Archives For wallace k. harrison

a round icon disappears

November 26, 2011 — 1 Comment

Airport control towers are one of the few structures for which round design is the norm. While the circular form of La Guardia Airport’s 1964 control tower was, in itself, not surprising, the tower was still original, playful and fun.  Now it is gone.

If you haven’t flown through La Guardia Airport in recent months, you’re in for a surprise. Whether it’s a pleasant surprise or an unhappy one depends on your feelings about curvaceous, eccentric, whimsical architecture …. No other airport had anything quite like this porthole-pocked cynosure; a hometown creation by Wallace K. Harrison, the consummate New York establishment architect of the mid-20th century.

Not everyone appreciated the structure.  In reporting on its April 16, 1964 opening, the New York Times said it “looks like a new design for a giant ice cream cone.” Writing in 1980, influential architecture critic Paul Goldberger compared the tower, “with its plethora of portholes,” to “a concrete piece of Swiss cheese.”

Others, like Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, admired it.  In “Delirious New York” (1978), Mr. Koolhaas described the dialectic in Mr. Harrison’s work “between the rectangle and the kidney shape, between rigidity and freedom.”

Ultimately, he wrote, the liberating impulse surrenders to the grid. “Only his curve remains as a fossil of the freer language.”


robert moses in the round

October 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

In Long Island, New York, “an exercise in how to fit circles together” –

Designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison in the 1930s, the Harrison Estate served as a laboratory for Harrison’s architectural ideas. “The home’s signature element, the circle, is found in the forms of the living room, small former dining room, pool, and even concrete pavers used for walkways . . . . Amongst the many artists and friends whom enjoyed the house were Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Mary Callery, Robert Moses, and Le Corbusier.”

“He builds landmarks,” Time Magazine said of Harrison in 1952.

His Long Island house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.