Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building

163 West 125th Street (at 7th Avenue)
New York City, NY

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

This "killer building" from the urban renewal era is a highrise attack on the surrounding historic lowrise neighborhood.


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Why It Doesn't Work

This "killer building" from the urban renewal era is a high-rise attack on 125th Street and the surrounding historic fabric of Harlem. Elevated on massive stilts at least one story above the ground, the government facility has a distinctly Orwellian feeling, which is reinforced by the fact that the entrance is impossible to find. An already forbidding edifice is made more so by a windswept plaza, which covers the entire site (because the building is elevated). The place is scorching in summer and Siberian in winter, and there has been no evident attempt to make it habitable for humans. (One glimmer of life has been the return of a seasonal farmers' market to the building's plaza in the summer of 2001.) Overall, the combined effect of the building and its plaza is enough to make pedestrians run to the other side of the street, preferring the shelter offered by the brick row houses that remain.

History & Background

When the state built this monster it undoubtedly destroyed scores of brick homes and shops of the kind that can still be seen crouching in its shadow, their occupants presumably trying to get over the fact that even if they'd been hit by a SCUD missile, their neighborhood could not have been more effectively disfigured.

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