Posts tagged with "Upper East Side":

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A new exhibit explores the work of Rosario Candela, architect to New York’s Jazz Age stars

Though he may not have had a household name, few architects have had as lasting an impact on New York City as Rosario Candela. Since they were built almost a century ago, his buildings have come to define several of the city's neighborhoods and have set a standard for classic refinement among the real estate community. The Museum of the City of New York’s Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela is an informative, concise, and accessible exhibition covering the work and life of the prolific early 20th century architect. The exhibition is curated by Donald Albrecht and designed by New York-based architect Peter Pennoyer, with Tsang Seymour overseeing the project’s graphic design. Rosario Candela was born in 1890 in the Sicilian town of Montelepre, immigrating to New York City in approximately 1910. Although he struggled with English, Candela enrolled in Columbia University’s School of Architecture and graduated in 1915. The Sicilian immigrant’s early mastery of design—and self-confidence—was soon evident, as documented by architectural historian Christopher Gray, who described the young Candela cordoning off his drafting table with a velvet rope to prevent competing students from copying his work. Candela began his career as a draftsman for fellow Sicilian-American architect Gaetan Ajello, whose firm designed dozens of Renaissance Revival and Neoclassical residential and commercial properties across Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The young architect established his own firm in 1920, positioning himself to take full advantage of the astronomical wealth of the Jazz Age. For curator Donald Albrecht, one of the challenges of the exhibit was ensuring that the show was less a catalogue of Candela's prolific 75-building body of work, and more a narrative embedding his career within a rapidly changing city. To this end, Candela’s canon is cut down to 13 examples that chart his range of styles and their impact on Manhattan’s streetscape. Photography and digital animation are the primary media for the exhibition, showcasing both exteriors and interiors of Candela’s residential towers. Furnishings and ephemera dating from the era play a supporting, but significant role in bringing the subject’s social narrative to life. At street level, Candela’s architectural design is remarkable in its ability to simultaneously blend with the overarching streetscape whilst establishing a distinguishable individual presence. The exhibition begins with an immense print of the dramatically terraced rooflines of 770 and 778 Park Avenue. In typical Candela fashion, the two Neo-Georgian and Renaissance Revival style buildings are elegant and unassuming, with relatively modest brownish-red brick facades standing on delicately detailed limestone bases. Matching the cornice line of neighboring developments, Candela took advantage of zoning codes that required setbacks to create wildly asymmetrical terraced rooftops, adorned with historicist motifs such as flying buttresses, quoins, urns, and cupola-ensconced water towers. Although Rosario Candela’s work is now located in some of New York City’s most desirable neighborhoods, shifting the city’s wealthy from Victorian and French Renaissance mansions elsewhere to uptown apartment living required some persuasion. In a statement, Albrecht notes that “a key theme of the exhibition focuses on the economic history and ingenious marketing campaigns that convinced the wealthy to give up their private homes and move into apartments designed by Candela.” Featured in the exhibition are a number of brochures stemming from these efforts that promised potential tenants the luxury and exclusivity of a family manor with the comforts of apartment living. Additionally, many of Candela’s project were built as exclusionary residential cooperatives, allowing the city’s elite to segregate themselves from those they deemed less desirable. Completed in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression, Candela’s limestone-clad Art Deco 740 Park Avenue is seen as the summit of the architect’s career. While the facade announces the upper-class status of the co-op, it is the interior composition that sets it apart from surrounding residences. The building is split between four types of apartments: mansionettes with individual street entrances, a series of duplexes, and full-floor apartments, topped by a luxurious penthouse. Past and current residents read as a register of the nation’s political and economic elite, ranging from Jackie Kennedy to John D. Rockefeller. A centrally-placed digital animation of 960 Fifth Avenue is perhaps the finest curatorial tool in the exhibition, and it highlights Candela’s innovative approach to floorplan layouts and his segmentation of luxury residential properties into a diverse range of units. The videographic, created with Lumion architectural rendering software, effectively displays the division of the building into a western portion composed of single-story and duplex apartments, and an eastern wing made up of one- to two-bedroom rental units for upper-class families who predominantly resided in country estates. Faithful to Albrecht's curatorial mission to break outside the confines of architectural history, Elegance in the Sky also includes the catastrophic impact the Great Depression had on Rosario Candela’s dizzying rise as a top-tier architect, essentially leveling all future prospects of prestigious projects. Consequently, the architect left the profession and turned towards the field of cryptography, ultimately creating an unbreakable encryption method used by the American government during World War II. Candela would go on to write two books on the subject and take up a professorship at Hunter College. Although purely based on Candela family lore, Albrecht notes that the architect’s involvement with the Office of Strategic Services could be a factor behind the near complete lack of original renderings, with the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency seizing documents from Candela’s study following his death in 1953. In a nod to Candela’s apartments' classical interior detailing and the designer's involvement in cryptography, Peter Pennoyer wrapped the entire exhibition space in a decorative frieze featuring mullions, egg-and-dart detailing, fluting, and a band of Morse code spelling out the architect’s full name. In similar fashion, facial profiles of those involved in his career, including longtime collaborators, designer Dorothy Draper, and developers Charles and Joseph Paterno, are colorfully sketched below the decorative frieze. The seismic evolution of New York City’s urban fabric during Rosario Candela’s professional career is startling and alludes to the contemporary state of intense development in the city. However, the continued allure and prestige of Rosario Candela’s body of work, from the Art Deco 740 Park Avenue to the Georgian-Renaissance blend of 770 Park Avenue, raises the question of whether the city’s current development boom will leave the same storied architectural legacy.

Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela The Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue Through October 28, 2018

 
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DDG uses a four-foot-wide lot to build (too) tall, enraging residents on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

Do you know the one weird trick that lets developers build tall buildings where they're not supposed to? It's not stilts, DJ booths, or mechanical floors this time. DDG Partners got city approval in 2014 to take a regular, 30-foot-deep lot and slice off a four-foot-wide chunk, then used that buffer to avoid zoning regulations that govern the height and setback of buildings on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The developers are building a 32-story, 521-foot-tall luxury tower whose address is the tiny lot on 88th Street, but whose entrance is on adjacent Third Avenue. The tower is 60 feet taller than those typically allowed in the neighborhood, The New York Times reports. “There’s lots of little lots in Manhattan, some that are five square feet, but they’re relics, or they provide access. This is novel; this is new; this is a very aggressive strategy," planning expert George M. Janes explained to the New York Times. Carnegie Hill Neighbors, a local residents' group that opposes the tower, hired Janes to conduct a site analysis. Janes noted that the developers may be trying to avoid building a larger base for the tower, which would be needed if the lot abutted 88th Street. With the zoning circumvented, the square footage for the base can instead be used to boost the tower's height. Permits were issued in March, and DDG is banking on the tower's height as a major selling point. Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood, sent the Buildings Department a letter last week requesting a stop-work order, noting that the building sets a precedent for exploiting "a new and dangerous loophole.” In light of this project, the department is reviewing its earlier rulings. It's worth noting the the developers contributed nearly $20,000 to de Blasio's Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that supports the mayor's social initiatives. DDG declined to comment on the donations, but did say in a statement that they “have and will continue to support public officials with a positive economic development platform that allows New York City to remain a beacon and attraction for the rest of the world.”

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The Frick Collection Expansion, Take 2

There is a new expansion plan in the works for the New York City museum founded in 1935 that sits on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue in the Upper East Side. The 1977 Russell Page-designed garden will still be part of the new plan for a larger Frick Collection. Last week, “leaders of the Upper East Side museum and library said they intend to issue a formal request for qualifications from firms with expertise applicable to the Beaux-Arts mansion,” wrote The Wall Street Journal. “A selection is expected later this year, with designs following in 2017.” Facing criticism from designers and preservationists, The Frick Collection abandoned the former expansion proposal last spring that would have removed the garden, added six stories to the east wing, and “established a stronger connection from the museum to its art reference library on East 71st Street,” explained The New York Times. The nixed plan would have added almost 25 percent more space for permanent exhibits and over 50 percent more for temporary exhibits. If implemented, this would be the third expansion for the Frick. The first was a new entrance in 1977, and the second enclosed the existing open air portico in 2011. The museum was the home of the industrialist Henry Clay Frick who made his fortune on coke manufacturing and steel and infamous for his anti-union policies. Frick stipulated in his will that his house—designed by Carrère and Hastings—become a public museum after his death.
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Apple shows love to New York’s historic neighborhoods and the Landmarks Conservancy takes notice

The New York Landmarks Conservancy is honoring Apple with its 2016 Chairman's Award. The award, to be given at a fundraising luncheon where individual tickets start at $500, honors the company for "their contribution to preserving, restoring, and repurposing notable historic structures in New York City." Although Apple's New York flagship store, on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th streets, is recognized widely for its modern glass cube, the company has four stores in historically significant locations around the city. Apple has a shop in Grand Central Terminal, a New York City landmark, and stores within the Soho, Gansevoort Market, and Upper East Side historic districts. With 700,000 travellers passing through Grand Central Terminal, that store is the most heavily trafficked of the historic four, Apple Insider speculates. In March, the NYLC will recognize the company's commitment to historic preservation (or locating stores in historic areas, as there is no explicit preservation agenda in the stores' design). The Chairman's Award was started in 1988 to recognize "exceptional commitment to the protection and preservation of the rich architectural heritage of New York." The NYLC is different from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission: the latter is a city government group that decides which districts and structures receive recognition for the historic, cultural, or architectural merits and subsequent protection under local historic preservation laws. The former is a nonprofit advocacy organization that protects the architectural heritage of New York City by advocating for preservation-friendly policy at the state, local, and national level; running workshops and providing technical assistance; and providing loans and grants for preservation of individual structures, sites, and neighborhoods.
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The Frick Collection cancels controversial expansion plan by Davis Brody Bond

The Frick Collection has called off its controversial expansion plan, reports the New York Times. The surprising news comes one year after the museum unveiled a scheme by David Brody Bond to build a six-story addition and fill in its beloved Russell Page Garden. Removing the garden (and replacing it with a new rooftop garden) did not sit well with preservationists who came out swinging against the expansion. Groups like Unite to Save the Frick (USF), ASLA NY, and later the Municipal Art Society, have all been publicly urging the Frick to scrap its plan since it was announced. Now, all these months later, it seems that their wish has been granted. "After months of public dialogue and thoughtful consideration and weighing the potential for a protracted approval process against the Frick’s pressing needs, the Board of Trustees has decided to approach the expansion plan in a way that avoids building on the garden site," said Ian Wardropper, the director of the Frick Collection, in a statement. The Frick's decision appears to be centered around possible legal issues relating to the elimination of the Page Garden. As AN reported last year, "Citing documents presented to the Landmarks Commission in 1973, USF is accusing the Frick’s leadership of reneging on a promise to make the garden a permanent fixture." In a letter to the editor published in AN, Wardropper pushed back on those claims. "The Frick initially planned to install an interim garden on the site as a placeholder until funds could be raised for the addition," he wrote. "But due to high costs, the museum decided to build a permanent architectural garden instead—not promised, as opponents claim—and a one-story pavilion. In explaining the reason for this change, former Frick Director Everett Fahy, told the Landmarks Preservation Commission on May 21, 1974 that the revised plan for the site was intended to satisfy the 'foreseeable minimal needs of the Collection for certain interior space.'" Those needs were no longer being met, Wardropper added. But with the threat of "protracted legal battles," the museum reportedly decided that it was best to head in a different direction. The board has not officially voted on canceling the plan, but is expected to meet today. USF was expectedly very pleased with the latest development, saying in a statement to the Times that there were “many viable alternatives that would preserve the Russell Page Garden and the intimate house museum experience treasured by so many in New York City and around the world.” In his statement, Wardropper added that the Frick "will immediately begin to develop a new plan that will help us satisfy our critical needs.”
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Comment> The Met Plaza redesign undermines the institution’s civic grandeur

In February of the year 2012, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art first announced the redesign of the City-owned Fifth Avenue-fronted plaza along its grand McKim, Mead & White Beaux-Arts facade, there was little opposition from preservationists. A $65 million underwriting pledge from museum trustee, David H. Koch, catalyzed the selected competitive plan from Philadelphia-based OLIN. It proceeded through the approval process with relative dispatch. Curiously when first unveiling the OLIN proposal, the Museum stated explicitly that despite Mr. Koch’s enlivening donation, the resulting plaza renovation would in fact not bear his name. Anonymity on top of benevolence spells charitable grace at its peak. Pretty much the sole impediment to this civic embellishment—so welcome against existing conditions of cracked sidewalks, failing hydraulics, deformed and dying trees, a long-neglected fountain, and meager old-fashioned exterior lighting—were the cries of what seemed at the time just another hopeless band of Luddites reflexively resistant to change of any sort. They included tree huggers acting as they did as if the jejune water-choked grove then there consisted of old growth sequoias instead of pooped out sycamores. More recent opposition came from those protesting the donor himself as they heatedly dissed his many such civic good works in the realms of culture, medicine and education as little more than candy-coated camouflage of his role as Citizen’s United election-stealing kingpin. In this way, focus shifted away from plaza’s design and impact on form and function to the symbolism of support, especially when in the end the David H. Koch name was indeed carved with gilded precision on the new fountain basins heralding all those approaching whether from north or south. More considered objection first came, however, from the testimony of the New York/Tri-State Chapter of DOCOMOMO given before the aesthetic overseers at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. They argued for the integrity of the plaza solution that was part of the original overall 1970 Kevin Roche Met master plan, which even forty years later is still generally in guiding force:
Roche’s declared design intention was to create an open urban plaza that defers to and displays the monumental Beaux-Arts façade of the museum. He wanted to distinguish the urban face …on Fifth Avenue from the park portions of the other three sides... (The Chapter) is hopeful that any modifications to the present plaza, to the extent that they are necessary, conform to the underlying principles of the Kevin Roche design-preserving an open urban plaza with unimpeded access to (his ingeniously three –sided) entrance stairway and unobstructed visibility of the stairs, adjacent facades and ground level entrances.
And with the results now plain, how right they were. With the exception of a masterwork of exterior nighttime illumination by Hervé Descottes and his L’Observatoire International that subtly responds to the architecture’s classical hierarchies and the replenishment of the subsoil, it is only now that the relative dignity of this earlier renovation is fully evident. Restoration of the restoration was a worthy option after all. Apologies are due them. Despite some working drawings from McKim, Mead, & White in which the option of flower and shrub beds appeared alongside the façade elevation, their final intent was clear with the dignified built encounter of limestone and pavers accentuated further by the pedestrian-scaled Roman grills that inform urban places of majesty and safe-keeping. OLIN’s decision to place such beds there seems a pallid suburbanization vying to extend the park setting instead of contrasting it. Imagine flowers alongside the Pantheon or its Renaissance-descended Palazzo Farnese? Meanwhile, the new fountains, while retaining a classical symmetry, end up compromising the pomp and circumstance of the Roche-thrusting and much expanded grand stairs with a tight perplexing proximity. The visitor today cannot help but wonder if it is some disguised stab at crowd control. And while their new placement was meant in part to make more legible the secondary street-grade entrance at 81st Street, the trade-off is untested and dubious; who can resist mounting those stairs? This is a classical threshold at its iconic best. The waterworks vary in height and rhythm in a mannered echo of WET Design’s signature creations yet at low height the sprouts seem more than a tinkle. The previous fountains recalled the classical rigor that informed so much of high Modernism. This was never meant as a playful place. Instead it was always meant for unencumbered dignity; all who enter should arrive as big shots knowing that they each held a key to this great repository of beauty and truth. Likewise the addition of dozens of trees even as now young and leafless obscures the architecture. What about in 20 years? It is hard to object to more trees in this warned up day and age but here is one place where the sum is less than the design parts. Finally and through no fault of either client or landscape architect there is a the all too frequent New York curse of visual pollution as arises in public places, where governing statures collide and, in turn, destroy the clarity of the guiding design blueprint. Here at the Met plaza, it is the curbside licensed food vendors. Ironically the spot-on instinct on the Museum’s part to include in its initial plan outdoor kiosks for such inevitable trade was denied by the oversight Landmarks and Public Design Commissions in convenient disregard for the ultimate reality of the streets. With the present redesign, Mr. Koch might well wish that for now at least his name not be its site label after all. He seems shortchanged as much as those he generously aims to benefit.
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Letter to the Editor> Frick Director Responds to Expansion Critics

[Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] Regarding the article “Frick Fracas,” (AN_14_12.4.2014), while there has been much debate about the Frick’s proposed addition to address its longstanding space needs, much of it rests on mischaracterizations about the history and original purpose of the site where it will be located. The property on which the 70th Street Garden now sits was purchased between 1940 and 1972 to construct an addition. The Frick initially planned to install an interim garden on the site as a placeholder until funds could be raised for the addition. But due to high costs, the museum decided to build a permanent architectural garden instead—not promised, as opponents claim—and a one-story pavilion. In explaining the reason for this change, former Frick Director Everett Fahy, told the Landmarks Preservation Commission on May 21, 1974 that the revised plan for the site was intended to satisfy the “forseeable minimal needs of the Collection for certain interior space.” Now the Frick’s minimal needs are no longer being met. After studying several plans that would have kept the garden and pavilion intact, the Frick has concluded the site offers the best solution. The Frick has three gardens now and will continue to have three gardens after the addition is built. The 70th Street Garden, while lovely, will be replaced by an outdoor garden atop the new addition that will offer views of Central Park and space for contemplation. Ian Wardropper, Director The Frick Collection
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Rudolph’s New York Home Passes Landmark Test

The latest Upper East Side landmark isn't another of its signature rowhouses, but rather what's atop one of those brownstones.  Yesterday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved landmark status for mid-century architect Paul Rudolph's less-than-context-sensitive home at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph moved into the 4-story on which the addition sits in 1961 and added his three-story design in 1977, modifying the house throughout his life.  Located between East 50th and 51st Street, 23 Beekman Place has been moving through the landmark process for over a year, and its approval marks an emerging phase in historic preservation. Now that many examples of modern architecture are getting older, they are becoming fair game for landmark protection, a notion the New York Observer says can sometimes be full of contradiction:
And yet there remains a certain alienness to a building like 23 Beekman. In a way, it is an oxymoron, a cancer atop a truly "historic building." The very idea of a modern landmark is itself a contradiction in terms because modernism sought to wipe away history. Consider Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, even Rudolph, all trying to eradicate history, to defeat nature, end poverty and blight, addressing all of the world's ills through their work. Where better to recognize this tension than a building with such a clearly split personality? And yet all of that Utopian zeal failed as much as it succeeded, so much so that many of the buildings it left behind are now unloved, even hated. This makes modernist preservation all the more essential and immediate. Not only have these buildings-beyond-time themselves aged (some quite severely), but they have become examples of architectural idealism, experimentation, and failure. Thus they are something to be saved, even as they sought to wipe out their forebears.