Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times
Der Scutt was not a famous name among architects, and his work does not pop out and inspire. Even his son is quoted in the New York Times as saying "My father was absolutely a developer's architect, and he prided himself on respecting the wishes and goals of the owner while injecting his own style and design expertise," and when that client is often Donald Trump, you are going to get a lot of garish gold buildings.
But he did have an expertise that more architects are going to need: He was the master of the reclad, the removal of the old, leaky, single glazed facades and their replacement with modern, energy efficient skins.
On his firm's website, 575 Lexington was described as a "famous mid-town eyesore," but as part of a $19 million reno,
The entire structure was totally reclad with over 100,000 square feet of new, high-performance, energy-conserving, state-of-the-art curtain wall. Bronze-colored glass was installed into a large-scaled aluminum grid that was attached to the existing aluminum mullions. When the exterior was completely sealed, the existing interior windows were removed.
They actually replaced the whole skin of the building without opening the building to the weather.
381 Park Avenue was a more traditional renovation, but a tough one; there was a lot of water damage, a lot of rotting terra cotta.
Over 500 pieces of terracotta were replaced with GFRC casts virtually identical to the originals. Complex fan arches, fluted spandrels, sills, jambs, lintels, ornate columns, and decorative urns were completely replicated in modern materials. The 14th-floor water table received new structural framing and a fiberglass cladding. The badly deteriorated limestone water table at the fourth floor was completely removed and replaced with a steel skeleton substructure and fiberglass cladding. Several floors of all three corner piers were completely dismantled and reconstructed after providing new steel protection and preservation. All exterior brick was cleaned and repointed. Existing terracotta details were highlighted to restore the subtle but extensive colorations on the façade. Custom retractable metal halide fixtures on outrigger arms were mounted to the water tables to allow for dramatic night lighting of the facades.
It is an acquired skill; back in 1988 he did 625 Madison Avenue, and it looked far better in the before pictures than it does in the after, with its tacky po-mo lollypop base and horizontal banding. But he got better.
Der Scutt isn't the kind of architect we talked about in school, but somebody has to fix the buildings from the fifties through the eighties. It is probably the one great growth area in the profession. It's important work, and Der Scutt got pretty good at it.
Der Scutt, dead (from liver disease, so common among architects) at 75.
Read Fred Bernstein's obit in the New York Times