Monday, March 15, 2010

Notable Buildings

While you can get books and books on NYC architecture, the AIA Guide to NYC is highly recommended for its bizarre and highly opinionated critiques of buildings such as this chauvinistic and possibly unwarranted review of the Grace Building at Bryant Park: "A disgrace to the street. Bowing to its era's zoning requirements for setbacks produced an excuse to develop the flashy swooping form that interrupts the street wall containing Bryant Park. The plaza behind is a bore." With over 5000 entries (all personally visited by the authors) this brick of a book is still small enough to carry on your explorations of NYC. The opinions here are M's and M's alone:

Citicorp Center
@ Lexington & E53rd
Forceful, exposed, and masculine, the base of this building is the architectonic equivilent of an urban flasher exposing his erect penis. I get nervous standing near it. But opposing that yang, there is hidden underneath an elegant post-brutalist chapel and a small performing arts theatre. Urbane.

Also be sure to catch a glimpse of the Long Island City Citibank building in Queens by looking east, down 53rd street and across the river. This modern ode to the ziggurat is one of the most successful forays of Post-Modern architecture, and its axial relation to the Citicorp center is nothing short of genius.

Credit Suisse Building @ Madison Square Park (23rd and Broadway)
What can one say? This is simply an exquisite, sexy building. It alone convinced me not to short Credit Suisse's stock back in '07. A wise move. Incidentally, the former Bear Sterns building is a po-mo junk heap.

NYC Police Headquarters
@ City Hall
I find it hard to describe what I find so attractive about this building. I once brought a girl here to look at it, and she broke up with me shortly after. Go figure. Its volumes are massed expressively, projecting a solidity and force befitting a police headquarters, yet the F.L. Wright inspired corner windows (which I think open manually) speak to the humanism and empathy one hopes a police force can aspire to.

Edmond Safra's Republic National Bank (now an HSBC) @ Bryant Park
To quote the AIA Guide, "a digital tidal wave that swells over the old Knox Hat Building." I enjoy transacting business here.

7 World Trade Center

The finest skyscraper built in NYC in the last several decades. A modern paean to Mies van der Rohe's unrealized crystalline sketches for the Friedrichstrasse office tower. If there was to be a dictionary entry on the concept of transparency in architecture, a picture of this building would suffice. From a distance one can see straight through one side of the building and out the other, and the support structure emanating out from the elevator shafts is fully legible. Brilliant.

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