Tag Archives: midtown

The Corinthian

The Corinthian condominiums on East 38th Street isn’t a landmark structure – yet – but it is certainly one of New York’s most distinctive buildings, residential or otherwise. The 57-story* “bundled tubes” design creates enormous semi-circular bay windows on all five (yes, five) asymmetrical sides arranged to maximize everyone’s view; private balconies are nestled between the tubes. (Google’s satellite view reveals The Corinthian’s unique shape.)

The full-block site is lavishly landscaped – even the roof has gardens; a fountain cascades in front of the grand entry; a public plaza forms the First Avenue border. The park-like setting isn’t mere decoration – The Corinthian sits at the entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and the greenery minimizes the sights and sounds of traffic. (The East Side Airlines Terminal stood here prior to 1987: the location was ideal for quick exits to La Guardia and JFK airports.)

The development’s other amenities include an indoor swimming pool, underground garage, fitness club with running track and outdoor sun deck.

The amenities, location, views and luxurious design come at a price, naturally. According to City Realty’s listing, apartments cost from $545,000 (studio) to $5.85 million (5BR), depending on floor and exposure.

The Corinthian was designed by Michael Schimenti and Der Scutt Architects, built in 1987 and opened in 1988.

* Depending on the source, the height of The Corinthian is 54, 55 or 57 stories; we’re using the height reported in the owner’s website.

The Corinthian Vital Statistics
  • Location: 330 E 38th Street (off First Avenue)
  • Year completed: 1988
  • Architect: Michael Schimenti and Der Scutt Architects
  • Floors: 57
  • Style: Postmodern
The Corinthian Suggested Reading

Google Map

Chrysler Building

Volumes have already been written about the Chrysler Building, so I’ll keep this short.

The Chrysler Building is among the very few landmarks that define New York City’s skyline. It’s the unmistakable DNA marker that – like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty – proclaims “New York.”

Besides being unique, the Chrysler Building is beautiful. The silhouette, the crown, the setbacks, the gargoyles, the brickwork, the detailing are all beautiful. There is so much complexity and subtlety at work – such as the black brick accents at the corners that accentuate the building’s vertical lines.

Here are a few facts, with links to a wealth of fascinating articles, and my humble addition to the building’s ever-growing photographic record.

Chrysler Building Fast Facts
  • The Chrysler Building began life as the Reynolds Building – a project for real estate developer and former New York State senator William H. Reynolds.
  • The Chrysler Building was never owned or financed by the Chrysler Corporation – it was the personal project of Walter P. Chrysler.
  • The land under the Chrysler Building is owned by Cooper Union; the architect – William Van Alen – studied at Pratt.
  • The Chrysler Building and Manhattan Building (40 Wall Street, now the Trump Building) competed for “tallest” designation; their architects, William Van Alen and H. Craig Severance, had been partners before they became competitors.
  • Van Alen had to sue Walter Chrysler to collect his fee; he won, but the suit wrecked his career. After designing one of the most famous buildings of all time, Van Alen wound up teaching sculpture.
  • The Chrysler Building is now part of the “Chrysler Center,” managed by Tishman-Speyer, which also includes Chrysler East and Chrysler Trylons.
  • Chrysler Center is now 90% owned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council
Chrysler Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 405 Lexington Avenue between E 42nd and E 43rd Streets
  • Year completed: 1930
  • Architect: William Van Alen
  • Floors: 77
  • Style: Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1978
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1976
Chrysler Building Suggested Reading

Google Map

General Electric Building

The General Electric Building (like the GE Building in Rockefeller Center) was originally designed for RCA-Victor (the merged Radio Corporation of America and Victor Talking Machine Corporation) in 1929. RCA wanted a headquarters building to express the company’s identity.

Architects Cross & Cross designed a 50-story Gothic/Art Deco tower rich in electricity/radio wave symbolism to convey RCA’s corporate identity. The brick and terra cotta design was crafted to blend in with its neighbors on the block, St. Bartholomew’s Church to the west and (St. Patrick’s) Cathedral High School to the south. (The high school has since been replaced.)

While the building was under construction, RCA negotiated independence from parent General Electric – and a move to an even bigger headquarters in Rockefeller Center. As part of the settlement, General Electric took over the tower at Lexington Avenue and E51st Street. Luckily, the electric bolts and radio waves also worked for GE’s identity. Only the logo on the corner clock seems to have been changed!

The General Electric Building was completed in December 1931; in the mid-1980s the windows were replaced. The building achieved NYC landmark status in July 1985. In 1995 the building was donated to Columbia University, which extensively restored the structure – notably the lobby. Entered into the National Register of Historic Places in January 2004.

General Electric Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 570 Lexington Avenue at E 51st Street
  • Year completed: 1931
  • Architect: Cross & Cross
  • Floors: 50
  • Style: Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1985
  • National Register of Historic Places: 2004
General Electric Building Suggested Reading
  • Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report
  • Docomomo entry (Docomomo stands for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement)

Google Map

100 United Nations Plaza

100 United Nations Plaza, a 52-story wedge-topped condo monolith, dominated Turtle Bay until the Trump World Tower was built next door in 2001. (Appropriately, Trump World Tower looks as though it came right out of the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey.”)

Completed in 1989, the building is layered brick and glass containing 267 condominium apartments. The north and south facades of this giant arrow are different: The uptown side sports three columns of balconies; the downtown side has five columns of triangular balconies. Entry to the building is through a landscaped plaza on East 48th Street (327 E 48th Street, to be exact), deeply offset from First Avenue.

Apartments range up to six BR/six bath, and have nine-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows; all are fitted with luxury appliances. The building amenities include garage and a fitness center with pool.

100 United Nations Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: 327 E 48th Street between First and Second Avenues
  • Year completed: 1989
  • Architect: Der Scutt Architects and Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron
  • Floors: 52
  • Style: Postmodern
100 United Nations Plaza Suggested Reading

Google Map

Seagram Building

After half a century, the elegant, glowing bronze Seagram Building on Park Avenue remains a landmark in several realms: New York City, structural engineering, architectural style, corporate identity, personal achievement and more.

New York City’s Landmark Preservation Commission bestowed landmark status on October 3, 1989, recognizing the structure as an architectural treasure. In terms of structural engineering, the steel-and-concrete dual framing system was the first of its kind for a tall building, and the first tall building to use high-strength bolts (instead of rivets). The architectural style – International Style – had become the mode for new office buildings. (Though New York’s first curtain wall structure following Mies van der Rohe’s principles – Lever House – stood across the street.) To achieve the purity of the design, Seagram president Samuel Bronfman purchased enough land to create a large plaza (avoiding the typical wedding cake setbacks of other tall buildings) and budgeted for a lavish bronze and glass curtain wall. The 38-story tower is Mies van der Rohe’s only New York project – but it is considered his finest.

The Seagram Building’s bronze glow is achieved through tinted glass, backed by ceiling light panels all around. Mies even dictated three-position (fully open, half open, fully closed) window blinds with slats fixed at 45 degrees, to ensure a uniform appearance. As Mies would say, “God is in the details.”

The building’s owners change the plaza sculptures periodically, and provide occasional concerts.

Seagram Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 375 Park Avenue between E 52nd and E 53rd Streets
  • Year completed: 1958
  • Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, design architects with Kahn & Jacobs, associate architects
  • Floors: 38
  • Style: International
  • New York City Landmark: 1989
  • National Register of Historic Places: 2006
Seagram Building Suggested Reading

Google map

Lever House

Lever House (1952) was New York’s first curtain wall skyscraper, beginning Park Avenue’s switch from masonry to glass buildings. The 24-story green glass tower gave impetus to the International Style of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. What’s more, it led the owner to switch careers, from sales back to architecture! Lever Brothers president Charles Luckman quit the company before Lever House was completed, moved to California and his first love, architecture. (He had trained for architecture at the University of Illinois, but was sidetracked to sales during the Great Depression.)

Though Luckman was involved in Lever House’s design, the architect of record was Gordon Bunshaft of famed Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Lever House avoided the typical “wedding cake” skyscraper design by occupying less than 25 percent of its lot (an exception to the 1916 zoning law that dictated stepped setbacks to permit sunlight to reach the street). Lever House’s success was widely copied by other tower and plaza designs (notably Mies van der Rohe’s masterpiece Seagram Building, diagonally across the street!).

Most of the Lever House ground floor is open plaza; the glass-enclosed portion includes an art gallery open to the public.

Along with the steel and glass curtain walls came another timely innovation: a window-washing gondola mounted on a rooftop track!

While the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission gave Lever House Landmark status November 9, 1982, the building’s original steel and glass facade had deteriorated. In 1998 Unilever sold the building; the new owners replaced the crumbling steel and glass with an aluminum and glass curtain wall – completed in 2001 and again designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Lever House Vital Statistics
  • Location: 390 Park Avenue between E 53rd and E 54th Streets
  • Year completed: 1952
  • Architect: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owens & Merrill
  • Floors: 24
  • Style: International
  • New York City Landmark: 1982
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1983
Lever House Suggested Reading

Google map

Bloomberg Tower

Bloomberg Tower, aka 731 Lexington Avenue, aka One Beacon Court, is an imaginative 55-story* mixed-use building that occupies the site of the former Alexander’s department store** – the entire block bounded by Lexington and Third Avenues and E58th and E59th Streets. The bottom floors are retail stores and banks; the middle floors are offices – primarily Bloomberg LP; and the top floors are luxury condominium apartments.

The tower may be considered three buildings: A 55-story high-rise on Lexington Avenue, an 11-story building on Third Avenue, and a seven-story atrium – One Beacon Court – bridging the two, like a glass-and-steel semicolon. Vornado Realty Trust was the developer, César Pelli & Associates was the architect.

To accommodate the different needs of commercial and residential space, the lower 30 floors are built on a steel frame; the top 25 floors are concrete. The five-story crown – a bright white beacon at night – contains mechanical equipment, including a tuned mass damper to offset any wind-induced swaying.

While Bloomberg Tower is a child, age-wise (completed 2004), it’s a giant among New York’s residential buildings among the tallest in New York City.

* The building height ranges between 53 and 55 stories, depending on source. The owner’s website states 55 stories.

** I must confess, Alexander’s was demolished before I got re-interested in architecture. The only thing I remember about the store is that lingerie was on the first floor.

Bloomberg Tower Vital Statistics
  • Location: 731 Lexington Avenue between E 58th and E 59th Streets
  • Year completed: 2004
  • Architect: César Pelli & Associates
  • Floors: 55
  • Style: Postmodern
Bloomberg Tower Suggested Reading

Google Map

Solow Building

The Solow Building, also known as 9 West 57th Street, is one of those “love it or hate it” buildings. It’s bold and innovative, meeting New York’s setback zoning requirements with a dramatic swoosh, like the Nike logo. And that’s the problem, say critics – it ruins the block’s cohesiveness, like a 50-story black and white scar.

There’s no denying that the building, taken by itself, is among New York’s most recognizable buildings. Only one other building – the W.R. Grace Building on 42nd Street, by the same architect – looks anything like it.

Since completion in 1974, one major change was made to Solow Building’s 57th Street entry. The escalator bank was replaced with stairs leading down to a restaurant, “8-1/2,” and enclosed in glass. Look to the building’s W 58th Street side for an idea of the “before.”

Solow Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 9 W 57th Street, just off Fifth Avenue
  • Year completed: 1974
  • Architect: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Floors: 50
  • Style: Postmodern
Solow Building Suggested Reading

Google Map

Central Synagogue

Central Synagogue is, according to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the finest example of Moorish Revival architecture in New York City. The structure, built in 1872, is also the city’s oldest synagogue in continuous use – despite two disastrous fires.

The stunning landmark is on Lexington Avenue at E55th Street; its twin towers with gilded copper onion domes are impossible to miss. The design, by Henry Fernbach, is a copy of the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest.

Central Synagogue was damaged by fire in 1886, a mere 14 years after opening, but restored. In 1946 the synagogue underwent modernization – architect Ely Jacques Kahn made significant changes to the windows and interior decorations and lighting.

In 1995 the synagogue embarked on a five-year renovation, including the addition of air conditioning. In August 1998, three days before the air conditioning was to be turned on, a fire destroyed most of the building. The congregation decided to rebuild Central Synagogue in its original, pre-modernization, design, with Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer the architects.

(One-hour guided tours are available every Wednesday at 12:45; reservations not required.)

Central Synagogue Vital Statistics
  • Location: 652 Lexington Avenue at E55th Street
  • Year completed: 1872
  • Architect: Henry Fernbach
  • Style: Moorish Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1970
Central Synagogue Suggested Reading

Google Map

Morgan Library

The Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue comprises three classical, landmark buildings and a fourth, modern addition that joins the three into a complex that’s doubled in size.

The original buildings are J. P. Morgan, Jr.’s House (1853, originally built for Isaac N. Phelps), on the SE corner of Madison Avenue and E 37th Street; J. Pierpont’s Private Library (1906, designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White), mid-block on E 36th Street between Madison and Park Avenues; and J. Pierpont’s Private Library Addition (1928, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris), on the NE corner of Madison Avenue and E 36th Street. The library addition was built on the site of J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr.’s mansion, after his death. (J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. opened the library to the public in 1924.)

In 2006, the museum built a further addition, planned by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The modern addition connected the three original buildings and also filled the lot east of the 1853 brownstone.

In 2010, the museum restored the original library – the McKim building – to its original splendor under guidance of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. The interior restoration included new lighting and the re-installation of the original chandeliers, deep cleaning, and replacement of plexiglass exhibit covers with non-glare acrylic. You can see before and after photos of the interior here.

Incidentally, the lionesses guarding the Morgan Library entrance on E 36th Street – Prudence and Felicity – were carved by Edward Clark Potter, the same sculptor who created the New York Public Library lions Patience and Fortitude.

Morgan Library Vital Statistics
  • Location: Madison Avenue between E 36th and E 37th Streets
  • Year completed: 1853 (house), 1906 (private library), 1928 (addition), 2006 (second addition)
  • Architect: McKim, Mead & White (private library), Benjamin Wistar Morris (addition), Renzo Piano Building Workshop (second addition)
  • Style: Italian Renaissance (private library), Florentine Renaissance (addition)
  • New York City Landmark: 1966
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1966
Morgan Library Suggested Reading

Google Map