“Sometimes the best way to restore a historic structure is to reuse it.” The comment came from Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney at the conclusion of Tuesday’s landmarks hearing on revisions proposed by Vornado Realty for interiors of the recently landmarked Manufacturers Trust Building on Fifth Avenue. The statement summed up the mood of the commission with regard to changes in the space, originally designed by Gordon Bunschaft, which include dividing the first floor to make space for two retail tenants. Most of the commission picked apart the specifics while maintaining that the architects from SOM overseeing the renovation were generally on the right track.
The rumors about Gordon Bunshaft’s landmarked Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Bank building being transformed into a big-box retail store have been flying around for a while now. In March, Vornado Realty Trust reportedly entered talks to buy the five-story building at 510 Fifth Avenue. Now, we’ve turned up a rendering by 3-D illustration firm Neoscape showing the building as the type of landmark only your high school daughter could love: a Forever 21.
But wait, it gets worse. Until this month the building has been occupied by Chase Bank, and while the changes made to the building for security reasons were lamentable, at least we could rest easy knowing that its site-specific Harry Bertoia sculpture—a 70-foot screen composed of 800 bronze plates—was safe. But not anymore. An AN tipster clued us in today: “Half of it is laying on the otherwise vacant 2nd floor. So far, all I’ve got from Chase is an assurance ‘it’s not going in the dumpster.'”
We confirmed the awful truth: