Wednesday, 20 May 2015

New York art deco part two

The Chrysler Building from the corner of 42nd St and Madison Avenue

We had a great time with part one of this walk two days ago, and after a day in the art galleries we return to it today. We walked up Madison Avenue from our hotel to 42nd St and just before we got there (at 40th St) discovered this fine building at number 275. It has a marble facade at street level with engraved decoration. The invaluable NYC architecture images site reveals that it dates from 1931 and was the work of Kenneth Franzheim. The lobby is said to have rose coloured marble and I wish now that we had followed our usual practice and had a look inside.

We turned right onto 42nd St and soon found our first planned target: the Chanin Building at number 122, a massive brown brick structure with a band of beautiful floral motifs. Beneath that there are green metal decorative features. The building dates from 1927-9 and the architects were Sloan and Robertson (who also did the Fred F French building we saw yesterday). René Chambellan and Jacques L. Delamarre are credited with the lobby and the ornamentation.

The ground floor was under scaffolding, so we couldn't see what the entrance was really like, but we went into the impressive lobby. I was about to start taking some photos when a stern voice shouted "No photos!" I took a guerrilla one on the way out.

We continued along 42nd past the Chrysler Building, of which more in a moment, to reach the Daily News Building (1929-1930 by Robert Hood, André Fouilhoux and John Mead Howells) near the junction with 3rd Avenue. It has a strong verticality with white bricks being used for the main cladding and brown bricks arranged in a pattern below the windows. NYC architecture images adds the amusing information that the size of the windows -- and thus the width of the window stripes -- was determined by the size of a window that could be effortlessly opened by a single office worker. It was among the first skyscrapers to be built without an ornamental crown. There is fine imagery over the entrance.

The lobby has been modernised, but does retain one marvellous feature: the world's largest indoor globe. Wikipedia says that it has not been kept up to date, but a cursory check revealed plenty of modern country names on the map. Wikipedia also says that this building was the model for the Daily Planet where Clark Kent (Superman) worked.

Retracing our steps brought us face to face with the Chrysler Building. This obviously is the view looking straight up. The projections are gargoyles of American eagles. The building dates from 1928-30 and was designed by William van Alen. For 11 months it was the world's tallest building before being displaced by the Empire State Building.

The lobby is simply staggering - and you can take photos! The walls are of Moroccan red marble ....

... and the ceilings are covered in paintings (by Edward Trumbull) celebrating modern technology and labour. The colour tones are reminiscent of Paul Gauguin.

Perhaps even more extravagant are the lift doors.

After enjoying an excellent lunch in the wonderful Oyster Bar at nearby Grand Central station and admiring the amazing station concourse ...

... we emerged into Lexington Avenue to see the Graybar Building at number 420 (1927 by Sloan and Robertson).

This facade is quite interesting, but apparently on one of the other sides there is more off a nautical theme and sculpted rates. For more on this see here.

In the sleek lobby I managed to photograph the lovely floor tiles ...

... and this beguiling arrangement of lampshades, before being invited not to take pictures.

We continued up Lexington towards the General Electric Building at number 570 (originally the RCA Victor Building) - 1929-31 by Cross and Cross. The crown has an extraordinary combination of gothic spires and lightning bolts.

At street level however the richness of the decoration catches the eye. There is apparently yet another fine lobby, but we were under such sales pressure from the staff of a nearby cosmetic shop that we found ourselves hurrying to get away.

Part of the architects' brief was to ensure that the building complemented St Bartholomew's church at the rear. The church is pretty much dwarfed into insignificance but the colour tones of the skyscraper (on the left) are indeed quite harmonious.

Our final stop was the Fuller Building (1928-9 by Walker and Gillette) at 41-45 East 57th St. The beautifully decorated lower storeys have an almost classical look. The crown has splendid black and white zig zag patterns, but we were too close to be able to see them.

The lobby had gilded lift doors and mirrored walls which produced an extraordinary effect with all the lights.

Conditions: again grey and cool.

Distance: maybe three miles.

Rating: five stars. A real feast of beauty.

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