Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We Will Rock U--Part One

Having worked at Rockefeller Center (John, Jr.) and Lincoln Center (John III), studying the architecture of both, I've come to think of Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz almost like old friends. Last Tuesday, on the recommendation of a friend, I decided to go see another project they had a major hand in shaping, The Rockefeller University.
Click images for larger.
--All photos ©2009, Ryan Witte, except where otherwise noted.
What I found, though, was so much more, which is why I've decided to break this up into a series of posts, beginning with the original campus from the early decades of the 20th century. It is a closed, private campus, but the folks in their public relations department were exceedingly hospitable, providing me with all kinds of helpful information.

The architecture is beautiful, but it's somewhat diverse. It's the landscaping that most ties the entire complex together. It's the work of Dan Kiley (1912-2004) one of the greatest landscape architects of the Modern Age. Kiley also designed the landscaping for Lincoln Center and worked extensively with Eero Saarinen. One of the magical things about the campus now is that the plantings are so mature, but this also makes it difficult to get any impression of the layout from a bird's eye view. Here's the satellite image from Google Maps, in any case:

Kiley's scheme is strictly ordered, geometrically precise and symmetrical, and yet around every corner are these moments of discovery that make wandering around the campus utterly delightful. In a way, it's analogous to the scientific research that the students and faculty undertake inside the buildings, where strict, rigorous methodology leads to discoveries of the previously unknown.

The planning started in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in response to the fact that the United States had no institution of this kind. It would be known as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Ground was broken in 1904, and the first building to be completed was the Central Laboratories, later renamed Founder's Hall, by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge (SRC) in 1906:
It was designated a historic landmark in 1975. SRC was descended from the Office of H. H. Richardson (1838-1886), best known perhaps for his Trinity Church in Boston. They became Coolidge & Shattuck in 1915, and Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbot (CSBA) in 1924. They're now known as Shepley Bulfinch and are still going strong.

Next completed were the Nurses Residence and the Hospital by York & Sawyer in 1910.
The Nurses Residence from the east:
York & Sawyer were known mostly for their bank architecture in a correctly studied Classicism, but they also built the Republican Club on the south side of Bryant Park (now Daytop Village, 1904), and some municipal buildings, as well. They designed the lower stories. The upper stories were added by CSBA in 1926. Here's the Hospital:
The path under the portico leading to some lower-level entrances is particularly charming:
The two buildings are separate, but connected by interestingly interwoven bridges:

In 1915 the powerhouse was built by SRC underneath what is now the hospital extension. These entrances obviously can't be used, being right on top of the FDR Drive, but they have a rustic, industrial beauty to them anyway:

Flexner Hall by Coolidge & Shattuck went up in 1917:

And Welch Hall by CSBA, sort of an eastern annex to Founder's Hall that contains the library, was built in 1929:

CSBA, incidentally, also designed the New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center across 68th Street from the university. It's a sort of Modern Gothic tower in white brick that looks shockingly contemporary despite being built in 1933:
--Photo courtesy E+E.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

©2009, Ryan Witte


jannese said...

OMG!Ryan! that's so funny I use to work there for three years. The campus lures you in with it's old beauty then your trapped and you find out how evil the insides are.

PepGiraffe said...

How evil are they?

misskitty1970 said...

It's pretty messed up. I had the displeasure of working for a Head of Lab who is notorius for doing incredibly terrible things to the people that work for her and she's been getting away with it since the early 70's.