The latest European architect to hop the pond for a U.S. debut is Will Alsop, a Brit who hopes to transform a long-unused power plant along the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, into a sweeping residential complex featuring a museum, restaurant, and park.

Courtesy SMC Alsop

Under the plans, which Alsop unveiled to a 50-member audience at a public hearing in Yonkers last week, the hulking 80,000-square-foot power plant will lose its two smokestacks and gain a large residential tower. A third of the 400 units will be luxury condos and the rest rentals, with some reserved for low-income residents, said Erik Kaiser, principal of developer Remi Companies.

The $250 million project also calls for adding a contemporary art museum, located in a former switch-house, and a new apartment structure, nicknamed the “magic tower,” with a boxy upper portion balanced on tentacle-like stilts.

“Good architecture does make a difference,” Alsop said at the hearing. But some audience members expressed concern that the main building, at 25 stories high, will block river views. Others said they favor preserving the power plant as it is now. Alsop countered, “the building will fall down if nobody does anything about it.”

These issues could surface again as the zoning-approval process begins in May. What went unchallenged, however, is the whimsical style of Alsop. In 2000, he won his country’s top architecture prize, the Stirling, for London’s Peckham Library and Media Centre. A red, tongue-like decorative disc tops the building’s hefty cantilevered main volume.

“World class architecture should be in Yonkers,” Kaiser said. “You should be demanding something that is not typical.” 

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