Monday, September 8, 2008

Architecture Inspiration: Two Columbus Circle

Many New Yorkers probably hate this building, but it is one of my favorite buildings in New York and one of the most recognizable to anyone who has ever been to Columbus Circle.  The building was built in 1965 by Edward Durrell Stone & Associates and was the former Gallery of Modern Art to house Huntington Hartford’s art collection

"....The walls of the Venetian-inspired vertical palazzo were perforated with porthole-like openings at the corners, base and crown to suggest rustication inspired, according to Stone, by Saint-German-des-Prés, a Romanesque church in Paris. At the ground floor, the building was carried on columns to form an arcade. The top two floors, where the restaurant was located behind a loggia, opened to a view of Central Park. Ada Louise Huxtable likened the overall effect to a 'die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollypops,' while Olga Gueft said that the building's 'red-granite-trimmed, green-marble-lined colonnades, these rows of portholes like borders of eyelet hand-embroidered on a marble christening robe are too winsome for heavyweight criticism.'...The arrangement of a stair gallery wrapped around a core was similar to that of Howe & Lescaze's Scheme Six, proprosed for the Museum of Modern Art in 1931. Filtered natural light was introduced through the glazed perforations at the corners, a technique that worked well with Abe Feder's artificial lighting, while also producing tantalizing glimpses of Central Park without distracting the viewer from the art. The lobby floor was paved in terrazzo, into which were set the discs that had been cut out of the marble when the exterior arches were formed in contrast to the white-painted anonymity of the Museum of Modern Art's galleries. Hartfords' were paneled with walnut and other hardwoods and thickly carpeted or elaborately finished in parquet de Versailles and marble. A pipe organ was included in one of the double-height galleries. Though Hartford's collection did not include any paintings by Gauguin, the ninth-floor Polynesian restaurant, the Gauguin Room, included a tapestry based on one of the French master's paintings."

The building just speaks to me. It reminds me of something that belong son the set of the movie Titus. It is a structure that would have been erected in Fascist Italy when the ideals of ancient aesthetics of Rome were being melding together with Marxist idealogy. It looks like a monument, maybe even the base for an immense statue. In short, it is a grand statement of a building meant to convey the power of history and the art which it contained. 

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