Great NYC buildings include some you've probably never heard of
February 19, 2008
NEW YORK - Everybody knows what the Empire State Building looks like. That's why Rick Bell, the head of the Center for Architecture, didn't put the famous skyscraper on his list of 10 great buildings to see in New York.
But the list from the Center for Architecture, which is the American Institute for Architects chapter in New York, does include the Conde Nast Building in Times Square, which is considered the first green skyscraper; the Apple store in Soho, noted for its glass bridge and staircase; and the Seagram Building, the only design in New York by famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
If you're an architecture buff, here are some details on why these and seven other buildings should be on your must-see list. While you're in town, you may also want to visit the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place; details on current exhibits at http://www.aiany.org.
CONDE NAST BUILDING: 4 Times Square, Manhattan, by Fox & Fowle Architects, 1996-1999. This 866-foot tall skyscraper in the heart of Times Square is what Bell calls "environmentally correct," with state-of-the-art air quality and energy conservation systems.
BROOKLYN MUSEUM: Entry pavilion and plaza, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, by James Stewart Polshek, 2004. The glass and steel circular structure modernized the museum's imposing 19th century Beaux Arts facade while making it inviting and accessible, a suitable centerpiece for Brooklyn's burgeoning hipster art scene.
PRADA NEW YORK: 575 Broadway, near Prince Street, Manhattan, by Rem Koolhaas, 2001. A wave of zebrawood is the centerpiece of Prada's flagship store, in Soho. "It displays the merchandise, it doesn't sell it," said Bell.
ROSE CENTER FOR EARTH AND SPACE: At the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, Manhattan, by James Stewart Polshek, 2000. This illuminated 87-foot diameter sphere, which appears to be floating in a huge glass cube, houses the Hayden Planetarium and Space Theater.
APPLE STORE SOHO: 103 Prince St., Manhattan, by Ronnette Riley and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, 2002, with Apple's creative team, including CEO Steve Jobs and others. If you're looking for the Apple Store on Prince Street, you'll be forgiven for doing a doubletake or maybe even walking right past it. The exterior is a 1920s stone and brick post office, with the original "STATION A" signage above the entrance. The inside is distinguished by clean, white space and an inviting glass staircase to a glass bridge upstairs.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL: 42nd Street and Park Avenue, Manhattan, by Reed & Stern and Warren & Wetmore, 1903-1913, restored by Beyer, Blinder & Belle, 1998. The famed train station's Beaux Arts Classical design is known for its arches, clock, constellation ceiling and cathedral windows. The building's beauty was restored in a project completed in 1998, and the corridors were enlivened with exhibition space and interesting places to eat and shop. Free tours ($10 suggested donation) sponsored by the Municipal Arts Society, Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m.; meet at the information booth on the main concourse.
MORGAN LIBRARY EXPANSION: 33 E. 36th St., at Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, Renzo Piano, 2006. Piano's expansion of the Morgan Library, a 1906 Beaux Arts building designed by McKim, Mead & White, is considered one of his masterpieces, with glass walls linking the old and new.
CHRYSLER BUILDING: 405 Lexington Ave., at 42nd Street, Manhattan, by William Van Alen, 1930. This building is not as well-known as the Empire State Building, but Bell thinks it should be (even though it doesn't have a public observation deck). It's a phenomenal example of Art Deco architecture that is both elegant and fun, from the distinctive tiered crown, easily picked out from the city skyline, to the enormous gargoyles shaped like radiator caps.
HEARST TOWER: 951-969 Eighth Ave., near 56th Street, Manhattan, by Sir Norman Foster, 2004. This 42-story tower was built atop the original six-story home of the Hearst media empire. The diagonal gridwork and see-through glass panels, with no vertical supporting columns, make this sleek design unique in the world.
SEAGRAM BUILDING: 375 Park Ave., near 53rd Street, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson (design architects) and Kahn & Jacobs (associate architects), 1958. "It was this building that transformed our skyline," said Bell. The building is a perfect glass box, elegantly proportioned and set back 90 feet from the street.
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