Bunshaft Goes Big-Box While Bertoia Goes Missing?

East
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
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Forever (Landmarked) 21? (Neoscape)

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:

Bertoia, bagged and tagged? (Jennifer K. Gorsche)

Formerly mounted near the west interior wall, the sculpture now lies on the floor and can be seen from 43rd Street.

The sculpture in place (Ezra Stoller/Esto)

Though Bertoia’s metal mobile sculpture still hangs in the Fifth Ave.-facing windows, some of the space’s luminous ceiling tiles have been removed, and its fate seems uncertain at best. Chatting up a lobby security guard yielded an interesting hypothesis—the sculptures would be moved to Chase’s new location on 44th Street.

Will the mobile be the next to go? (Jennifer K. Gorsche)

Chase hasn’t been able to give us an answer yet, but we’re banking on one soon.

7 Responses to “Bunshaft Goes Big-Box While Bertoia Goes Missing?”

  1. Theodore Grunewald says:

    This action irreparably damages the integrity of this designated NYC Landmark building. The removal of the site-specific Harry Bertoia sculptural screen is certainly cause for an international outcry; akin to the proposed removal of the Picasso from the Seagram’s Building Four Seasons Restaurant lobby several years ago. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/09/arts/design/09voge.html?fta=y

    The former Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Bank building is a designated NYC Landmark.
    Landmarks Designation Report:
    http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/1997ManufacturersTrustCoBldg.pdf

    Problematically, neither the Bertoia sculptural screen, nor the mobile is mentioned in the report; the designation was obviously limited to protect the exterior; however, given that the building was conceived and built as a transparent ‘showcase’; it is clear that preservation of the original interior is vital to the wholeness and integrity of the exterior architecture –particularly such key interior elements as the Bertoia screen, luminous ceiling, escalator, and the visible safe.
    http://www.revelinnewyork.com/takeaways/chase-building
    http://thetalbotblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/building-or-jewelry/

    Relocation of the Bertoia sculpture amounts to its destruction.
    Like ‘Tilted Arc’–the Richard Serra sculpture removed from Federal Plaza downtown, the Bertoia was created for no other place. It is completely integral to its setting within this recognized Gordon Bunshaft masterpiece.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilted_Arc

  2. Theodore Grunewald says:

    This action irreparably damages the integrity of this designated NYC Landmark. The removal of the site-specific Harry Bertoia sculptural screen is certainly cause for an international outcry; akin to the proposed removal of the Picasso from the Seagram’s Building Four Seasons Restaurant lobby several years ago.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/09/arts/design/09voge.html?fta=y

    The former Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Bank building is a designated NYC Landmark.
    Landmarks Designation Report:
    http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/1997ManufacturersTrustCoBldg.pdf

    Problematically, neither the Bertoia sculptural screen, nor the mobile is mentioned in the report; the designation was obviously limited to protect the exterior; however, given that the building was conceived and built as a transparent ‘showcase’; it is clear that preservation of the original interior is vital to the wholeness and integrity of the exterior architecture –-particularly such key interior elements as the Bertoia screen, luminous ceiling, escalator, and the visible safe.
    http://thetalbotblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/building-or-jewelry/
    http://www.revelinnewyork.com/takeaways/chase-building
    http://www.thecityreview.com/fifth510.html

    Relocation of the Bertoia sculpture likewise amounts to its destruction. Like ‘Tilted Arc’–the Richard Serra sculpture removed from Federal Plaza downtown, the Bertoia was created for no other place. It is completely integral to its setting within this recognized Gordon Bunshaft masterpiece.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilted_Arc

    What an awesome Apple store this building would have made! That monumental bronze Bertoia screen would have been the perfect backdrop to the genius bar. Better yet, imagine what a stunning bar/restaurant the likes of a Danny Meyer, Keith McNally, Graydon Carter, Andre Balazs, or Ian Schrager could make of this space –très chic! What a tragedy. Lincoln Center –a much lesser set of buildings –looked similarly worn; even dowdy; now, thanks to Diller Scofidio Renfro, it feels absolutely fresh again!

    Lever House’s careful, 60 M restoration turned out to be worth every penny.
    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2002/10/leverhouse200210?currentPage=all

    With the right tenant in place here at 510 Fifth Ave., this cultural monument could sing…

  3. [...] In The Architect’s Newspaper, Jennifer K. Gorsche reports on a Manhattan Gordon Bunshaft being adapted for big-box retail and a Harry Bertoia sculpture that seems to be a casualty of the switch. [...]

  4. [...] yet another blow to our modernist legacy, it seems as if the old Manufacturers Hanover Bank building on Fifth Avenue in New York (Gordon Bunshaft, [...]

  5. Claude Stoller says:

    Briliiant as it is Bunshaft’s work is definitely of its time. Bertoia’s masterpiece is timeless. It is not to be taken as a piece of architectural adornment and is deserving of a permanent setting appropriate to such a major work of art..

  6. [...] may be quietly dismantling its modernist icons, but hope springs eternal…in a Dutch sanatorium. The technically and programatically [...]

  7. [...] essay got a  shout out from Ada Louise Huxtable in her WSJ piece lamenting the removal of the Bertoia screen from the interior of the landmarked Manufacturers Hanover Trust building at Fifth Ave. and 43rd [...]

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