Park Avenue

Wim Eckert, Accidental Conversation, New York City, 2010
390 PARK AVE: How are you?
375 PARK AVE: Are you talking to me?
390 PARK AVE: Yes I’m talking to you, don’t you think it’s about time we talk? We’ve been standing next to each other for more than fifty years!
375 PARK AVE: Well…I don’t know…I don’t have much to say. You on the other hand, you seem to be quite garrulous. So what is it you have to say so urgently?
390 PARK AVE: Well it’s not really urgent, I just think now is a good time to talk. From the very beginning I liked you and the way you moved yourself back from the street; your water pool, actually preventing people from taking a rest while sitting on the edge. In a way everything about you is designed to prevent the inevitable meddling of humans. Even your blinds are only moveable to three positions so that the harmony of your curtain wall is restrained as much as possible. If only others were so strict.
375 PARK AVE: Maybe. I don’t like variation on an accidental basis, that’s why I allow only a few things to be variable and the rest should remain as it is. With all the changes in the context around us, we should stay true to what we were supposed to be. When everything else is in a permanent state of change, it becomes attractive to be consistent. So all I do is stand here unchanging. Logically, consistency is free of contradictions and a lack of contradiction can be defined in either semantic or syntactic terms. The semantic definition states that a theory is consistent if it has a model. By this rationale, a contradiction consists by definition of a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. It occurs when the propositions, taken together, yield two conclusions which form the logical, usually opposite versions of each other. Illustrating a general tendency in applied logic, Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction states that, “One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”
© Radek Brunecky
© Radek Brunecky

390 PARK AVE: Very true, so in that sense we simply are what we are. So what exactly are you?
375 PARK AVE: Well, I was born in the late fifties to be the headquarters of a liquor company. I have 38 floors and am 515 feet tall. I would have turned out very differently had not the company chairman’s daughter persuaded her father to hire an architect of world renown with novel ideas. Out of numerous modern masters, she picked a German expatriate, then teaching in Chicago, to design me. As for my design, I stand on the rear portion of the site at the end of the block. No less than one third of the plot is filled by a pink travertine-clad open plaza with twin fountain pools flanked by trees. My plan is based on a grid pursued to unprecedented accuracy. Because I predated the legislation of the plaza bonus, my size was made possible by using only a quarter of the plot for my tower footprint, thus giving me unlimited height!
390 PARK AVE: I was considered revolutionary at the time - the early ‘50s - being the first skyscraper to utilize the clause in city zoning regulation that allowed me to rise straight up without setbacks, as I also occupy only a quarter of the plot. Therefore I am a bit shorter than you, rising only 24 stories. Although I was originally planned to be standing in Chicago, my company choose to relocate to New York City for advertising reasons. The price of soap is 89% advertising and the advertising agencies of America were all here. That’s why I’m standing next to you.
375 PARK AVE: Thank God they did, I can’t imagine what might stand beside me instead!
390 PARK AVE: Yes, I also like having you as my neighbor. Sometimes in the early morning hours I see my green tinted glass mirrored in your brown skin. It’s quite a sensation!
375 PARK AVE: They are alternating bands of bronze plating and “whiskey brown” tinted glass. By the way, my glass panels were very difficult to get, there were none on the market. One late night, at three o’clock, someone had the idea to use the color of the company’s bottles. We chose a whisky bottle and they provided the glowing glass that could be poured like giant pancakes onto casting tables. When cooled, the glass had a grayish–pink tint that harmonized with the bronze mullions.
390 PARK AVE: You know, there are rumors that the glass company was sued after delivering the wrong glass for your entire façade.

375 PARK AVE: Well, I can only say that it would be wonderful to use that wrong material more often.
390 PARK AVE: Talking about glass, my glass skin covers almost the entire south, north, and east sides of my tower and extends to part of the west side as well. I am totally sealed in glass, so I rarely hear the noise and I hardly ever smell the dust of the New York City streets below. My delicate blue-green color, which was among the few hues then made for heat-absorbing glass, enhances my ethereal quality. Glass conceals my structure, which makes me appear more voluminous than I am.
375 PARK AVE: Yes, both of us are covered by a great deal of glass; mine was chosen from the color of a bottle, yours from the range industry offered at that time. What was a rational decision from a limited choice turned out to be an outstanding characteristic of our skins.
390 PARK AVE: So what else makes you what you are, beside the nice bronze of your skin?
375 PARK AVE: Well, there is not that much. Probably less than one would think. To be quite frank, I think I am the most expensive building in New York City, or even the most expensive skyscraper ever, per built square foot. Because of that, along with the rentable space lost to the large, unbuilt plaza, I was a financial debacle. After twelve years, half of my occupants moved out to cut costs and my free spaces were rented to a few exclusive law and ordering firms. It took me 30 years of being an unofficial landmark of modern architecture before the Landmark Commission accepted me for who I am.

© Radek Brunecky
© Radek Brunecky

390 PARK AVE: That’s how it goes. Apparently, it always takes 30 years before the commission decides whether someone is worth preserving. A proposal to replace me by a far more efficient and profitable building was in development before the commission decided that I was a landmark. So in that sense, you and I are probably the only landmarks that are far too small and far too expensive. Quite a proud achievement!

375 PARK AVE: Yes, you’re right, that is something we definitely have in common in addition to the fact that we now have the same owner. It seems that someone is collecting us like souvenir buildings.
390 PARK AVE: I don’t mind, at least they paid for a complete facial refitting a few years ago so that I still look fresh and young. Now I am prepared to stand next to you for another fifty years. We should talk again when that time comes.
375 PARK AVE: Good idea. For now, sleep well.