Friday, December 28, 2007

Architecture: Cornices Extend Buildings to the Heavens 

Cornices Extend Buildings to the Heavens - December 27, 2007 - The New York Sun

An interesting primer on the cornice, an important but often overlooked piece of architecture.

Architects have long pondered how best to signify that their building has stopped its penetration into the heavens, and the most popular means they have employed is the cornice, a protruding element that overhangs the building's façade. This element is usually not too tall, so as not to seem ungainly, and not too deep, so as not to appear too dangerous or cast too large a shadow. Cornices, like most architectural elements, come in a variety of shapes and designs, but most are quite detailed and complex and often are the most decorative element of a building's exterior.

Many are elegant and impressive, like the one found atop the Metropolitan Club on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue at 60th Street, or the Verona apartment building, designed in 1908 by William Mowbray, at 32 E. 64th St., shown at right. Other cornices are quite minimal.

While cornices were popular in pre-war residential architecture, they are much rarer in new buildings, although Annabelle Selldorf's design for the building under construction at 200 Eleventh Ave., best known for the "garage" rooms in many of the apartments, features an interesting, curved cornice interpretation. The center of the top of the façade at the A Building at 425 E. 13th St., designed by Cetra/Ruddy and now nearing completion, has another cornice variation, a perforated overhang.


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