No. 4, March 2000
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Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.


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
Get the book from
Amazon.com.
 
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.
 

No. 4, March 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.