The Oculus — innovation, tradition, and a tremendous expense

The Oculus, the centerpiece of The World Trade Center Transportation Hub, was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, well known for his whimsical creations and lack of practicality.  A very unusual structure looks like a bird that spreads its wings. In fact, it was inspired by a model the architect made 15 years prior to the project,…

What’s the style of The Pierre?

The Pierre was built in 1930 by the architectural firm of Schulze and Weaver, well known for their hotel design. Tall and slender, with characteristic setbacks, its silhouette looks very much like the Art Deco. However, on closer examination, this is where its similarity with Art Deco ends. Its base with columns, window arches, and…

Remembering the Towers

As we collectively mourn so many beautiful buildings we had lost in New York, hardly any other causes as much emotion as the Twin Towers. They perished tragically in the attacks of Sept 11, collapsing after being pierced by airplanes that turned into horrific fireballs as they hit the buildings. Twin Towers came to represent…

The Church Missions House — from charity to photography

Even in the diverse landscape of Manhattan’s architecture, the intricate limestone building facing Park Ave at 22nd street is striking. It’s striking because it’s unusual, it’s unusual because of its distinctive architectural style. If it looks like it was inspired by the medieval guildhalls of Amsterdam and Haarlem, it’s because it was! Influenced by the 17th-century…

NYSE Building—a Roman temple with glass walls

Facing Broad Street at the corner with Wall Street stands a stronghold of American finance — the mighty Stock Exchange. The building looks like a Roman temple adorned with imposing columns and crowned with classical portico. The resemblance is not accidental: financial structures were meant to project stability, security, and strength. By the beginning of…

New York Life — a skyscraper with a golden crown

The 40-story tower crowned by the 6-story shining golden roof in the shape of an octagonal pyramid on the northeast corner of Madison Park belongs to New York Life Insurance Company. The crown was originally covered by cooper-and-gold leaf, which eventually eroded and was replaced with gold-colored tile. The effect is fantastic — the golden…

St John the Divine – the Cathedral that was never finished

St. John the Divine, a striking presence of mammoth size and old-world-inspired beauty, was destined for a strange journey. One of the largest in the world, it started in 1892 and still stands unfinished. . . An Episcopalian Cathedral, St. John the Divine, was conceived to outshine the recently built Catholic St Patrick’s on Fifth…

Jefferson Market Library – details that tell a story

Elaborate buildings’ details are often more than mere decorations–they convey meaning and tell a story. One of the most beautiful structures in New York’s architectural landscape is the spectacular Jefferson Market Library. Built a part of a multifunctional complex that included a jail, a market, and a fire tower, it used to house a courthouse….

Tilden Mansion: Victorian facade and political scandal

Though Samuel Tilden failed to become an American president, he succeeded in creating a masterpiece of a home. While working as an attorney in 1863, Samuel J. Tilden purchased a home in Gramercy—the most fashionable area in town at the time. When he became governor of New York in 1874, he bought a mansion at…

Block Beautiful—Mediterranean in Manhattan

The perfect rhythm of adjacent brownstones forming one solid street facade define the character of 19th-century New York. These streets posses the romantic quality of the old New York and attract us with their stately yet reserved uniform presence. By the end of 19th century, however, their uniformity was loosing its charm and to some…

Ukrainian Institute/Fletcher House/Sinclair Mansion

One of New York City’s most impressive turn-of-the-century structures—located on 5th Avenue at 79th Street—houses the Ukrainian Institute. The mansion was built in 1899 for Isaac D. Fletcher—businessman, art collector and museum benefactor. It was designed in the elaborate Châteauesque style by C.P.H. Gilbert, who was known for many notable palatial residences for the wealthy. Châteauesque, inspired by the 16th…

New York City Hall

The first city hall in Manhattan was built the mid-17th century by the Dutch. It was located in the City Tavern on Pearl Street and served beer. The city’s second city hall, built at the beginning of 18th century by the British, stood on Wall Street. After the British were gone and New York City…