Chase Manhattan Plaza gets landmark love
One Chase Manhattan Plaza, the modernist complex that helped revive lower Manhattan's financial fortunes, will be considered for landmarks protection, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday.
The complex was designed by one of the most significant architects of the International Style, Gordon Bunshaft, the mind behind the already protected Lever House and the Pepsi Cola buildings on Park Avenue, and the Manufacturer's Trust bank on Fifth Avenue.
The commission seeks to protect the entire Chase complex, which includes an elevated plaza and a sunken rock garden, left, by Isamu Noguchi. A noted sculpture, Group of Four Trees, top, by French artist Jean Dubuffet, also sits on the plaza.
The complex' merits go beyond architecture and design. Under the guidance of Chase's leader, David Rockefeller, the completion of the complex in 1961 helped pave the way for other significant downtown projects, such as the World Trade Center. Interestingly, a stroll through the plaza and lobbies of Chase Manhattan evokes a somewhat similar feel to the lost trade center.
According to the commission:
The complex drew widespread attention from the media when construction ended, including former New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, who wrote, “These are ambitious structures of character and quality, surrounded by the most expensive urban luxury money can buy. In a remarkable duality of purpose, reconcilable only in the commercial age, they aspire to be trademark and work of art.”
As with any discussion of "tower in the park" complexes, even ones that are beautifully executed, observations are rightfully made about the low-rise street life that may have been lost to build these giants of commerce. When the subject is lower Manhattan, these discussions often replay the loss of the Radio Row neighborhood that was cleared for the Twin Towers. A comment in a New York Times report on the Chase story Tuesday captures this view: "This unfortunate though capable modernist design led the way to the ruin of the lower Manhattan skyline and the gross congestion that came with it."
As for JP Morgan Chase, the firms supports designation, and renamed the plaza after David Rockefeller on Tuesday. David Dunlap at The New York Times has more.
Now that Chase has been calendared, the complex needs to pass a few more steps before it actually becomes a landmark. The commission will schedule a public hearing, and then hold the formal vote. After a City Planning Commission review, the City Council then gives the final nod in a vote.
More later today on other landmarking matters, including Webster Hall.
-- Rolando Pujol