By Carter B. Horsley
This 14-story apartment
building was erected in 1930, the same year as the adjoining 38-story
former Barbizon Plaza Hotel that is now a condominium building
known as Trump Parc (see The City Review
Donald Trump converted the
taller building in 1988 but encountered stiff tenant resistance
to his conversion at this building and its conversion to a condominium
was not completed until 1997.
The two buildings are similar
in architectural style although this one does not have the fabulous
and very flamboyant top of its taller neighbor, which wraps around
this one and extends to 58th Street and the northeast corner at
the avenue. Trump unified the retail frontages of both buildings along
the Avenue of the Americas and their window treatments are similar.
The visual effect is that they read as one building, but they
have separate entrances along Central Park South. Whereas the
entrance of Trump Parc is spacious and landscaped and polished,
the entrance of this building is more modest in size although
it is quite elegant.
This building has 81 units,
a step-up lobby, a concierge and a handsome lobby. It has arched
windows on the third and top floors and no sidewalk landscaping
and no garage.
In describing the emergence
of a luxury hotel district around the southeast corner of Central
Park in their excellent book, "New York 1930, Architecture
and Urbanism Between The World Wars" (Rizzoli, 1987), Robert
A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins wrote that while
"the Central Park South hotels were less resolved architecturally
and more troubled economically," "the best of the group
was the Barbizon Plaza designed in a Modern Classical vocabulary
by Lawrence Emmons, architect and decorator working with Lloyd
Morgan and Murgatroyd & Ogden, as general architects."
"The building rose
from a bulky street-defining mass to a comparatively slender tower
crowned by a hipped roof covered with small glass tiles set on
their edges in narrow ribs of reinforced concrete. By day the
tiles shimmered in the sunlight;' at night, the Barbizon Plaza's
all-glass pinnacle transformed the tower into a prism of light.
According to the Architect tests proved that a `mellow
phosphorescent glow duplicating the texture of moonlight' could
be achieved by the lighting system, which consisted of a `series
of flood lights placed inside the glass walls of the tower playing
their rays inward to an arrangement of seried windows,'"
Their book includes two
photographs of the Barbizon Plaza with the described roof and
they indicate that it curved in from its side pillars and culminated
in a flat, albeit colorful and light-emanating roof.
That roof no longer exists.
At some point, the roof was redesigned, probably during World
War II when the city discouraged night illumination of buildings.
The present design, which most likely never would have been approved
by city's landmarks agency if it had jurisdiction and had designated
the building as a landmark, is one of the most spectacular in
the city, indeed its only rivals in audacity are the Chrysler
Building and the former RCA/GE tower at 570 Lexington Avenue.
The side top pillars of the building have been extended upwards
to create an uneven, but very impressive, row of teeth around
the top and the entire top has been gilded.
In an age of satellite dishes,
rooftop protuberances are not rare, but this roof is not some
haphazard, Deconstructivist relic, but an extremely powerful form.
The exposed top pillars propel the building skyward. The new design
is much better than the original, sort-of-shallow-domed roof,
although it might be nice if it could once again be light-show
The top of the tower, furthermore,
bulges. Its pillars extend outwards much like those on the Helmsley
Building straddling Park Avenue at 46th Street and reminiscent
of the bulging top of the Singer Building on Lower Broadway, which
was one of the city's most important skyscraper landmarks that
was lamentably demolished.
This building's identity
is hard to separate from that of the taller tower and together
they are an impressive ensemble that add considerable dignity
to Central Park South.
There is heavy traffic at
this corner as it is the northbound entrance from midtown to the
Central Park Drive. It is convenient to public transportation,
shopping and restaurants and directly across from Central Park
and therefore has spectacular views.