Back in 2003 I went to a Frank Gehry exhibition at the Moca commemorating the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street. The exhibition was full of many models, some for buildings already built, some to be built, and some never to be built. In this last category was a series of models for the New York Times Building, which stood out because they were skyscrapers, something unusual for Gehry's portfolio. I believe that some of the models used crumpled tissue paper to simulate facade elements.
Two years later, I went to a Renzo Piano exhibit at LACMA commemorating Piano's future renovations to the museum. Among the many models there was his New York Times Building model, which was predictably more subdued than Gehry's though just as unusual for being a skyscraper. Gehry's design was considered a front runner, but he withdrew from the process. Piano's design employed a grilled facade that has won him many a museum proposal in recent years and this time secured him a skyscraper.
Mimicking the New York Times "Gray Lady" moniker, the relatively unadorned, very gray building stands tall with the vertical grill lines that are only interrupted by the giant New York Times banner logo. Buttresses on the side add a little bit of form to the building, but are minimal. I hear it can be quite beautiful at night with the newsroom lighting out through the facade. During the day the gray grills make even a gray sky more gray.
I would have preferred the Gehry design to be built, though I have a feeling that the Piano design has greater longevity. The un-offending building fits well within the Gotham skyline and they gray grills will soak up the grime and soot of the city with hardly a complaint. The New York Times nearly made it to the 21st century without color and it now has a color-less building to lead it to the next.