Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beaux Arts

What do Marshall Fields in Chicago, the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, Grand Central Station and the Public Library in New York, and the Dorilton on 71st and Broadway (pictured) all have in common?

They are all products of the School of Architecture known as Beaux Arts, shaped by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and characterized by heavy French Empire ornamentation combined with a highly symetrical, classical style that has an imposing and momumental effect.

The reason I bring all this up is that the Dorilton, the apartment building pictured, is such an integral part of the neighborhood we live in. As you proceed along Amsterdam or Broadway from 69th to 71st to get to the subway or just to go uptown, even if you are not conscious of it, the visual splendor of the Dorilton alters your perspective, and changes the feelings you have about the whole area. Despite all the construction around it, The Dorilton, built in 1902, remains one of the anchoring architectural objects of this part of the city. Its boldness and audacity overshadows other buildings around it and seems to make them disappear. Notice, by the way, the high, arched opening to the building on the right that creates this overpowering multi-storied courtyard that extends something like nine floors. The ornate, eye-catching entrance gate to this courtyard, which is right on 71st Street and that I often pass on my run, is accessible to pedestrians and one of the glories of this structure.

Along with another great apartment building, the Ansonia, also still thriving between 73rd and 74th Streets and finished in 1904 (imagine what a dynamic area this must have been between, say, 1900 and 1910), the Dorilton is at the center of this one section of the Upper West Side that would be utterly altered for the worse, if it were ever torn down.

1 comment:

  1. We're all lucky that the Dorilton and Ansonia survivied the 'urban renewal' of the 1960's. That was a decade when being over 30 (person, building, institution) was a ticket to likely destruction. I've read that the Ansonia was saved by prominent artists who were residents. What spared the Dorilton?