Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue

Crossing 8th Avenue, look to the right to see a bit of the Time-Warner Center, housing some very upscale restaurants: Per Se, Masa and Cafe Gray.

The Time-Warner Center was designed by Skidmore, Owings, Merrill (SOM). The design took years to accomplish and represents a compromise between the desires of the developer for bulk and those of the public, which, for some reason, didn't want a building that would block sunlight from reaching Central Park. There was a memorable demonstration involving massed black umbrellas that illustrated the impact of the shadow of the proposed building.

On the n.w. corner of 57th and 8th is a newish, very tall blue glass apartment building. Blue glass is enjoying some particular popularity lately. In the future, it will be possible to date these buildings quite precisely because of it.

On the s.w. corner, a singular building is going up. This is the new tower designed by Sir Norman Foster for the 6-story base of an unbuilt tower of the Hearst Building, which was designed by Joseph Urban, 1927-28. It is not possible to see the base at the moment, because of construction, but a large sign shows a rendering of it with the new tower above.

The tower

Rendering showing the base

This was to have been Foster's first structure in NYC, but Asprey hired him to design a new window for its store in the Trump Tower at Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th street. That job has been complete, to good effect.

The rest of the block between 8th and 9th is lined mostly with apartment buildings from various periods. The south side of the street is taken up by the Parc Vendome buildings.

The Parc Vendome was the site of a proposed Metropolitan Opera House. If it had been built, the high-culture strip of 57th Street would have extended to 9th Avenue. The new opera house was finally built as part of Lincoln Center, decades after it was first proposed.

The back of the Hudson Hotel (oh-so-trendy a very few years ago) is at 353 West 57th. A little garden connects two parts of the hotel, above eye level.
The Hudson is a redesign by Philippe Starck of the Henry Hudson hotel, in which Channel 13 (PBS) had its offices for many years. The entrance to the Henry Hudson was on 57th. The current incarnation is entered from 58th.

On the s.e. corner is a little plaza where there is a Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Between 9th and 10th:
On the s.w. corner of 57th and 9th is a boarded-up rather derelict building that, despite its neglected appearance is a newly-designated landmark, just waiting to be turned into expensive residences by a developer with just a little bit of vision.
The brickwork is extraordinary for New York, with some very fine corbelling. It was built in 1880-1881, the design attributed to Theophilus G. Smith. It is the oldest apartment building in the area. There used to a pretty good Jewish-style deli on the ground floor.

On the north side of the street is the lavishly ornamented (with terra cotta) Church of All Nations, originally the Catholic Apostolic Church, designed by Francis Kimball, 1885-86.

On the south side is Trinity Presbyterian Church. In the basement of what was probably the rectory is

In contrast to Hudson Hotel is

Here's a row of brownstone-front houses left from 1883. Brownstone was such a ubiquitous facade material in New York that row houses here are often referred to as "brownstones" regardless of material. There used to be block after block of nothing but these before apartment living became the norm. This row has been altered by the removal of some of the columned porches for the installation of fire escapes when the buildings were converted for use as multiple dwellings.


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