09 August 2005

Columbus Circle update

The evolution of Columbus Circle has been an interest of mine for ten years now. I started documenting it around the time the plans for the New York Coliseum site were being discussed. I went to meetings, took lots of pictures (not digital, unfortunately; I need a scanner), studied all the proposals, and watched as the decision was made to build what you currently see in the background here, the Time Warner Center.

Visually, the most interesting thing about the TWC is the transparent auditorium that houses Jazz at Lincoln Center, but since I'm not a fan of the kind of jazz that Winton Marsalis programs there -- or any jazz, for that matter, but JLC seems particularly Lite-FM to me -- I'll probably never see it from the inside.

So far, the best development is the inside of the circle itself. They've kept the column with Columbus atop it, and opened its base up for people to sit on it. A fountain rings the outermost part of the circle in four parts. This girl had the right idea on Sunday.

The second best thing about the new Columbus Circle is that, for car traffic, it is actually a circle again. We don't have too many of those in the city, but so far, drivers seem to be coping.


There is one building that has not been touched by the renovations, which you can see here, behind the Falun Gong demonstrators. It's always referred to by its address, 2 Columbus Circle, and it is currently empty. It was originally built to house a private art collection, and if preservationists have their way, it will be turned into a museum. I was in it once -- for one of the Columbus Circle meetings in the mid-90s. The only windows it has are in its boardroom, about 20 stories up. If for no other reason, the building should be kept as is so the public can have access to that spectacular boardroom view of Central Park. Why should the people who can afford to live in Trump's ugly palace on the north side of the Circle be the only ones who get to see it?

2 Comments:

Blogger Pedestrian Rage said...

This Edward Durrell Stone building is so interesting to me. There was an op-ed recently in the NYTimes by a former member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has refused to schedule hearings about the building -- meaning, they're not planning to save it. I guess the reasoning behind the Commission's decision that she put forth was logical, but there is a significant outcry, and not just from sentimental citizens but also from bona fide and respected preservationists and historians.

The Commission, while praising Stone, doesn't think this particular building is architecturally significant, not having been a direct influence for later buildings. (I think there were 2 other criteria, but I can't remember what they were offhand.) What I don't understand is how the building doesn't have merit on its own. It's a curiosity, it's unusual, it's probably a financial burden on its owners, but it's so 60s, so mod, so part of my NYC experience.

I hope someone finds a way to save the site from becoming another circa 2005 glass tower.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Josh said...

If London's ugly BT Tower
(http://www.urban75.org/london/telecom.html) is protected by landmark status, why not this building too?

Maybe it doesn't deserve protection on its own 1960s merits. But its modest, latticed facade could find new life as a nouveau-Islamic "mashrabiya" structure for hiding women. Ford Models could relocate there, only a few hundred feet away from the brown-rice sushi at Whole Foods.

9:41 PM  

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