Copyright 2000 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights
photo copyright Norman McGrath
and Eric P. Nash. Flatiron Building.
Manhattan Skyscrapers A book by Eric P. Nash with photos by Norman McGrath Princeton Architectural Press New York 1999
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Eric P. Nash tells us chronologically the story of about 75 Manhattan
skyscrapers, beginning with the American Tract Society Building from 1896,
built by R. H. Robertson. Among the skyscrapers included in this book are
the Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert (1913), the Paramount Building by
Rapp & Rapp (1926), the Chrysler Building by William Van Alen (1930)
as well as the Rockefeller Center (1932-40) which is at once a summation
of the Art Deco style, and a look ahead to the Internationalist style that
dominated after World War II. Among the more recent skyscrapers are the
Lipstick Building by John Burgee with Philip Johnson (1986) and the World
Financial Center by Cesar Pelli (1985-92). In between lie the "big mistakes"
by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Seagram Building, 1958), Walter Gropius (Pan
Am Buidling, 1963), Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and their followers.
You can call it Bauhaus-architecture, Modernism, Reductionism or Internationalism.
In my opinion, it lead to dehumanizing architecture. Maybe architects had
to go the whole way in order to realize that there was a dead-end.
One of the most popular and best known skyscrapers in the world is
the Flatiron Building. Built by Daniel H. Burnham in 1902 as the headquarters
of the George A. Fuller construction company, it "was only briefly called
the Fuller Building and soon became known as the Flatiron because of its
distinctive shape." Unfortunately, the picture on the right is the only
construction photo Nash/McGrath have included in their book. It shows the
underlying steel-structure of the building. As Buckminster Fuller remarked,
the Flatiron dated to an era when "architects were still pretending there
was no steel." The Flatiron looks like an ocean steamer moving towards
us. The 21-storey, 307-foot tall building was the tallest skyscraper north
of Wall Street when it was built." The style is sometimes called "Burnham
Baroque", its "rippling terra-cotta curtain wall decorated with lion's
heads, wreaths, and archictectural masks is a link with a classical past."
photo copyright McGrath/Nash.
The Flatiron Building under construction.
photo copyright McGrath/Nash.
The skyline of Manhattan.
The skyline of New York is as impressive as anything built by men.
Unfortunately McGrath and Nash have added photos showing the skyline only
at the beginning and at the end of their book. In a future edition, this
would be one of the things to change. There are for instance no pictures
taken from Central Park, looking at the skyscrapers surrounding the lungs
of Manhattan. But overall, this book is entertaining and gives some basic
information on the evolution of skyscraper architecture in New York. From
the premodern style of Henry Hobson Richardson through Louis Henry Sullivan
to Robertson and Burnham, from Graham to Ralph Walker, from Gropius to
Mies van der Rohe and from Philip Johnson to Cesar Pelli, one gets to know
all the important architects and their different styles. Get it from Amazon.com.