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Roving Rube

Terra Cotta

July 5, 2003

Bayard-Condict Building, 65 Bleeker Street












1897-99, Louis Sullivan; New York City Landmark.
Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Company. Buff-colored terra-cotta cladding and ornamentation. Industrial converted to offices.
(Source: "Terra-Cotta Skyline", by Susan Tunick).

The greatest display of the unique qualities of terra cotta can be found on the buildings of Louis Sullivan. Frank Lloyd Wright commented that in Sullivan's work, "background, the curse of all stupid ornamentation, ceased to exist. None might see where terra cotta left off and ornamentation came to life." ("Terra Cotta Skyline, p. 29)

What Wright meant is a little obscure to us, but it sounds like what the Rube wants to say about this picture -- the decoration seems to emerge out of the facade like leaves out of water. Also, that it is sculpted with the freedom of clay, and not as one would sculpt stone. "Terra-Cotta Skyline" notes that after the pieces were removed from the molds, extensive "undercutting" was done by hand (the Rube thinks this means the undersides of the leaves, etc. were further scooped out) "to create a wonderful play of light and shadow across the building's surface."

2-jpg shows the complexity of the facade -- we count six closeups in it alone that we would have liked to show you! Oh well, another time.

This is Louis Sullivan's only NYC building.

See also: View from south.































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