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

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Madison Avenue to Fifth Avenue

South side of street:
The south side of the block is dominated by the (former) IBM tower, (Edward Larabee Barnes, 1983) and its bamboo-planted atrium.
The building is distinguished by its large cantilevered corner that hovers over the street. Under the overhang is a bright red Alexander Calder stabile.

IBM's art collection was housed in the building's gallery space on the ground floor and lower level. After the company sold off its art, or most of it, the space served for a while as a museum of photojournalism. It is now the home of the Dahesh Museum, a collection of 19th-century academic art. The museum mounts temporary exhibits that relate to its permanent collection, a recent one being "First Seen: Photographs of the World's Peoples 1840-1880." A gift shop is on the premises and well as a restaurant that serves lunch and afternoon tea. A museum brochure shows two upcoming programs of particular interest to food lovers: Bitter/Sweet: Tales from the World of Spice on Thursday, Aug. 4 and Dining Customs of Ancient Greece on October 6.

A Tourneau watch store is the other tenant on the ground floor. You can see what time it is almost anywhere on the globe: The Nike store to the west also has an entry to the atrium. The building can't decide if it's a railway station or a high school. It was built in the mid-1990s, designed by Nike in-house architects, Gordon Thompson III and John R. Hoke III

This was the site, briefly, of Galeries Lafayette and before that, Bonwit Teller. There were beautiful bas-reliefs on the Bonwit Teller building that were supposed to be preserved when Donald Trump took the building down in connection with the construction of Trump Tower. (The stores are connected, wrapping around Tiffany's.)

On the southeast corner of 57th and Fifth is Tiffany's. This building dates from 1940, when the store moved uptown. The front facade is under wraps as some work proceeds:

The side windows (among the best-decorated in the city) are still visible at the side entrance.

North side of 57th Street between Madison and Fifth:
There's more variety on the north side of the street. The pale, broken planes of the LVMH Building, 19 East 57th (Christian de Portzamarc, 1999) are a vivid contrast to the somber black right angles of the IBM Building across the street.

If I had been able to take the picture at night, you would have seen the changing colors of its vertical neon tube.

Chanel is next door. The storefront looks much like all Chanel stores everywhere, so powerful and compelling is the simple Chanel logo. This building was designed in 1996 by Platt Byard Dovell.

Burberry recently combined its existing building with Escada. The architects Richter +Ratner, with the in-house design team came up with a building that puts one in mind of the most famous Burberry pattern. It may be too cute. Time will tell. With LVMH, too.

Walking past Bally and Yves St. Laurent, we come to the corner and the interesting opacity of Louis Vuitton. Jun Aoki, the architect responsible for the look of the retail Vuitton stores in Japan, designed a new facade for the building, which dates from 1930. It was originally built for the New York Trust Company, but until Vuitton moved in was the Warner Brothers store, with a cartoony, over-the-top design that, along with the establishment of (I'm skipping ahead to the next block) a McDonald's I felt marked the end of 57th Street as I'd known it. I'm happy to say that Warner's is gone. The opacity is due to a coating on the inside of the glass.

A gigantic crystal snowflake is suspended above this intersection for the winter holidays. I've gotten used to it, but generally, I feel that the lavish window displays provide enough festivity, far more elegantly.


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