Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manhattan Classic, New York's Finest Prewar Apartments

I was very excited to recently receive a copy of Princeton Architectural Press's new book "Manhattan Classic" by Geoffrey Lynch, pictured below, (from the firm H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture) which features the best 'Prewar' apartment buildings in NYC.
This well organized book starts with a map of NYC which shows the location of the buildings covered. Each chapter then features an exemplary floorplan of the prime unit in each building as well as photos of additional apartments.  In many ways it reminds me a lot of Washingon, DC's version of this (our real estate bible!) Best Addresses by James Goode (another book I can't recommend more highly!)
For architectural floorplan lovers like me you won't be able to put this book down - pure floorplan porn with over 84 apartments featured!
Some of the images you may recognize such as this apartment from 998 Fifth Avenue but it's interesting to see them placed within their buildings and area of the city -putting a name to the face so to speak. I love this dining room above and the staircase located within the same duplex apartment, seen below, is even more stunning!
Some people may sneer at apartment living as 'small' but this book proves that the dwellers of these apartments aren't missing out on anything from a single family home!  Pick up your own copy of the book today and settle down with a glass of wine to study the floorplans; I promise you won't regret it!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can you rebuild the past? The Berlin Schloss

A debate has raged in Berlin for the past 2 decades over whether to rebuild the historic Berlin Schloss or City Palace on historic Museum Island. Badly damaged during WWII, the communists tore down the palace in 1950 to make way for their Palace of the Republic, a hideous steel, glass, & asbestos multi-use structure which was recently, in-turn, torn down.
The Schloss had served as a public art museum since 1918 but was started in 1443 as a royal palace. Constantly renovated over hundreds of years, the exterior stayed fixed to the baroque period while the interiors reflected the styles of the day. The dome was rebuilt in the mid 19th century by none other than the architect Karl Shinkel in collaboration with Stuler.
Many people have debated rebuilding the historic structure because they claim it has overtones of the previous monarchy, but what monument in Europe isn't tainted by history? In these photos you see photographs of a model of what is currently under construction taken by my Australian Penpal at the neighboring Bode Museum in Berlin.
What these people seem to want is a building of our own age -much as the communists wanted in their construction of the Palace of the Republic. Would they want someone like Frank Gehry (heaven forbid) to build something that doesn't match the historic area in the center of the city and would be reviled in 10 years time (as well as now)?
The compromise has come about that the exterior will be built to closely match the former palace with modern interiors which will house a modern, non-western art museum. The costly exterior recreation will be done mainly through private donations which have nearly been fulfilled and plans to be finished in 2019.
The undertaking is gargantuan as can be expected for such a massive building site. The exterior carved stonework has been meticulously copied from historic photos and paintings. Each piece must be modeled full-size in clay (which takes about a month) and approved by a panel before being carved in sandstone by masons (each small piece can take up to 2 months by one artisan).
 Here you can see 1 of 43 required eagles which will adorn the facade.
The workmanship is amazing; encouraging to know it exists in this day and age! The sandstone cartouche above took a mason 2 months to complete. Talk about job security!
Above you can see construction from last month. What do you think -would you have decided to rebuild the historic palace to fit within this historic district or hired a modern day architect to build something new?
See more images of the building's past and future HERE.
This article in the WSJ details the controversy in more detail.