The Unbearable Banishment: Look! Up in the sky!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Look! Up in the sky!

New Yorkers always have a bit of a chuckle at the tourists who walk about the city with their heads craned up. They fall off curbs and crash into lampposts and each other. But savvy New Yorkers know that the tourists are RIGHT! There's a spectacular show going on up there. Some of the finest architectural flourishes in the city can be found above the 40th floor.

Case in point: Take a look at the crown of this art deco masterpiece. This building is elegantly described by my good friend Artisté Florenza on her blog and is the subject of one of her beautiful paintings.

This grandly embellished piece of architecture on the corner of 51st Street and Lexington Avenue in midtown was originally called the RCA Victor building when it went up in the '30's. The symbols and details on the crown of the building were inspired by radio waves and it is quite a site to see.




Is it a symptom of my advancing age to say they don't design them with this depth of detail anymore? Click on this pic and take a good look at it. Can the polished surfaces of Frank Gehry compare to this? Nay, I say.


The Empire State Building, that Grand Old Dame of the city, has ornamental lighting that changes almost every night. Each color scheme is a commemoration or celebration. On October 19th, I was walking by after a meditation class and saw this mess!


I looked it up when I got home and apparently, these "Psychedelic Tie-Dye Colors" were in honor of the New York Historical Society's Benefit for the Grateful Dead Exhibition and Archive. Are they running out of themes?

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All the street corner fruit vendors in Manhattan call you either "boss" or "my friend." I like it.

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Cost to park in a garage on 89th Street off of Park Avenue for a bit over three hours to take The Daughter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art: $45.

Ouch. Just so you know. When you lay in a bed of roses, you're going to get stuck with a few thorns.

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15 Comments:

Blogger Sid said...

Love the crown of the first building. I know I say this quite often but you really are quite lucky!
$45 for parking? ouch.

October 27, 2009 at 8:19 AM  
Anonymous popomatic jeff said...

I've never seen the top of that RCA building. Its amazing. I try to look up whenever I'm in the city, especially lower manhattan - there are some beautiful buildings (and building tops) down there.

October 27, 2009 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

While it is true that some of the best things in life are free, it is also true that the rest of the best things are quite pricey. But I love the fact that you understand that your"luck" comes with a price, and that you appreciate what you are paying for. Thanks for sharing some of what you pay for, and some of what you get for free right here on this blog!

Love the photos! And I love all those great buildings!

October 27, 2009 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Pueblo girl said...

What a beautiful building (the RCA). It makes me want to see what it looks like inside.

October 27, 2009 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sid: Yes, the parking was outrageous but I got a good return on my investment, namely, time in the museum with The Daughter. You can't put a price on that!

Jeff: Actually, I just recently discovered it. And I've been here for 20+ years! That's the beauty of this town -- there's always something new.

Lori: I have half a mind to charge admission to this blog. But then my already low readership would plummet to 0.0

PG: That's and EXCELLENT idea! Why didn't I think of it? I'll try to do a follow-up post of the interior. I'll bet it's beautiful.

October 27, 2009 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Great photos, and so true.

I once tripped and fell literally flat on my face, walking with Sarge in Manhattan while gazing upwards. It's a miracle I didn't break my nose, cause that was the first thing to make contact with the asphalt.

October 27, 2009 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Pueblo girl said...

IOh good. Because I doubt I'll ever get to NY to see for myself, and I'm imagining beautiful burnished wood interiors, wrought iron, golden sunlight and lovely textures.

October 27, 2009 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Absoloutely beautiful 'crown', almost like a grand cathedral!

You have inspired me to take another look at my own city, thanks.

October 27, 2009 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

Very complex forces act upon buildings which give them their final shape and form. Suffice it to say that these buildings were erected in an era of significantly cheap(er) and craft-oriented labor. Raw materials were more abundant and of higher quality. By the mid-century, the appearance of the Seagram Buildings and Lever Houses of the world, were a direct response to market pressures, post-war material availability and the rapid decline in craftsmanship. I won't defend Gehry, but I will argue that there are many buildings being made today that are quite lovely in their own right. But the criteria by what you judge these buildings from previous periods cannot be applied to contemporary works...

October 27, 2009 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Leah! You're a native! I'm surprised at you.

PG: How many times do you need to be told NEVER SAY NEVER.

Map: The cathedral is an excellent analogy. And you are correct to take a fresh look at your own city.

JZ: Thanks for the lesson! I use to work a half block the Seagram Building and Lever House and don't understand the fuss. Was it the first floor-through? Is that the big deal?

[Note to everyone: JZ is an architect and really knows his shit. Much moreso than a palooka like me.]

October 27, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

You could say there were NYC skyscrapers before Lever House and there were skyscrapers after....the arrangements of public space, use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete and the streamlined form (not to mention one of the first buildings to be entirely without operable windows!) were all firsts in NYC and were "copied" ad nauseum for decades to come.....

I'm one of those jerks who can't just like or not like something for the way it looks....i have to go and contextualize it with history....such a downer at parties, let me tell you.....

October 27, 2009 at 11:01 PM  
OpenID daisyfae said...

the RCA building is breathtaking - especially for a geekgrl who's taken graduate classes in "radiation and matter" and could (at one time) derive Maxwell's equations! WOW!

science, art and architecture - all tucked sneakily away along a magnificent skyline.

damn. you've got a good eye, and a great way with words...

October 28, 2009 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Bastard said...

I must admit to never having seen quite such grand architecture outside of Barcelona, for many years. New Yorkers are right to be proud of such a fine city.

October 28, 2009 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: I give the Worst Idea Ever Award to inoperable windows.

Daisy: Thanks, but it doesn't take a keen eye at all. It's all out in the open. You just have to pay attention.

Jimmy: I'm proud of this old town but I'm going to give the edge to Barcelona for architecture. They've been at it a LOT longer than we have. New York isn't "beautiful" the way Barcelona is.

October 28, 2009 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger A Free Man said...

I've always love deco architecture. Lately, and admittedly I know little to nothing about architecture, I've been impressed by some of the newer buildings. Can't say that was the case in the 80's and 90's.

October 29, 2009 at 8:09 AM  

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