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Thursday, January 03, 2008

American Radiator

Many young people hated history class in my High School days - all the memorizing of facts. Even if your memory was quite good, why waste it leaning about things and events long gone, most with no remaining vestiges whatsoever? And things that seemingly had no relevance to our young lives. Growing up in a blue-collar factory town, there wasn't much history to pique a young person's interest anyway. Oh, I had plenty of interests - math, rocketry, German language, chess, origami, Africa, adventure, music, books (and girls). I belonged to plenty of clubs. But history was not part of the agenda at all. Things started to change when I started traveling to Europe and when I moved to NYC. Here, history is alive and well - it's with us everyday, every where you walk or look. To fully understand a building or place, one has to know the history and it's not long before one wants to know the history and likes history. Soon, your watching the History Channel (I wish my history teacher was alive to witness the success of this network).
Today's photo is a great illustration of all this. The American Radiator Building, now the American Standard Building, was
designed by architects Raymond Hood and John Howells and built in 1924 for the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Company. It is based on the Chicago Tribune building. The building is located at 40 w. 40th Street, on a block with many brownstones and Renaissance club facades from the turn of the century. It is on the south side of Bryant Park, thus affording unobstructed views of it from some distance. The stark contrast in colors is a distinguishing characteristic and a remarkable sight, well known to city dwellers who frequent the area. The brick is black - Hood wanted the appearance of a large mass, unbroken by dark windows in a building typically constructed using lighter colored stone. The building is topped with Gothic style pinnacles and terra-cotta friezes covered in gold. The design was to recall the furnaces of the time with their black iron and glowing embers. Another important feature of this building is that it is set back from the lot line - unattached on all four sides. This freestanding construction permits architectural treatment all around and allows more natural light into the interior. The base is black granite with bronze plating; the lobby black marble. The building is landmarked and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1998 it was sold and later converted to the Bryant Park Hotel. When you are in the neighborhood, make sure to take a look. This history serves us well, does it not?

10 comments:

Lucy said...

Gorgeous building with all that black and gold -- it would be cool if people did things like this now, details picked out in a contrast material that is beautiful.
Cool photo too, with the Empire State in the background looking blue and serene.
Interest in history may depend where you grew up. Philadelphia is all about history, maybe nothing but until recently...

Greg said...

What always amazes me when I see beautiful old buildings like this (and many more in NYC much older!!), with the intricacies of their design and construction, is that all of this was done well before the advancement of computer design and modelling and before more modern construction techiques....truly a marvel, I think!!

Great capture and commentary, Brian!

Thanks!

Brian said...

greg -
I think we forget how advanced certain technologies and knowledge bases were in antiquity. Things like structural design, plumbing, etc. go back quite some time. In many cases, newer products are inferior, particularly because of cost saving measures - thinner gauge metals etc.

M.E. said...

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calusarus said...

I've nerver seen a building like this one.
Thank you for the explanation.

An Honest Man said...

A very photogenic building.

oldmanlincoln said...

I like the black bricks. A smart idea in a cold winter clime. As it collects the heat and makes things inside a tad warmer. Nice photo too because of the contrast in colors. It still looks like an institution which doesn't seem right.

Lorelai said...

ok, a day late, but i had to comment because i actually was JUST in Bryant park the day before last, marveling at that exact building, wondering what it was and how to find out!! It was so pretty and it really does stand out.

Jana said...

Great photo. That building is just amazing! I love reading the little stories you have with the photos. My 5 year old was just looking at this and said "I must go there someday.' He is a smart kid!

Eva said...

When I see this building, I remember how I first learned of it. Georgia O'Keeffe painted it. In fact I think that painting is in the news a lot lately because wherever it is, they want to sell it. Anyway, amazing painting of an amazing building.

I love your blog!