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Most New Yorkers have never seen Frank Gehry’s first project in New York, though it is among the more significant works of contemporary architecture in the city and sits at the crossroads of Times Square.
That is because it was built as an exclusive enclave and remained that way until this year, when the tenant moved to the World Trade Center.
Any worries that Mr. Gehry’s work — the Condé Nast cafeteria on the fourth floor of 4 Times Square — might be lost as a result of that move were allayed when the owner, the Durst Organization, committed to preserving the space as part of a conference center, an amenity to lure new occupants to the building. Douglas Durst, the chairman, said the company was meeting with potential operators, including the Charlie Palmer Group.
Of the cafeteria itself, Mr. Durst said: “It’s aged very well. There’s no feeling that it’s from a different era at all.”
But what a different era it was, 15 years ago.
Mr. Gehry, whose office is in Los Angeles and who has become a brand unto himself (an apartment tower he designed at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan is marketed as New York by Gehry), could not seem to land a job in the city. It was “the mountain that he would try repeatedly to climb, only to find himself sliding back down,” the critic Paul Goldberger writes in a new biography, “Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry.” […]