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SoHo Building Facade Design Crowdsourced Via Facebook

Many 'starchitects' are criticized for imposing their vision on various locales without regard for the surrounding community. But as a building facade project in SoHo's Thompson street by designer Karim Rashid shows, social media has allowed individuals to provide their input on what would otherwise be imperious monuments. Rashid, who is better known as a product and interior designer, posted five different designs on his heavily trafficked Facebook fan page and allowed followers to vote on their favorite.

The wacky options included option B's faceted triangular panels, option C's flat glazed surface with a biomorphic graphic, and option D's space-age oval windows. Though the block is slightly afield of SoHo's famous wealth of cast iron, all the proposed choices stand out loudly next to the brick arched windows, fire escapes, and cornices of the adjacent buildings.

The ultimate design chosen by Rashid, his developer Mavrix Group, and the Facebook users, was option A, with its protruding parallelogram-shaped windows. It bears some resemblance to the Citroën showroom in Paris, which led to some criticism even from Rashid's fans. According to the Real Deal, though fans could engage with the project, the opinion of the professionals ultimately trumped their input.

Rashid's outreach was, in part, fueled by difficulties he has had in the past with pushing projects through.

"I have had too many failures and have learned that design is a collaboration. One must listen and work within that culture or nothing will go to market or get built," he told DeZeen.

But considering the strong preservationist forces at work in Lower Manhattan, Rashid's structure still faces considerable obstacles getting built, not least beleaguered neighbors skeptical of the usefulness of another 10-unit condo on the block.

However, one of those close neighbors is the unique townhouses designed by Home by Novogratz stars Bob and Cortney Novogratz. It is now owned and being rented out for $37,500 a month by NBA giant Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Considering the heavily commodified nature of the block, it could at least become a garden of interesting contemporary design—if not a truly residential block.

Karim Rashid

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