New York City

Great NYC Buildings Few Guidebooks Will Ever Mention

So last night I taught a new class at the Brooklyn Brainery entitled Great NYC Buildings You Won't Find in Guide Books.  It was a 90 minute "lecture" type class, with a good turnout.  The wine provided by Jen Messier provided a little needed liquid courage.

We started by reviewing some of the architectural styles that adorned the NYC skyline from pre-colonial days to the early twentieth century, as a brief introduction.  We looked a bit more deeply at the Beax-Arts Style, and the work of McKim, Mead and White since the first building we looked at was: 130 Bowery - The Bowery Savings Bank Building.

130 Bowery - The Bowery Savings Bank Building, 1895, McKim, Mead and White Architects.  Currently used as a high-end event space, Capitale.

We discussed the significance of the building in the context of the Lower East Side of the 1890s. We looked at its stature as a bank, and how the architecture was designed to instill a feeling of stability and security in an otherwise unstable neighborhood.  We briefly looked at some of the other buildings that Stanford White was responsible for, and how the architect studied under the tutelage of Henry Hobson Richardson, the main influence on the next building we looked at, The Eagle Warehouse Building in Dumbo Brooklyn.

The Eagle Warehouse Building, Dumbo, Brooklyn.  1893, Frank Freeman, Architect.  Currently used as high-end condominiums.

This building I have always admired, originally while on line waiting for pizza at Grimaldi's, but later just as a really amazing building on its own.  We looked at how the machicolations ( the scallop shaped ornament found near the top of the building) matched those found at the Pallazzo Vecchio in Florence (originally used for "murder holes" to pour hot oil on an invading force, in Renaissance Florence, not 19th century Brooklyn).  We talked about how the architect, Frank Freeman, a great 19th century/early 20th century Brooklyn architect, was heavily influenced by H.H. Richardson, especially in the treatment of the arched entry and the overall composition.  We talked about its original use, its current use, and we looked at some of the details found in the building.

360 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn. 1873, William Field and Son Architects.  First concrete building in NYC, and a "pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States", (NYC Landmarks and Preservation Commission.)

Next came 360 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, a building that seems to stand alone on the corner of 3rd St. and 3rd Ave. out of time and out of place.  The building was originally known as the Coignet Stone Company Building, and was the showcase for the company's pioneering and patented type of early concrete manufacturing.  The surrounding plots have been bought by Whole Foods.  But they will have to build around it since the building has Landmark status.  So there.

Beard & Robinson's Stores, 1872, architect unknown. Originally used to store trade goods bound for New York Harbor via the Great Lakes and the Eerie Canal.  Now used as artist lofts and light manufacturing.

Next was The Beard & Robinson's stores and Pier 41 in Red Hook Brooklyn.  These have always been some of my favorite buildings in Brooklyn, and we are lucky that Frankenstorm Sandy didn't take them down.  There is something simple but profound about these brick structures with their cast iron shutters, industrial hardware, and heavy timber structure.  Pier 41 will always be memorable for me personally, not just because it's the home of Steve's Key Lime Pies, but because it was the site for one of my first architectural gigs as a licensed freelance architect

[Update: this building is no longer presented in the class....]

The Starrett Lehigh Building, 1930-31, Walter M. Cory Architects and Yasuo Matsui associate architect.  Originally a freight distribution warehouse building, now a commercial home to some of the most creative businesses in the city.

inally, we looked at the Starrett Lehigh building which has always been my favorite building in Manhattan.  Its sheer ship-like massiveness, curved corners, continuous bands of curtain wall windows, mushroom columns and vast open interior spaces have always just blown me away.  I am lucky enough to be currently working on a fit-out in one of the suites for my current employer, Spector Group Architects.

o that's it. The first "Great NYC Buildings Few Guidebooks Will Ever Mention" class is in the books.  I'm open for ideas for other buildings in the city that fit this description, feel free to post here or email/tweet/text/call me with your suggestions.