Completed in 1941,
the International Style structure fronting on Park Avenue was
designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the architects of the Empire
State Building, with Harrison & Fouilhoux, associated architects.
The building is part of larger complex that includes the full
block between Park and Lexington Avenue as well as a building
on the southeast corner of Lexington Avenue and 68th Streets.
Hunter College began as the Norman College for Women in 1868 and
was renamed in 1914 for Thomas Hunter who had been president of
the college for teachers for many years. The original Gothic Revival
structures on this site were destroyed in a fire in 1936, but
the handsome old building at 930 Lexington Avenue has survived.
It was built in 1913 and designed by C. B. J. Snyder and served
for a while as the Hunter College High School that was part of
the city's public school system and enrolled girls from all over
the city based on competitive examinations before it moved to
the former I. S. 29 school building on Park Avenue between 94th
and 95th Streets, which is now co-ed. In their wonderful book,
"The A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition"
(Three Rivers Press, 2000), Elliot Willensky and Norval write
wrote of the old building that it was "The last gasp of John
Ruskin's ghost here housed quality education in an 'English Gothic'
In a major expansion completed
in 1986, Ulrich Franzen & Associates designed two new buildings
for the college across Lexington Avenue from one another and connected
by two skywalks. Surprisingly, the skywalks elicited little controversy
at the time although they were the first to cross a major avenue.
Although they afforded significantly improved circulation for
the college, they obstructed major vistas up and down the avenue.
The building on the southwest corner has a large plaza with a
subway entrance and another skywalk that connects to the college's
midblock building across 58th street.
The Franzen buildings are
industrial-looking and not attractive and completely out-of-context
with their surroundings, which is a great shame since the older
college buildings here are attractive. Skywalks are not bad per
se but are inexcusable here.
Surprisingly, authors Willensky
and White, normally very much on target in the vast majority of
their comments about New York's architecture, approved of the
Franzen buildings and their skywalks:
detailed Modern blocks, they are welcome additions to the cityscape.
The enclosed glossy overpasses on the 3rd and 8th floors over
Lexington Avenue, and the lower connection over 68th Street to
old Hunter High, are unique and provide syncopation to the city's
endless street vistas."
The Park Avenue building is a bit bland, but it is crisply elegant
with large, multipaned windows. It is set back only 10 feet from
the building line and was the first building on the avenue since
St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church to be set back although subsequently
a few others have been. It has high visibility on the avenue because
of the low-rise front of the apartment building across 68th Street
at 655 Park Avenue and the low-rise Union Club across 69th Street.
In his excellent book, "Touring The Upper East Side: Walks
in Five Historic Districts" (New York Landmarks Conservancy,
1995), Andrew S. Dolkart notes the following:
"Shreve, Lamb Harmon's unadorned structure, one of the earliest
Modern public buildings in New York, was controversial, prompting
an Architectural Forum critic to write in 1940 that 'the
more sentimental section of the public and profession decrythe
omission of the customary collegiate [i.e. Gothic] trimmings.'"