March 17, 2005
In New York City, two rare Morris Lapidus-designed
buildings hang in the balance, awaiting designation by the
Citys Landmarks Commission. Located at the corner of
Fourteenth Street and University Place, the Paterson Silks
building has already undergone substantial alteration. The
building, which was most recently a discount store called
Odd Job and is currently being renovated for use as a bank,
featured a distinctive glass and steel entrance tower, which
was demolished at the beginning of March just as the building
was being considered for landmark status. The much larger
Summit Hotel, now known as the Doubletree Metropolitan, on
Lexington Avenue in Midtown, features an undulating façade
and 60s retro signage. It will have its windows removed
and some of its cladding changed unless the designation occurs.
Even though in New York buildings over
30 years old are eligible for landmark status, the Commission
rarely steps in until a structure is significantly older.
The Commission is not prepared to landmark buildings
of that age, says Frank E. Sanchis III, executive vice
president of the Municipal Art Society, one of the groups
lobbying for designation. It is a reflection of the
publics taste. The public is not yet ready to accept
the idea that modern buildings should be protected.
Lapidus is best know for his highly scenographic Miami Beach
hotels, and his work has received increased attention in the
design community in recent years and has been the subject
of several exhibitions and symposia. There needs to
be a survey of his work in the City, says Sanchis, He
was a very well known architect in Florida, but we forget
that he was a New Yorker.
Alan G. Brake