09/27/2018

Raymond Hood

By Robert Rohena

Walking by the lobby entrance to IKB’s office, you would be hard pressed to find a single soul looking up from their cell phone to take a second look at the building. The McGraw- Hill building is located right next to Port Authority and is covered in scaffolding that often serves as a hovel for the less fortunate during inclement weather. You would never know that this building was once called "the most beautiful building in the city," by Ayn Rand

The McGraw-Hill Building, "The Emerald Gem"

The architect responsible for this “Emerald Gem” with its opulent art deco lobby and green and blue terracotta cladding was Raymond Hood. Over time, Hood has faded into obscurity, due to the legendary clout of his contemporaries such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van der Rohe. Now, the name Raymond Hood is merely a bit of trivia that only a well-versed architectural connoisseur could rattle off the top of their head. This is unfortunate because Raymond Hood is responsible for many beautiful buildings across New York and Chicago that are still in use and enjoyed today.

Raymond Hood

The Chicago Tribune Building: Finished in 1924, the skyscraper was the latest architectural invention. Architects struggled to adapt their Beaux Arts proportioned classicism to these new tall, skinny inventions. Many buildings of the time looked like tall stretched out versions of Italian palazzos. Raymond Hood took the logical next step in the evolution of this new building type, he applied a more vertical Gothic language to the skyscraper, adorning it with flying buttresses and all.

Chicago Tribune Building

The American Radiator building: A true masterpiece and testament to Raymond Hood's ability. My personal favorite, the American Radiator building is one of the best-looking buildings along Bryant Park. This is another example of applying a Neo-Gothic language to a skyscraper, this time using a striking color palette of black and gold. The American Radiator building was the subject of a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1927, but the painting, a night rendering, fails to capture the magic encapsulated in the building’s radiant gold ornamentation.

American Radiator Building by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1927

American Radiator Building

Rockefeller Center: Done later in Hood’s career, Rockefeller center was completed further down the line in the evolution of the skyscraper. Moving away from Classicism and adopting a more modern language, The RCA tower and surrounding buildings started to shed the ornamentation of his earlier work. While less exciting than the American Radiator building or Chicago Tribune, Rockefeller Center is better known for The Public Plaza that attracts thousands of people from all around the world for its iconic Christmas tree.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree