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Thread: Endangered NYC - Lost & Threatened Treasures

  1. #226

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    I was thinking: There is certainly a market for "pre-war" looking buildings in the city, and in the larger United States. Take 531 West End Avenue, for example, which I passed by today. It does not have much ornament, but the brick, for example, though likely pre-fab, looked almost indistinguishable from most of the other, eighty year old buildings on the grand avenue. Should the developer add, say, a fiberglass cornice, detailing above each window, even some terracotta reliefs from a mold, the building would fit in almost perfectly with her surroundings. I cannot imagine that this would be that much more expensive than building an entirely glass structure.

    My question is: will anything like this ever catch on? It's obvious that people have an inherent affinity for pre-war architecture and revivalist architecture, should it be done right. Hence the fierce opposition to tear-downs in places like the Upper West Side, which I believe contains the finest specemins of architecture and architectural fabric in the entire country, if not world outside of Europe. As the destructions and demolitions in the city continue to mount, I can only, only hope that one day someone with the heart, sensibility and money will take it upon themselves to rebuild what was lost, or even contribute with novel structures that equally inspire the soul.

    The detractors will inevitably say: we live in the present, not the past. I counter with the statement that the men that constructed large swaths of Manhattan in the early 20th century were building with styles that had existed over two thousand years in the west, and with the method of using natural materials as existed throughout societies all over the world (i.e., not ALL glass soulless behemoths). Why is there shame in wanting to continue in a method that is proven, a method which has seen the construction of livable cities up until modernism came along and brought with it glass-and-steel disasters in Houston and Dallas, in the superhighways and the bland suburbs? Have we lost our minds?

    I am so saddened by the fact that developers razed parts of our city TO THIS DAY (I.M. Pei's building on 58th, the Drake, etc.) with the conscious belief that they were doing something positive, or the conscious ignorance of the detriments that it would cause. To me, these men are traitors, defiling our history, detracting from one of the only livable American urban cities that can actually compete with cities abroad, and I can only cross my fingers and dream that one day New York will make its grand recovery, cast off its banal, identity-less International Style, and become as grand as we all imagined her to be in the 20s, 30s and even 50s.

  2. #227
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    The story of the movement of New York architecture away from the "classic" styles (encompassing art-deco, beaux-arts, neo-gothic, classic, romanesque, baroqeu, etc.) toward the international, post-modern and recent modern could fill volumes.

    One recent explanation I read was that after WWII, the profession of architect moved towards that of an industrial engineer (important in the war effort) who dealt in efficiencies and geometry and less in the artistic and aesthetic sides of buildings. So you had the erector sets of Internationalism.

    The danger in trying to resuscitate the classic styles, is that today's labor costs, artisan skill and availability, materials and building techniques are so different from what they were in 1890s or 1920s, that it becomes almost impossible make a satisfactory building that qualifies as classic (15 Central Park West is about as close as we've gotten) and not post-modern. For example, Frank Williams' 515 Park appears to aiming for art-deco:
    .

    but is clearly not in the same league as a real deco tower:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bqephoto/


    As has been extensively discussed in another WNY thread, up until the 1960s much of Princeton University was built in the classic styles, principally collegiate gothic, based on Oxford:


    After decades of building modernist structures, Princeton surveyed its students and found they much preferred the older, classic buildings (like many prefer the classic New York buildings) to the modernist ones, so they reverted back to collegiate gothic and built Whitman College in 2008:


    When the ivy starts covering those walls and it will look like it could have been built 100 years ago. It is one of the few examples of a successful (but not perfect) revival of classic architecture.

    It was also very expensive. As was 15CPW. In the short term it looks highly unlikely that there will be any kind of renaissance in New York buildings... so, for God's sake, let's protect and appreciate the treasures that still stand.

  3. #228
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    Strip off the ornamentation of beaux arts buildings and you've petty much got art deco in a nutshell.

    Modern buildings that aim for that classical look end up in many ways resembling art deco for precisely that reason: lacking ornamentation.

    Anyhow, that's how I see it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post
    In the short term it looks highly unlikely that there will be any kind of renaissance in New York buildings... so, for God's sake, let's protect and appreciate the treasures that still stand.
    Hear, hear!

  5. #230
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    If the Chrysler Building were knocked down and then rebuilt in today's New York, you'd end up with half of this:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/linguistone/

  6. #231

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    In addition to all the reasons you mentioned Randy another major reason for post modern building falling short of their art deco inspiration is that art deco building were built in an era before the advent of air-conditioning so by necessity they were skinny towers with close access to windows. Following the invention of air-conditioning and given developers and tenants desire for large floor plates almost every postmodern building you see has dimension entirely unlike their art deco inspiration.

    The element that overwhelmingly at first glance makes One World Wide Plaza look postmodern instead of Art Deco is its gigantic modern floor plates.


  7. #232
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    ^You're right. I did a little further research: Buildings built prior to the air conditioning - and fluorescent lighting - had narrower floorplates to give greater access to windows for light and ventilation. Now you're hermetically sealed in, breathing conditioned air and seeing by artificial light.

    Another major factor in yesterday's massing versus today was the 1916 Zoning Resolution, which mandated setbacks. This worked out nicely until the 1950s when international buildings got around the resolution by building large plazas or bases (Lever House) and then going straight up. The codes were eventually changed.

  8. #233

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    If the Chrysler Building were knocked down and then rebuilt in today's New York, you'd end up with half of this:
    Not enough glass-I doubt we would get anything that close...
    More than likely it would be more like this,
    (a little closer to home- and much more tasteless)!


  9. #234

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    I must argue that materials make a world of difference when it comes to creating a successful revivalist building, or even creating a true Art Deco building that does not wind up looking like cheap post-modernism. A perfect example of, in my opinion, said cheap-post-modernism attempting Art-Deco is 425 Fifth Avenue. Maybe it is the color, or the prefab nature of it, or the simple lack of any sort of articulation or decoration in the base, but I really do not think this tower works at all.

    One Worldwide Plaza, for example, until I was better informed and actually approached from ground level to view the detailing on the base, convinced me that it had been built much earlier than it was. I take this to be because of the copper roof, and the pleasant contrast with the red hued brickwork.

  10. #235

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    What really just strikes me about these ruthless, destructive, tasteless developers is their complete disloyalty to any sense of civic or national pride.

    International Style is just that: it's international. Meaning - partly - that it could be anywhere in the damn world. And New York, frankly, with its long history of practically pioneering the skyscraper (Chicagoans would disagree, of course) and creating a city like no other with its masonry spires stretching skyward while the rest of the world was still building five stories, deserves BETTER.

    If a Parisian comes to New York, I would show him the architecture in Soho, or on West End Avenue, or parts of Madison. I would not bring him to Sixth Avenue or the growing majority of Midtown. He would doubtlessly be impressed with the aesthetic sensibilities that Americans have when we are perceived as brutes, still, to many. But then we would walk past the site of the Drake hotel, or past the Centurion, and he would be shocked. He would say "this would never happen in my country."

    But when the whole city starts to look like Houston, then what? These animalistic developers don't seem to care, at all. It's just money to them.

  11. #236
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    This beauty, the Hotel Commonwealth, as far as I can gather (?), was never built .





    http://cgi.ebay.com/Old-Postcard--Ho...17205009r26573



    https://www.allposters.co.uk/-sp/Hot..._i2918939_.htm

    Instead, we currently have MONY and Park Central Hotel occupying the block .

  12. #237

    Angry Beekman Tower

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  13. #238
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    Nice find on the Commonwealth... my first time learning of it.

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    One of many lost Warren & Wetmore beauties, The Ambassador, a jazz age hotel with extraordinary detailing not very visible in these pics, was torn down in the 1960s as this part of Park Avenue went heavily commercial. In its place rose Rudin's 345 Park.

    Last pic from http://www.thecityreview.com/rudinpk.html

  15. #240
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post
    Nice find on the Commonwealth... my first time learning of it.
    Before googling it, I found it in a nice book I have called New York: Not only Buildings, which contains a collection of wonderful vintage postcards of New York.

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