My recent post about architectural details in Manhattan opened with a shot of the statuary on the base of a building erected 80 years before the tower itself was added eight years ago. (You can see it way down the street at the lower right of the first photo below.)
Before the end of my original Journal blog (March 2009-Dec. 2013) I wrote a post about a window-washing accident at the 46-story tower, designed by Sir Norman Foster and plopped upon a beautiful six-story building, c. 1928, on Eighth Avenue, filling the block between W56th and W57th streets. The tower itself was completed in 2006, the first skyscraper to break ground in the city after 9/11, a gleaming glass polyhedronesque concoction that you could see online in many photos. (The engineers spent millions to design an apparatus to support window-washing, and it still didn’t work.) But in none of the shots could you really get any idea of how glorious a piece of work was the base, designed in 1927-28 by Joseph Urban and George B. Post.
The base was described in the AIA Guide to New York City, published before Foster went to work on it. The guide said: “Shades of the Austrian Secession Movement, this sculptured extravaganza was commissioned by the William Randolph Hearst publishing empire. It was a base for a skyscraper aborted due to the Depression. The foundations are still there, waiting …”
No longer, I’m afraid.
Last week in Manhattan I strolled by to see it. What follows are the photos I snapped of my sad, sad approach to the site of the Hearst building’s desecration, and of the ornament stomped upon by Foster: