Photos: Roving Rube
03 March 29

Office buildings, Park Avenue
Office buildings, Park Avenue

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Theme: "Window Walls"

By this we mean office buildings such as these, along the west side of Park Avenue in the 50's, where there are more windows then walls.

Note the similar massing of the three closest buildings, probably to conform most efficiently to NYC zoning rules about setbacks, a situation which led one architect to complain that he was forced to design his buildings, not by any aesthetic, but the slide rule.

The leftmost building has "ribbon windows" -- they seem to be wrapped horizontally around the building like tape. Compare this with the more traditional building shown in Fig. 3 -- this has broad vertical piers between the windows, behind which one senses are the girders that hold everything up. With ribbon windows, it's hard to tell where the supports are.

The central building was re-clad a few years ago to give it more of a "Darth Vader" look; before that it looked quite similar to its right-hand neighbor.

The building on the right is our favorite -- perhaps after we have done the full Window Walls theme, we will better be able to say why -- or maybe it will fall from favor -- but right now we like the pattern of gray panels, windows, and grid of overlaid metal strips.

.In Fig. 1, the sun illuminates the white-clad girders that are behind its curtain windows.

Fig. 2 shows that its windows can be opened. On a recent visit to an exhibit on "green" skyscrapers at the National Building Museum in Washington, we learned that during the 70's, the philosophy was to seal up the skyscrapers in order to save on heating costs. But by the 90's, with a computer on every desk, the additional air conditioning needed because of no window ventilation has proved even more wasteful.


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