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A divine design or a pretentious box?

October 20, 2002|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

The Westin New York at Times Square, scheduled to make its debut this weekend with about half its 863 rooms ready for guests, has already made a splash in the design world -- although not to universal acclaim.

Publicists describe the 45-story building, sheathed in 8,000 sheets of colored glass, as "split by a curving beam of light that will soar into the Manhattan skyline and beckon visitors." It's a "marvel of design" and an "icon for the 21st century," boasts the hotel's Internet site,

The architecture critic for the New Yorker magazine offers a different opinion in the Oct. 7 issue.

In a three-page review titled "Miami Vice: Is This the Ugliest Building in New York?" critic Paul Goldberger objects to the curving line as "all pretense," calls the glass "the ugliest curtain wall in New York" and describes the "bustle" at the building's base as "one of the strangest attempts at decorating a box that you are ever likely to see."

We include a photo so that you can decide.

Goldberger does find things to like, including what he calls the "splendid" details in the lobby and the "reasonable sophistication and comfort" of the guest rooms.

John Sweeney, the hotel's general manager, said last week he was "flattered" that Goldberger devoted so much space to the review. He said of the hotel, "It has an edge to it. Some people are going to like it and some are not."

The project, at 270 W. 43rd St., was designed by Arquitectonica of Miami, known for the Atlantis Condominium on Biscayne Bay, Fla.

The New York hotel includes a nine-story atrium, a lounge, a sushi bar, a pastry and coffee shop, a fitness center and a spa with treatment rooms and saunas. Guest rooms come with two-line phones, high-speed Internet access, a mini-bar, bathrobes and an ironing board. The main restaurant, Shula's Steak House, is expected to open next month.

Published room rates start at $439, but be sure to ask about specials. For information and reservations, call (888) 627-7149 or (800) 937-8461 or visit the Web site.

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