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Thread: MetLife (Pan Am) Building - 200 Park Avenue

  1. #16
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    I never knew this building was compared to the Pirelli Building in Milan.
    I can see the resemblance but Metlife is winner, handsdown in my opinion.

  2. #17
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    Helicopter pads on buildings were much more in fashion years ago. I just saw an old Clint Eastwood movie this weekend about an Arizona cop that comes to NYC to hunt a fugitive (Coogan's Bluff). The final shot of the movie is him taking off from the Pan Am building helicopter pad and it shows a slow rise and circle around the building. I think the movie was from 1968.

  3. #18

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    I like the building itself, putting aside for a moment that it does obstruct the view down Park Avenue. Until recently I hadn't recognized it as being an elongated octagon, but that's exactly what it is. Also, the exterior cleaning worked wonders for its appearance.

  4. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyo
    I never knew there was a helicopter accident on top of the building.

    http://www.timeoutny.com/features/408/408.jinx.html
    I remember the accident and the sad fate of 2 pedestrians at the corner of Madison and 43rd when part of one of the rotors landed there. The NTSB report: http://amelia.db.erau.edu/reports/ntsb/aar/AAR77-09.pdf Isn't this just about the same corner where another pedestrian was stoned to death a couple of years ago?

  5. #20
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    It seems like almost all the old buildings in NYC like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, 40th Wall Street and Pan Am had so encounter with an airplane.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ManhattanKnight
    Isn't this just about the same corner where another pedestrian was stoned to death a couple of years ago?
    The person was stoned on 42nd Street in front of the Chrysler building. It wasn't to the death, but it was the intention. The lady recovered (somewhat).

  7. #22
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    Stoned? I'd never heard of this.

  8. #23

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    Not stoned in the Biblical sense. A deranged man attacked a woman with a rock or brick.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    Not stoned in the Biblical sense. A deranged man attacked a woman with a rock or brick.
    Oh, I remember that. That was in '98, right?

  10. #25
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    WSJ
    December 9, 2004

    The Incredible Hulk: THE PAN AM BUILDING

    By Meredith D. Clausen

    (MIT Press, 476 pages, $45)

    Few buildings have been as universally reviled as New York City's Pan Am building (or MetLife building, as it's now officially called). Completed in 1963, two blocks wide and 59 stories high, it sits just behind Grand Central Terminal like "a garage door pulled down on Park Avenue," as one critic put it, or "a great scaleless, hulking, omnipresent colossus," in the words of another.

    The building virtually destroyed the reputation of its principal designer, Walter Gropius, and made the career of Ada Louise Huxtable, whose brilliant articles on the project compelled the New York Times to appoint her as its first full-time architectural critic. It was also the last gasp, and final parody, of the International Style, which a few years before had produced the generally admired Seagram and Union Carbide buildings nearby.

    Meredith Clausen, an architectural historian at the University of Washington, has produced a history of the Pan Am building that is a model for its genre. She has a crisp, clean prose style and keeps her tale fluid and fast-moving, tracing the interplay of politics, money and personalities that produced an outcome embarrassing to almost everyone involved. She is deeply informed on every aspect of the story, from the real-estate market to the building's mechanical designs. While she does not like the aesthetic result -- who could? -- her book is not a hunt for villains. She assumes that those responsible were decent people mostly doing their best. She seeks to illuminate why they made the choices they did.

    The New York Central Railroad, struggling in the 1950s, entered into an arrangement with a prominent local developer, Erwin Wolfson, to replace Grand Central Terminal with a major office building. Planning was well under way when it was interrupted by a "Save Grand Central" campaign spearheaded by Architectural Forum, the trade magazine, and the New York Times.

    The terminal, completed in its present form in 1913, is indeed a splendid structure. Besides the lovely Beaux Arts vaulted terminal, the multitiered underground transportation hub is an engineering marvel in its own right. The development plan would have preserved the hub but reduced the terminal to a one-story basement in the office tower. One proposal envisioned an 80-story building, taller than the Empire State, with five million square feet of rentable space, more than twice that in any existing office structure. New York Central eventually compromised with its critics by adopting a less ambitious plan -- four million square feet, later reduced to 2.6 million -- worked out by Wolfson and his favorite architect, Richard Roth.

    Roth, who had cut his teeth designing naval bases, bluntly stated that his job was "not to create masterpieces." He had pioneered the New York "wedding cake" or "ziggurat" buildings, with their horizontal strip windows emphasizing their blocky squattiness. (Walk up Park Avenue above 45th Street: The buildings that look like military barracks are Roth productions.) Commercial developers loved them: Roth understood office mechanicals and traffic flows; his strip windows offered great flexibility in space layouts; and his buildings were produced on time and on budget.

    The central problem was that the Grand Central project was not a big-company signature piece, like the Seagram building, but an entrepreneurial venture. Wolfson was putting up scads of his own money with no guarantee of success. But he was also a man of refined tastes and decided to mollify the critics by partnering Roth with a big-name architect, which is how Gropius got involved. Gropius was a key figure in the Bauhaus movement, the source of the International Style of modernist architecture that rejected traditional decorative designs in favor of stark, "industrial" lines.

    There is much speculation over why Gropius took on the assignment. He was 75 at the time, had spent many years at Harvard and had few buildings to his credit. Perhaps he could not resist the chance to crown his career with a building on such a scale. To assist him -- Gropius couldn't draw -- he brought in another world-class architect, Pietro Belluschi, the dean of the school of architecture at MIT.

    The bulk of "The Pan Am Building" traces the plot threads by which such a monumental project was knit together: its financing, its technical and structural challenges (train schedules could not be interrupted during construction), its evolving form. Gropius kept much closer control over the design than either Wolfson or Roth had expected. Although he was forced to make concessions to stay within budget, the final shape and the placement of the building athwart Park Avenue is pretty much to his specification. He seems to have gone to his grave puzzled and angered by the storm of criticism it stirred up. Many of his biographies pass over the episode in silence.

    Whatever its aesthetic deficiencies, the Pan Am building was a financial success. It opened its doors with 98% occupancy and was later sold off to MetLife at a huge profit. The dire predictions that the influx of office workers would result in a fatal traffic thrombosis somehow never came true.

    The core concerns in Ms. Clausen's book are the age-old ones that economists group under the rubric of "externalities." Zoning laws and similar measures try to balance the public's interest in livable civic spaces and the logic of the market. But they are coarse-grained instruments. The redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, as Ms. Clausen notes, raises all the questions that were so bitterly debated 40 years ago uptown. One hopes that she will write the account of how they are resolved.

    ---

    Mr. Morris is the author of "The Cost of Good Intentions: New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975," among other books.

  11. #26
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    This is a great building. Purists may not like its location, but it makes a unique imposing statement and is quite attractive. The recent cleaning makes it look brand-new! Incredible Hulk, indeed!

  12. #27
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    _

    ______

  13. #28

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    I like it.

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  15. #30
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    Love that first picture, with the Pan Am cornice logo still there. Shagadelic.

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