9.29.2010

CONCRETE TRICKS


Sometimes I am able to see Manhattan as if I had never visited before; I get a high from the zaniness, as happened at Barney's when I saw the Kouklitas fashion dolls. Further uptown, I happened upon what seemed to be the renovation of an enormous old stone mansion--but the problem was, the building hadn't been there a year earlier.

On closer inspection, I realized that I was standing at the site of a new Ralph Lauren building, just across the street from the old Rhinelander Mansion that was turned into a Ralph Lauren shop in 1985. The old mansion is under scaffolding for her face lift--old made to look new. The new mansion has been made to look as though it has been there for a hundred years. New made to look old. It seems that no expense was spared in the detailing. I was struck by the dragon scales under the balcony.










How fitting the whole enterprise is:  Lauren has long been the American master of Old World recreation. Even Londoners--and you would think they were swimming in the real old stuff--can't get enough of the Lauren look. I remember when the London shop opened, and someone came in and bought an entire room, sofa, rugs, curtains, down to the glasses on the table. People say Ralph Lauren is the best decorator in Dallas. What he has been doing with furniture, he's now done with a building. I think it is only a matter of time before we are able to check into Ralph Lauren hotels, and why not?

Meanwhile, at the other end of Central Park, across the street from Bergdorf's (I told you I was retail deprived) I came across quite another sort of cement work: a statue called The Happy Prince by British artist Ryan Gander. (I won't even get into all the cross currents happening here.) The sculpture comes courtesy of the fabulous Public Art Fund and is up until February 13--I can see why it wouldn't be the happiest Valentine's Day gift to the city...

As it happens, The Happy Prince is a children's story, from one of my all-time favorite books, an intensely weird collection by Oscar Wilde. In the story, the Happy Prince is a statue encrusted with jewels and gilded with gold. A friendly sparrow decides to help him give away his treasure, flying off with it bit by bit, to help the poor of the town. Soon, almost nothing is left of the prince's raiment, so the swallow pries the prince's ruby eyes out of his face.

And the prince, denuded, loses his value to the townspeople; they no longer love him, and melt him down. Gander's enormous statue, on the sidewalk just outside the Southeast corner of the park, shows the Happy Prince lying in ruins with his beloved friend, the swallow, wings folded in death. The Prince's brave and sturdy heart lies amid the debris, but it is intact.

There are magical moments, in New York, when I have to whisper, Be still my heart.

18 comments:

Bruce Barone said...

Thank You for sharing this story. I must find this book at the library. WOW!

quintessence said...

So when people say "they just don't make them like that anymore" we've only to steer them here - to the new Ralph building - amazing! And evidently the Parisians, as well as Londoners, love him too with the new flagship store (and restaurant) there. I'll be sure to check it out when I go for the new Kertesz exhibit :-). I love Oscar Wilde (coincidentally just bought my daughter Picture of Dorian Gray) and have never read this volume - so yet another trip to the bookstore. I think I'm going to have to build bookshelves in my laundry room as well!

One Woman's Journey said...

Beautiful - thank you for sharing.
I do not leave the woods often :)

Ann Marie said...

You have the most incredible insights and observations. I couldn't begin to respond to the world with such sensitivity. I love reading your blog. It just doesn't seem like you should have ever been editor of a "consumer" magazine(one that I loved and I read these magazines religiously :)).
I am trying to reach the calm that you seem to have achieved.

david terry said...

Anyone who enjoys Ms. Browning's writing (I expect that would include anyone reading this) should get a copy of the October/November issue of "Garden & Gun". My copy arrived yesterday afternoon (more accurately, that was when I finally noticed that it had arrived), and I was delighted to encounter "Jack Spencer's Restless Art", by Ms. Browning. It's a wonderfully insightful (and predictably well-written) piece.

I doubt it's been archived on the website yet, but it should be so in a while.

Thanks as ever for the always-good writing, Ms. Browning, and isn't Sid Evans a nice fellow? Among my circles, he's the chronic winner of the annual "Oh, shit...he's already MARRIED?" award.

Sincerely,

David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I'd love to see the concrete Prince.
And as for Ralph.... he never hits a wrong note. Love him. And I seriously desire those green velvet trousers he has out this season!

mary said...

I wanted to see the prince--his spirit still intact. Yes!!!

barbara said...

Oh how I love good architecture... and oh how hard it can be to find today. Thanks to Ralph Lauren for respecting good architecture and to you Dominique for sharing this treasure trove of beauty.

Emom said...

All of it wonderful! smiles.....

Jill Seidner | Interior Design said...

What a beautiful building - great architecture! AND I have the same feeling about New York!

pve design said...

New York will always have a way of making my heart beat a little faster. The love for the concrete jungle lured me here long ago.
I love seeing it in your eyes. Romancing the stone, around every twist and turn and corner.
pve

William said...

I'm glad to see your post on the new RL building. I'm not a fan of it. First, it's too short. Your photograph doesn't show the relationship to the mid-block buildings directly to the west on 72nd Street which are one-story taller than this building creating a very awkward relationship between the RL building and the adjacent building. There would be ways to reconfigure the massing to add a floor without adding square footage. Second, and this is my main criticism of the building. Clearly it was a very expensive building, the materials and details are flawless. However, this was an opportunity to build a beautiful modern building of its time rather than a neoclassical stone mansion. Oh well.

Karena said...

The building is exquisite, and to see materials used that one can see as old world creaftsmanship! Fabulous!

Karena
Art by Karena

Anonymous said...

Dear Dominique, Thank you for the pictures and story. Can not wait to see RL's new store and I love how he is building it. NY is a lucky and magical place for me. My perfect day there would be to start at the Frick Museum on 5th and then walk over to the Rhinelander Mansion and see all RL's wonderful things. How lucky we are to have RL,what a great, great gentleman he is too! Hugs, Joyce

Sara said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. It makes me miss NYC. You are right. There are magical moments in New York City. However, there are magical moments in any city or town, if we only look. Thanks for the reminder.

Dominique said...

Well said, William, and I completely agree with you about the chance to build something modern--though you know that is much, much harder to do well, as there are no ways to hide construction flaws. I was only commenting on the shock of coming upon such a thing as a new old building. Next time I am in the city I will examine it in relation to the adjacent old buildings.... many thanks. d

Reggie Darling said...

I have had the pleasure of walking by this building almost every day on my way to and from the office. To say that it is superb is an understatement. All hail to the King of Merchants!

Bill said...

d.

Definitely check it out next time you are in the city. The relationship to the buildings to the west is awkward and to use the language of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, 'inappropriate and uncharacteristic of the district'. The LPC has no qualms about telling a developer that height is an issue for proposed buildings in historic districts, but they consistently challenge buildings they consider to be 'too tall' - never 'too short'. This building is 'too short'. You'll see what I mean when you look at it in relationship the buildings directly to its west. Frankly, the building to its south also, but that is less of an issue.