March 5, 2012
With the return of Mad Men looming near (and maybe some explanations for those subway ads), we turn our attention to a mid-century modern masterpiece, once home to a steady flow of taupe fedoras and trench coats: the 1954 Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building by Skidmore Owings and Merrill. The former bank has been the subject of a prickly architectural preservation battle. While SOM is currently overseeing the renovation of the building, in October 2011, JP Morgan, a former owner of the building, had two sculptures removed from the site, including a multi-paneled bronze screen by artist Harry Bertoia, which had served as the textural contrast to Gordon Bunshaft’s clean glass box. Architecture critics responded with outrage, with Wall Street Journal critic Ada Louise Huxtable lamenting the “profound misunderstanding of the sculptures’ function as an essential architectural element.”
We learned that the sculptures have recently been restored after an agreement was reached between the Landmarks Preservation Committee and Chase in late February. But the question of what deserves to be landmarked, or in other words, what constitutes the architecture of this famously modular building, continues to stir controversy. More after the jump.