The list of America’s Favourite Works of Architecture is dominated by three cities I the northeast and one 9n the Midwest. New York has 32 places on the list (SPOILER ALERT) including #1 the Empire State Building. Chicago has 17 one more than Washington D.C. The list is especially top heavy with NYC and DC with only 5 of the top 23 outside their city limits. But a closer inspection of the rest of the list reveals a number of unjustly relegated gems masterpieces who deserve to be celebrated, along with the men who built them. And yes they are all men but that’s another issue. But get introduced to some of the giants of the 20th center. Eero Saarinen. Richard Meier whose work looks like he graduated from the Starfleet Academy in Star Date 2214.9. Fay Jones who described his work as “Ozark Gothic.” Also, meet three sports venues. One each for hockey, baseball and football. Basketball didn’t make the cut. Many of them reflect the Iron Law of Retail: Three things matter. Location. Location. Location. You might think that if a great building were in Manhattan as opposed to say, Eureka Springs, Arkansas it might have been nearer the top. In any case here are 20 reasons why the non-Northeast hinterland is well stocked with iconic architecture.
Ingalls Ice Arena, Yale University – New Haven
Barely made the cut but really, how many chances are there to put a hockey rink on a list of memorable works of architecture? Answer: one. At its unveiling in 1958 it was disparagingly nicknamed The Yale Whale for tis double curve and tail. It was designed by the Finnish-American and Yale alumnus Eero Saarinen one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. The structure is unique and for its time innovative. A concrete arch supported by a cable net and later cable ties made for a marvel of engineering. Canadian hockey fans may be reminded of the Calgary Saddledome decades later. Interesting that he Top 150 list contains a number of baseball stadiums and a football stadium but no basketball venues or other historic venues such as Madison Square or Boston Garden.
Brown Palace Hotel – Denver 148
When the famously triangle-shaped Brown Palace opened its doors in 1892, the term Wild West was still appropriate. The iconic hotel was the height of sophistication with rare luxuries like a bathroom in every room. One Denver website says the historic and gorgeous lobby ” with its turn-of-the-century luxury finishes and the dazzling stained glass roof” qualifies as a Historic Landmark on its own. The architect F.E. Edbroke used Arizona sandstone and local Colorado red granite crafted in the Italian Renaissance style. Never mind it has hosted royalty, every U.S. President but wo and he Beatles, it was here the God known as legendary Bronco quarterback John Elway had lunch before signing the hometown Broncos. Now THAT is true immortality.
Corning Museum of Glass – Corning, NY 136
The Corning company campus in upstate New York is a magical enclave of glass buildings designed and built by notable architects over three generations. What began as a single low building with walls made of (what else?) glass, its fabulous collection grew and necessitated extensions which are works of art on their own in 1980, 2002 and the latest in 2015. It is a stark white box which on closer inspection reveals an intricate layering of glass sheets, with white and grey silicon. The renowned collection of artifacts dating back 3,500 years, the website says the entire history of art through a single material.”
Safeco Field – Seattle 135
Though 15 years old “The Safe’ is still a state of the art facility. It presents itself with a curved brick facade retro homage to the great ballparks of old, like Ebbetts Field and Yankee Stadium. Some regard the juxtaposition with the ultra-modern facets of the rest an ungainly hybrid. The unique 22 million pound retractable roof protects field and fans from inclement weather. An underground heating system induces the 7 grass blend of Kentucky blue and perennial rye to turn green by opening day. It affords grand views of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound. More importantly, the sightlines for fans are among the highest-rated in the league and player testimonials are glowing. Maybe the more the Mariners on field product is a winning one the better everyone feels about the park.
Douglas House – Harbor Springs, MI Richard Meier 130
If you haven’t met before, welcome to the wild, white world of Richard Meier one of architecture’s towering geniuses. Architecture aficionados will note the influences of Le Corbusier and Miles van de Rohe in the building and the furniture which Meier also designed. It is an extremely ambitious structure, packing a lot into its small residential size. The material is reinforced concrete. The front faces a the rock wall of the shore while the four-story back faces Lake Michigan and provides floor to ceiling views with stairways tucked away in corners. With a skylight on top and unimpeded views of the lake make it an exercise in sublime space, a futuristic enclosure springing from primordial lakeside bedrock.
Union Station Kansas City 127
The beautiful BeauxArts station was the second largest in the U.S when it opened in the fall of 1914. It was huge, 850,000 square feet and 95 feet up to is gloriously ornate ceiling with a trio of chandeliers each weighing 3500 pounds. But it withered as traffic dried up, dropping from almost 700,000 in 1945 to just 33.000 in 1973. By the 90’s, the website says, “was a broken and empty shell begging for attention.” When government decided to save it, the assembled an all- star team for what was more of a resurrection than restoration. Much of the roof had to be replaced with tiles of the exact same shape and color. The grand chandeliers were rewired, the original paint color was reproduced. The tram included experts who had work on restoration projects on Windsor Castle, Grand Central Station, and the Lincoln Memorial. Now the Station is alive and thriving with shops, restaurants and a Science Center, an architectural Lazarus brought back from the dead.
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