyside in Sleepy Hollow, the Octagon House in Irvington, and neighborhoods like Rochelle Park, a historically African-American neighborhood in New Rochelle that was one of the earliest streetcar suburbs—they are all cool in my book.

Our Westchester Home Design Awards event is June 26!

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