The disembodied church steeple sitting in front of a 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues makes for one of the more head-scratching sights in New York. This jarring juxtaposition results from a confluence of powerful New York forces, including religion, immigration, real estate, and the expanding appetite of one large institution, New York University, and the shrinking resources of another, the United States Postal Service.
NYU Founder’s Hall
At Monday’s MCNY symposium “Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century,” starchitect Robert A.M. Stern lamented about 2 Columbus Circle and its renovation that rendered it completely unrecognizable. What Stern saw as a modernist architectural wonder, notable for its esthetics, cultural importance (it was built to challenge MoMA and the prevailing architectural style at the time), and history (the building originally served as a museum for the art collection of Huntington Hartford), others saw as a hulking grey slab. Despite the efforts of Stern and others to have the building landmarked, it was ultimately altered completely.
This story is not unique; there are plenty of worthy historic buildings in New York City that have been heavily changed, let to fall into disrepair, or altogether demolished. And in many of these cases, the general public realized their significance only after they were destroyed. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the NYC landmarks law, we’ve rounded up some of the most cringe-worthy crimes committed against architecture.