This one has been written about already. Its story already told. Researched, traced, queried, pondered. Its Neo-Tudor, or Bavarian, or Old English, details detailed in detail. And then mourned. Its disrepair and disregard always the conclusion.

A couple of architects designed the narrow building to house their office, plus a restaurant on the ground floor. That was in 1927. Sometime between the 1940s and 1980s, several of the Tudor, or Bavarian, or Old English, details, particularly the zig-zag wood in pattern around the windows, were removed. Hence the disrepair and disregard, always the conclusion.

With the details diminishing, so did the writing. Fastforward to 2016. A mobile phone company leased the ground floor for a retail location. Single pane aluminum windows replaced the divided wood lites, and a layer of stucco blanketed the building from head to toe, disappearing any remaining details, leaving behind a pure form only. To finish, a coat of bright white paint neatly applied, like a million careful strokes of Wite-Out. What once resembled a beer garden became something both modernist and minimalist, and frankly beautiful.

In its prime this building stood out, a folksy thing in the midst of monochromatic brick. And now, it fits right in. Clarification: It fits right in its time, not its place. It is the only bright white modernist thing in sight. But its unarticulated mass fits in in its time. You have seen this before. A 2008 news headline even read: “Stucco on the Rebound.”

So the building looks very current. Like a full-scale 3D printed model, the kind that litter architecture studios today, and that to the untrained eye appear as ghosts of the houses from Monopoly.

This “current” look should be there about 50 years, that’s how long a stucco façade typically lasts. And then what? Doubtful someone will lament its disrepair in 2066. More likely something new will happen. Different windows. Different colors. Different façade.

Different. Why? Why must it change? Why did it change? Did it change?

This building once turned heads, so much so that it warranted writing. Today, no one is writing (well, I am). Because it is uncomfortable. Its brokenness was not addressed. It was simply erased. And no one talks about it.

Wite-Out never really works as intended. It doesn’t erase what was below, but calls attention to it, as a mistake. It emphasizes that there was something there that someone regrets.

Wite-Out sales jumped ten percent in 2017, prompting a journalist to ask, “Who Still Buys Wite-Out, and Why?” One reader responded, “First rule of wite-out. Don’t talk about wite-out.”

Neena Verma is a practicing architect, teacher and writer based in New York City. She is currently the Architecture Writing Fellow at The Cooper Union, a faculty member at the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School and New Jersey School of Architecture (NJIT), and principal of an eponymous practice that pursues small-scale, forward-thinking architectural works.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.



We’ve grown used to things being strange. And to things being very familiar. A series of short texts by architect and writer Neena Verma on the ins and outs of our whereabouts.