Looking at Buildings
Yesterday evening was a lovely time to walk through Manhattan. The air was fresh and the breeze cool and the ratio of beautiful to grizzled New Yorkers was favorable. On an evening like that you notice splendor on almost every block.
One of my favorite street views on such evenings is 42nd St. looking east. There you see the iconic Chrysler tower in all its exuberant Jazz Age spikiness.
Below it is Grand Central, another icon but of the turn of the century Beaux Arts style . . . a confident time when people built city structures to last a millennium.
What is our contribution to this heritage? An almost perfect example stands directly between the two icons. It’s the demoralizingly dull “Grand” Hyatt.
There is nothing Grand about it. Everything about it expresses mediocrity, carelessness, monotony, and expedience. It is not meant to last any more than the scaffolding around a real building is meant to last. Unlike the other two buildings, you could damage this one with a well thrown rock. Its transitory-ness dishonors everyone associated with it including its malevolently named “architect,” Der Scutt.
And what’s the worst part of it? It was once a prominant and fairly beautiful building and its skeleton is still there under the filthy glass panels. This isn’t the Hyatt or the Renaissance or the Hyatt Grand Renaissance . . . This is the Commodore Hotel. The same hotel where Richard Nixon and Whittaker Chambers confronted Alger Hiss . . . the same hotel from which Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were ejected.
It was designed by Warren and Wetmore who designed it as a complement to their masterpiece, the Grand Central Terminal itself.
Today it is a banal plate-glass placeholder for whatever significant building eventually replaces it. I can hardly wait.
Apologies for the negativity. I’m trying to live up to the high standards of 2 Blowhards and write something positive. How’s this: At least the Hyatt has the good sense to try to disappear between it's two more noble neighbors.