Tag Archives: Pierre LeBrun

Madison Avenue & 24th Street

24 Jul

Man, I don’t even know what corner to write about.  All I’ve been interested in this week is health care reform passing.  It’s amazing!  It’s all I’ve wanted to think about – it’s all I’ve wanted to read about.  Have you ever heard of blogs?  Apparently there are a lot of them, and a lot of them have an opinion on current events.  I’ve been delving deep.  My favorite articles are the ones along the line of exposing the Republican’s tactics, slash, reveling in their stupidity.  They lost in 2006, and they lost in 2008.  The lesson they took from that: we’re not going to work with the majority at all.  So guess what?  They locked themselves out of the biggest social legislation in 40 years.  They could have been in on this!  They could have had a say in creating it.  Instead they tried to make the bill the apocalypse – whipping their base into a frenzy by pumping out one hundred percent disinformation.  They bet their entire strategy on stopping it.  And they lost!  And now what’s their plan?  To repeal it!  Forget the fact that it’s logistically impossible (until at least 2013), they say, let’s double down on this strategy that screwed us in the first place.  I love it!

And look, really, here’s why it makes me happy.  They got greedy.  They kept saying, health care needs reform, just not this reform, but they didn’t even mean that.  They just wanted the seats in November.  They thought they’d found the formula to derail the Obama White House and win big come the mid-term, and that’s absolutely all they cared about.  And they were completely wrong.  And I suppose that excites me because I feel a change coming, or perhaps a renewal of the feeling when Obama was elected.  I don’t think the majority of the American people were upset at Obama because of his agenda, I think they were disheartened because he wasn’t getting any of it done.  And now he has.  And now the Republicans have to run explicitly on saying no, claiming to be the party of retribution for a bill the American people never wanted.  But what if it turns out they do want it?  What will the Republicans say then?  I don’t know.  And I really don’t know, maybe a majority of Americans won’t like this bill, but I find that hard to imagine.  Although I do after all (as Spaulding Gray used to say) live on “an island off the coast of America.”

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been mostly thinking about this week and saying to anyone who will listen (which means mainly my girlfriend – I haven’t gotten out much). Hmmm…..what else have I been thinking about? Skyscrapers!

There’s something reassuring in riding around town recognizing the profiles and names of different buildings, like, “Ah, the Metropolitan Life Tower is shrouded in fog today – it’s lonely at the top.”  It keeps me occupied; kind of like a pop-quiz everywhere you look.  And sure, the Metropolitan Life Tower isn’t the top of the top anymore, but at one point it was.  From it’s completion in 1909, until the opening of the Woolworth Building in 1913, this was the tallest building in the world, standing at an even 700 feet.  That wasn’t the intention of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, or its architect Pierre LeBrun, who’s original plan was about half the size, but once they started building they figured they might as well go all the way.  It made sense for the site, which was small and wasn’t going to yield much profit in square-footage per office anyway.  Instead they could trade-in for the prestige and attention that would come with having the tallest building in the world.  And it seemed to have paid off, as their continued skyscraper expansion can testify: constructing the Metropolitan Life North Building next door in 1933, and purchasing the much larger (and controversial) PanAm Building in 1981.

The tower itself can be seen as the apotheosis of the early 20th century tendency in New York to model high-rises after European buildings.  In design and execution the Metropolitan Life Tower bears a strong similarity to St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, although the architect denied any direct attempt at imitation.  And in fact St. Mark’s Campanile itself wasn’t standing when the Metropolitan Life Tower was constructed.  The original Venetian campanile, completed in 1514, actually collapsed completely in 1902.  The decision was made to reconstruct it exactly as it was and after ten years of work the campanile returned, at which point the Metropolitan Life Tower was already standing.  Regardless the similarity between the two is undeniable.

So there you go, a little something to distract me from thinking about politics.  I figured I had to throw a little history in here, just to stay on message – the Corner by Corner message.  Like the Republicans!  I hope they stay on message too, all the way until November.  I really do.  What’s their message again?  No! No! No!  How catchy.

(Originally posted Mar. 26th, 2010 on Takethehandle.com)