Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten Plans For New York’s First All-Glass Towers
February 13, 2013
Perspective of Frank Lloyd Wright’s St. Mark-in-the-Bowery complex with St. Mark’s church at center; Image: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
When they were completed in 1952, both the UN Building and the Lever House would change the way New York’s skyline was made. Their all-glass construction was a first for the Big Apple, whose storied skyscrapers had been wrought in stone and steel. A third revolution in glass, Mies’s Seagram Building, would catalyze the rise of the transparent, reflective Midtown corporate office tower.
But these three canonical structures would have had a strange precedent in Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1930 (!) tower project for St. Mark’s. Had they been built, the St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers would have been the first entirely glass buildings in New York. Continue.
1930 model of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery tower; The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives/MoMA
As Curbed reports, Wright’s complex of three glass apartment buildings—two 14-story, one 18-story—would have formed a triangular formation around St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery in the East Village. The church rector, William Norman Guthrie, commissioned the project to Wright, who proposed to build the trio of towers without any structural steel, according to a contemporaneous account. Instead, they would have concrete cores from which floor plates would radiate “like branches.” Heavy plate glass would be used to fill in the the gaps between floors, while copper would cover the cantilevered parapets.
The ambitious scheme, however, was abandoned with both the arrival of the Depression and the waning of the congregation’s support. Needless to say, their realization would have significantly influenced the development of the East Village. Wright would revisit the project a quarter-century later with his Price Tower at Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Rendering of the 18-story apartment tower from Frank Lloyd Wright’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery Towers project; Image via