Lescaze, William

Parson’s The New School for Design

Added by intern_test, last update: October 14, 2011, 8:37 pm

Parson’s The New School for Design
Location
560 Seventh Ave
New York, NY 10018-1507
United States
40° 45' 17.2548" N, 73° 59' 16.3968" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Education (EDC)
Secondary classification: Recreation (REC)Religion (REL)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

None

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The Brotherhood in Action was a community improvement group that sought peace and involvement between different religions and social agencies. The group was headed by Justice George J. Beldock, Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division, Second Department who served as the honorary president and Charles H. Tuttle, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Little is known about the group today, only that they were dedicated to idea that peaceful exchange of ideas would drastically improve the lives of all Americans.

The Brotherhood bought the land at 560 Seventh Ave. in 1946 and proceeded to spend the next fifteen years privately raising enough money for a synagogue and cultural center to be built on site. Many people in New York City got involved with the project by donating their time. William Kaufman volunteered to head the real estate deal and be the construction supervisor. Kaufman was a well know building contractor and real estate agent who started his own company, The William Kaufman Organization, Ltd. in 1924, which still exists today as one of the major family owned real estate agencies in the nation.

Kaufman sought out William Lescaze as the architect for the building and in 1959 Lescaze presented the first design. Originally the building was supposed to be three stories. The first floor would have held a synagogue large enough to seat three hundred; the second floor was designed as a meeting room for four hundred people; and the other floors would have included seminar rooms, administrative offices and a library. In 1960, a building permit was filed in New York reflecting this three story design and lists the cost of the project at $750,000.
It is not known when the plans changed, but the final design was a six story building which included all the above facilities. This may be due to the fact that the Brotherhood in Action collected over $3,000,000 for construction and maintenance of their building and decided to expand the project to a six story building. As well as the four hundred seat auditorium, a three hundred seat synagogue, library, meeting rooms and offices, the building now included a radio-television studio. Construction began on September 12, 1962 and was finished by July 1963. The entrance to the Garment Center Synagogue was placed on the first floor in the north west corner of the building at 205 West 40th St.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commissioned: 1959 (c) / Start of Site Work: September 12, 1962 (e) / Completion: July 1963 (c)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect: William Lescaze; Structural Engineer: Charles Mayer; Mechanical Engineers: Jaros, Baun & Bolles, Inc.; Construction Supervisor: William Kaufman, The William Kaufman Organization, Ltd.
Others associated with Building/Site: Original Owner: Brotherhood in Action; Second Owner: Garment Center Congregation; Third Owner: Albert A. List; Fourth Owner: The New School for Social Research
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: The synagogue occupying the first floor continues to be the Garment Center Synagogue for which the spaced was designed. The rest of the building, the first floor lobby and the top five floors, have gone from holding the offices, meeting rooms, and auditoriums of the Brotherhood House to being part of Parson’s The New School for Design. The New School purchased the building in 1978 and converted to space to accommodate work studios, classrooms, administrative offices, a media room, and a fashion computing lab. The building is now known as David Schwartz Fashion Education Center and is the home of all fashion studio coursework.
Current Condition: After almost five decades, the building is in surprisingly good condition. While the interior structural fabric cannot be seen and inspected at this time, the exterior steel beams show no sign of rust or cracks. The paint coating on the beams is fading due to weather and need to be repainted. The limestone and granite finish also do not show any cracks, only minimal weathering due to rain. Future weathering can be solved by washing the façade. With continued maintenance and repair the building should be able to remain in excellent condition for the next half decade.
General Description:

The building is located in the relatively flat area of the Garment District in Manhattan. The small podium that the building rests on shows the slight slope to the south-east, as the entrance to the synagogue and the entrance to the school are on different elevations. The building is six stories, with a basement, in a rectangular shape approximately 74 feet by 106 feet. The entrance to the school has an unfinished granite covered porch three steps above street level that is used to access the main lobby. Bushes also surround the porch to provide privacy for those sitting on the benches outside the building. Laterally the building is broken up into sections, each approximately twenty-five feet wide, therefore including three sections on the front and five on the side. The steel frame of the building can be seen on the outside in between the first and second floor, above the sixth floor, along each corner, and between each of the buildings’ sections. All of the sections from the second floor and up are covered with different sized cut limestone sections except the section above the school entrance. This section has six floor-to-ceiling windows on floors two, three, four and five with limestone sections covering the floor space in between. The sixth floor does not have any windows, only the same limestone sections that are found in between the floors, eighteen sections in all. On the first floor, all of the sections are covered with polished black granite except those that hold the entrances to the synagogue and the school. The school entrance has two glass double doors with bronze handles on either side of a center revolving door. The whole façade of this section of the building is glass. The entrance to the synagogue is located at street level but is recessed back about three feet into the building. There are two sets of two glass double doors on either side of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, between which a small atrium separates the space. A flat rectangular awning, which is tied back to the wall on both sides, covers the doorway even though it is already recessed.

Construction Period:

September 1962 – July 1963

Original Physical Context:

Parson’s The New School for Design is located on the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 40th Street just south of Times Square. Technically the property lies in the neighborhoods of Times Square and Mid-town West, but it is most closely related to the Fashion District, also known as the Garment District. The Fashion District runs from north to south between 42th St. and 34nd St. and from east to west between Fifth and Ninth Avenues. Beginning in the late 1800s, when the sewing machine became of use, the Garment District took off as the country’s leading clothing maker and by 1900 became the area of New York’s largest industry. As a result most buildings in the area were built either as fashion showrooms, factories, studios, or shops. Along with the diversity of the clothing being produced, the styles of these buildings also varied. Some buildings in the area are Italian Renaissance, other neo-Grec or Art Deco. Now a wide variety of businesses, law offices, even architecture firms house the eclectic buildings of the Fashion District in Mid-town West.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:
Social:

In the late 50s and early 60s Lescaze was moving towards a more minimalist aesthetic. He put an increasing emphasis on the skeletal structure, volumetric simplicity and symmetry. Lescaze drew from his own PSFS Building, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier for the Brotherhood House. The building was designed to show its straightforwardness in functional design and usable materials. This simplicity reflects the desired purpose of the building, to bring people of different religions and creed together in a place where they can “meet, exchange ideas and develop programs of social action without interference” (New York Times, 1962). As a cultural center, the Brotherhood House aimed to bring an end to the “social and racial tensions” that were hugely present in the mid-twentieth century. This idea of simplicity and calm bridges both Lescazes’ design and the Brotherhood intended purpose.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Many aspects of this building show that it is clearly part of the Modernist Movement. Lescaze’s use of shapes, most specifically rectangles, and skeletal structural framing are clearly a draw from modernism, as well as his use of curtain walls, a structural element regularly used in modernist buildings. The façade is unornamented; limestone, glass, granite and the steel frame are the only materials seen on the outside. Another clear element is the play on volumetric simplicity; the building seems light even though there are few windows on the façade.
Historical:

The Brotherhood House did not exhibit any new architectural elements; it was a simple modernist design that was never really recognized as an extraordinary modernist building. In reality it was seen as a derivative from Lescaze’s early work in the International style, specifically his PSFS Building in Philadelphia.

General Assessment:
While the building may not have been seen as extraordinary, it was certainly seen as exemplary in the architecture trends of the time. All elements derive from Modernism and therefore should be preserved on the basis of its’ representation of design, engineering, and social feelings of the time. Most of Lescaze’s work was done on small office buildings and townhouses, most importantly the Lascaze House on West 48th St., and the variety of his work should not be lost.
Documentation
Text references:

Hubert, Christian and Lindsay Stamm. William Lescaze. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. 1982.

Lanmon, Lorraine Welling. William Lescaze, Architect. New Jersey: Associated University Presses, Inc. 1987

“Synagogue Started in Garment Area.” The New York Times. 12 April 1962. Pg. 58.

“New Center Here Will Provide Free Space for Social Agencies.” The New York Times. 12 Sep. 1962. Pg. 31.

Handler, M.S. “Brotherhood House for Social Agencies is Dedicated in City.” The New York Times. 13 sep. 1962. Pg. 38

“560 Seventh Ave.” Property Shark. Web. 15 Nov 2010. http://www.propertyshark.com/mason/.

“560 Seventh Ave.” NYC Government: Department of Buildings. Web. 15 Nov 2010. http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/PropertyProfileOverviewServlet?boro=1&....

Authoring
Recorder/Date:
Additional Images
Parson’s The New School for Design
Garment Center Synagogue, Source: Kimberly Daileader, date: November 22, 2010
Parson’s The New School for Design
Enscription on front of building., Source: Kimberly Daileader, date: November 22, 2010
Parson’s The New School for Design

William Lescaze House and Office

Added by intern_test, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:41 pm

William Lescaze House and Office
Front facade of 211 East 48th Street, source: http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2008/11/william-lescaze-house.html, date: 2008
Location
211 East 48th Street
New York, NY 10017
United States
40° 45' 16.0776" N, 73° 58' 15.0312" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification: Commercial (COM)
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

Landmarks Preservation Commission: January 27, 1976
National Register of Historic Places: May 19, 1980

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

William Lescaze was a European architect who would change the way Americans saw architecture starting in the 1930s and on. Born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1896 he would study under Karl Moser at the Polytechnic School in Zurich. After graduating in 1919, Lescaze went to France, specifically Arras then Paris, where he would work under Henri Sauvage. He would eventually move to the United States as a recommendation by Moser in 1920 and begin his American career at Hubbel and Benes in Cleveland, Ohio. Shortly after his move to America, Lescaze opened up his New York office in 1923 and would begin a brief partnership with George Howe in 1929. Their most noted commissions were the Oak Lane Country Day School and the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS) both in Philadelphia.
The project in Philadelphia (PSFS) would be the second skyscraper to have central-air conditioning. It was also a newer style and aesthetic Americans were not accustomed to, termed "International Style." His designs were highly influenced by Le Corbusier who used angular lines, geometric precisions and smooth planar surfaces. Through projects and inspiration, Lescaze would design the first "modern" home in New York City which would double as his living space and office.
Before Lescaze built his home and office, the site was inhabited by a row of pre-Civil war brownstones. In 1933, Lescaze started building his home in the narrow lot between the row houses with the newest technologies, materials and methods of construction. He moved into the house with his wife in summer 1934 and kept the house in the same condition and appearance while living there. Even when the house was designated in 1976, the house had remained the same for over forty years.
Today, Lescaze's home and office remains untouched aesthetically with the world changing around it. The city and street scape have changed since the building was first erected in 1934 with more and more skyscrapers built around it as well as the evolution of architectural styles. The home and office would be the first of its kind inspiring architecture around it. (LPC January 27, 1976)

Dates: Commission / Completion:In August 1933, Lescaze submitted an application to the Building Department of New York City to alter the 1865 brownstone in dimensions and facade. After several months of back and forth communication between the Building Department and Lescaze, the house was approved in February of 1934 and completed in June of 1934. (LPC January 27, 1976)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect: William Lescaze; Interior Designer: William Lescaze; Glass block Manufacturers: Macbeth-Evans Company; Thermostat Control producer: Johnson Company of Milwaukee (LPC January 27, 1976)
Others associated with Building/Site: Original Owner: William Lescaze; Second Owner: Mary H. Lescaze; Third Owner: Lee Lescaze; Fourth Owner: Samuel Roth; Fifth Owner: Melvyn Kaufman; Current Owner: 211 East 48th Street (Acris 2010)
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Type of change: Remove interior partitions, ceilings and doors in order to install new elevator. Replaced rear window and rear glass blocks on setback. Removed plumbing fixtures. Date: Approved November 9, 2000 Persons/Organizations involved: Roy Gee and Associates were the architects in charge of the project. Type of change: Replaced glass blocks with new on the facade. Date: Approved by New York Department of Buildings on July 7, 2001 Persons/Organizations involved: Roy Gee and Associates were the architects in charge of the project. Type of change: Convert existing residential building to community facility. Modifications to partitions in staircase and office space. Isntall new ramp and A.D.A. toilet along with related piping. Date: Approved by New York Department of Buildings on May 29, 2003 Persons/Organizations involved: Roy Gee and Associates were the architects in charge of the project. Type of change: Install new sprinkler riser and sprinker heads to connect to existing domestic water service. Date: Approved by New York Department of Buildings on November 17, 2003 Persons/Organizations involved: Marvin Mass of Cosentini Associates was the architect in charge of the project. Type of change: Minor demolition to the interior partitions and doors and replaced with minor partitions adding a new diffuser with fire damper. Also replaced plumbing fixtures. Date: New York Department of Buildings approved the work on June 19, 2003 Persons/Organizations involved: Jeffrey A Pencek of Highland Associates (NYC Department of Buildings) There have been several alterations on the inside and outside of the building. The amount of historic glass blocks removed is not known, however the removal is still removing an extremely valuable material of the building. The glass blocks and windows were replicated and replaced allowing the significant material to remain part of the historic fabric. Glazing around windows and glass can easily be damaged over time and the restoration was done roughly 65 years after the building was constructed. The interior alteration has changed the original intention of the building. Unfortunately, the interior was not landmarked therefore allowing modifications and alterations to occur on the inside that differ from the original intention.
Current Use: The Lescaze Home is presently the site for an advertising firm Spot Runner Inc. that targets technological advertising. The company claims to be the first internet based ad-agency thus keeping trend with the sites sharing innovative ideas. Lescaze built the home to house his family in addition to his business. The site is not threatened by allowing the business to reside here because it was built with the intention to house people and a business. (Spotrunner.com 2010)
Current Condition: The recent restoration of the exterior done in 2001 has greatly contributed to the good functional condition of the Lescaze home. The building still has a dominating presence on the street with the luminescent glass blocks and the slight curvature of the facade. The interior of the home has changed immensely from a townhouse and office to no longer having residence at all. There is now an elevator connecting all levels and the feeling of light and air has been altered.
General Description:

The home and office is referred to as the “International Style”, however, Lescaze did not approve of this description for his creation. He felt that the words used to describe his architecture endeavor was speaking of it as if it were from “a bag of tricks”. His choice to utilize the most modern technology, materials and methods of construction were the first in New York, inspiring other architects to approach design with a more modernist approach. His contribution to New York City has now been referred to as a “classic” New York City residential building.

The home today sits between two row houses, one with a modern style, and the other with emulates the Neo-Grec style. Surrounding Lescaze's home are skyscrapers piercing the sky at every turn. Behind the home remains an escape from the city with green space to those fortunate enough to be positioned behind it.

The four story building was designed simplistically thus resulting in advanced exploration of proportional relationships with smooth surfaces and deliberate prevention of ornamentation. Lescaze created an open and airy space, confined into a narrow lot, using glass blocks or bricks that not only allowed light but also privacy and structural support. By utilizing the glass bricks, he was able to provide an optimal amount of light for his home and office which was below street level. The major use of cement and stucco on the facade has allowed the building to utilize the curves along with the precise angular lines. (LPC January 27, 1976)

Construction Period:

Upon his original request to the Building Department in August 1933 to alter the 1865 brownstone was denied. Lescaze specified in his plans he would extend the facade forward to the building line and extending it two-stories in the rear. The major oposition from the Building Department was pertaining to venitilation and the use of glass blocks. In January 1934, Lescaze added that he would be installing a complete system of mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning. The glass blocks were also noted to be used as windows with proper brick spandrels at the floor. His plans were finally approved in February 1934 and complete in June 1934 when Lescaze and his wife moved in. (LPC January 27, 1976)

Original Physical Context:

211 East 48th Street is located between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in the Midtown East neighborhood. The neighborhood is bounded by North of 38th Street, South of 60th Street, East of 7th Avenue and West of Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. The area today has continuous high traffic by pedestrians and other various forms of transportation. The styles among buildings varies from large skyscrapers to Neo-Grec rowhouses.

A row of single family 1865 brownstones pre-existed the Lescaze home; built by Elias and Daniel Herbert. The lot was more narrow than the average lot size (25') leaving only 16'-7" in width to build the commercial and residential building. On 48th Street, the home is surrounded by brownstones and brick rowhouses. Flanking the street are skyscrapers, boxing in the small four-story homes. The mix of heights and styles are customary for Midtown East which began after Lescaze built his home in the neighborhood. The home cohesively exists in this neighborhood of variations and evolution.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

Lescaze’s design and technology set the precedent for modern architecture by using nontraditional materials like glass and cement as well as the inclusion of central air conditioning. He also included casement windows inside the glass bricks stretching across the upper levels as well as a ribbon of windows used on the basement level for the office. Ribbon windows were continued on the second floor bedroom level, partially cantilevered, creating a fluid curve catching as much eastern morning sun as possible. In addition to the use of glass, the façade was also made of stucco painted an off-white and later gray. (LPC January 27, 1976)

Social:

Lescaze was best known for his collaboration with George Howe on the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society building. The commission and construction allowed him to become a credible architect designing with more artistic license. His influence came from the angular lines, flat planar surfaces, and geometric precision of Le Corbusier’s Corinthian projects of the 1920s.

Through his explorations, Lescaze was able to influence other architects from his home on East 48th Street thus creating a new urban vernacular design. His use of glass bricks being utilized as structural support was a first in American design contributing to the new built fabric of New York City.

In 1935, architect Morris Sanders, included glass bricks and the use of residential and office space in his buildings located at 212 and 219 East 49th Street. Lescaze would later use the same concepts and designs in the homes of the Kramers and Normans on the Upper East Side. He would also later alter the adjacent house at 209 East 48th to cohesively exist with his modern home. The modernist ideas and concepts would eventually spread quickly through New York City utilizing glass as a way to let the outdoors become part of the interior forming a new enclosed space. The idea was to provide fresh air and sunlight allowing one to live in a cleaner and healthier environment. (LPC January 27, 1976)

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The home and office of Lescaze in New York City did not stylistically reflect the norm of its time. It was innovative and the forerunner of modernism. A retrospective of Lescaze's work was held at the National Academy of Design on 5th Avenue in 1984. He received deserve praise for his many commissions and designs that were never finalized. In addition to the PSFS building, he was also noted as Columbia Broadcasting System's lead designer from microphone housing to the headquarters building. William Paley, chairman of CBS, believed Lescaze was the best architect to project his image of "forward-looking". His most important design for the CBS headquarters on Park Avenue was never realized. It was to be a five-story glass box on a solid four-story solid base. The design, completed in 1936, was done before the erection of the Lever House in 1952 allowing it to be just as significant in New York architecture. Although many of his large scale projects were never erected, his buildings that do exist received high praises. His home was deemed to be the finest International Style townhouse in New York City by New York Times writer Paul Goldberger in 1984. Throughout his retrospect, Lescaze was presented as "the kind of man Henry Luce admired and Lewis Mumford wrote about-commercial in outlook yet profound in impact and cultural representation." (Goldberger 1984, 13)
Historical:

Shortly after completion of his home, Lescaze received positive affirmations for his creation. He built the home and office at the height of his career and convinced others that his modern home was in fact the ideal fashion to design one's home. In 1936, Lescaze was a part of an exhibition describing the process for making art at the Brooklyn Museum. It was there that skeptics of modern architecture were convinced by Lescaze's home that "nowhere else could I be so happily domiciled" said reporter Elisabeth Luther Cary of the New York Times. At this exhibition, Lescaze claimed that when life readjusted competently modern architecture would reach its ideal.

Ringing the bell for modern architects, Lescaze began a movement that would last until the late 1970s when the post-modern AT&T building was erected by Philip Johnson. Lescaze historian Lorraine Lanmon states that his row house was built amidst the height of his career during the PSFS commission and Oak Country Lane Day School. His innovative designs would become vernacular architecture for New York City cementing his place amongst modern architects. (Cary 1936, X10)

General Assessment:
The Swiss-American architect William Lescaze was an early pioneer for modern architecture. Educated in Europe, he came to America to contribute new ideals and leave his mark as a renowned architect. Designing the PSFS, commissions for CBS, modern homes, and planning for housing development allowed Lescaze to be a well rounded designer. He believed that modern architecture was the cure to low cost housing. It provided human beings a building geared towards their needs providing light and air while cutting costs on materials. His home was built with the same concepts in mind. Overlooking Turtle Bay Gardens, 211 East 48th Street was an urban oasis, utilizing simple materials like glass and cement. It is evident that others found this home to be significant to the city of New York by designating it not long after the establishment of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The home today sits aesthetically as it did upon completion in 1934 even with prior restorations. Interior landmarks are less frequent, however, the home of Lescaze deserved landmarking internally as well as externally. He put the same effort on the interior as he did on the exterior, designing all the furniture within his home. The building was modern in totality including the rooftop terrace providing more green space for the inhabitants. Interior landmarking could have saved the home from having walls knocked down and possibly becoming a home accessible by the public as if it were a modernist house museum. Fortunately, the house is protected and will continue to inspire designers to create new ideals, providing the most comfortable and unique experience for humans daily lives.
Documentation
Text references:

Acris. "Office of the City Register." Last modified November 2010. http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/Scripts/DocSearch.dll/BBL

Cary, Elisabeth Luther. "Art and Its Materials." New York Times. February 9, 1936.

Goldberger, Paul. "Architecture: A William Lescaze Retrospective." New York Times. August 21, 1984.

Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York, proposal to designate the Lescaze House as a Landmark, January 27, 1976.

NYC Department of Buildings. "Job Overview." Last modified November 2010. http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/JobsQueryByLocationServlet?requestid=1...

Wodehouse, Lawrence. Review of "William Lescaze, Architect," by Lorraine Welling Lanmon. Philadelphia: The Art Alliance Press, 1987.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Chelcey K. Berryhill ckberryhill@gmail.com November 22, 2010
Additional Images
William Lescaze House and Office
Lescaze House in 1938, Source: http://www.mcny.org/museum-collections/berenice-abbott/a278-280.htm, date: 1938
William Lescaze House and Office
Interior of Lescaze home, Source: http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2008/11/william-lescaze-house.html, date: 1930s
William Lescaze House and Office
Lescaze house interior, Source: http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2008/11/william-lescaze-house.html, date: 1930s
William Lescaze House and Office
Lescaze House, Source: http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2008/11/william-lescaze-house.html, date: 2008
William Lescaze House and Office
Lescaze House illuminated at night, Source: http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2008/11/william-lescaze-house.html, date: 1930s
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