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Austrian Cultural Forum

MANY BUILDINGS, over time, are given colloquial labels that distill their symbolic freight, mediating between an architect's intentions and the mystification of a public confronting new forms. But it is rare for a building to debut with any caption other than the designer's own. By the time it opens to the public later this month, the Austrian Cultural Forum in Manhattan—a twenty-four-story tower tucked into a town-house lot on East Fifty-second Street—will have been compared variously to an Easter Island megalith, a Gillette Mach 3 cartridge, and a bit of Secession ornament writ very large.

The Forum's architect, Tyrol-born New Yorker Raimund Abraham, has his own pet reference. Asked whether the sloped glass-and-steel facade, with its pantomimed thrust and parry of aspiration and collapse, is a play on the great tradition of allusions to rising and falling in Art Deco skyscrapers

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