Friday, July 27, 2007

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember the hotel well, think it was destroyed in 1979 after Trump bought it, I would have been 19. One night around 2 AM I climbed up the scaffold that was put up around the exterior- avoiding the inside as I knew there would be a security dude around watching the tools and stuff.
I was after one of the copper masks on the rooftop cornice and some of the cornice has been removed.

I had quite the view of GCS below as I climbed to the top where they had planking and netting blocking my progress, so around the 23rd floor or so I went inside and up the stairs to the roof.
Unfortunately the pieces were massive, dont remember if I had sheet metal cutters or not, but the construction/demo guy's hanging lights were on and every step seemed like it made enough noise to be heard down stairs :)

I didn't get the piece that day, but now almost 30 years later I bought one of the few that were saved and not scrapped, odd how things turn out :)