When I was an undergraduate, I decided to do a minor in Architecture and one of the classes I took was specifically about New York City. There was a final paper required and, although I don’t remember the particulars of the assignment, I remember enjoying my time working on it (a rarity for my life as a university student).
The topic I created was a comparison between two magnificent buildings: the iconic Seagram Building on Park Avenue, and the newer U.S. headquarters building for the luxury giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (aka LVMH). The Seagram Building was designed by world renowned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe over fifty years ago, and the LVMH Tower was designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc (or CdP, as he goes by on his sleek website) about four decades later. Auld versus nouveau; booze versus fashion.
I kick myself for not hanging on to that paper (I got an A!). The research took at least a month of constant toil. I spent hours in the school library going through ribbons and ribbons of microfilm. Those were the (close to final) days before the expansion of the internet made information gathering a much easier process. I soaked up every last ounce of information I could find on both buildings. My commitment involved several trips from the East Village up to midtown to gaze up at them, to get to know them better. I compared city zoning laws between the 1950s and 1990s, setbacks, plazas, construction materials, and the styles of both architects. You would think that so much school work would make me resent these two towers, but to this day, they are still my favorites in New York.
A couple of weeks ago I was in midtown and decided to walk home afterwards instead of taking the subway. In a gridiron-plan city like New York there are often many avenues and streets you can turn down to get from point A to point B. When I arrived at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue I could either continue walking north on Fifth, or I could head east along 57th Street. I looked to my right and saw my old muse, the LVMH Tower, and decided to go pay it a visit. Throughout the years I’ve made similar detours time and time again, just to pass by it.
Enveloped in a pale green and frosted glass curtain-wall, it’s still as stunning as the early years after it was first built, when I first discovered it for myself. It evokes everything a monument to this particular brand and industry should – style, creativity, and restrained flair.
Unfortunately, someone at the company has decided to authorize, in my opinion, defacing the tower by affixing a 6-floor tall, golden decal depicting a j’adore perfume bottle on a large portion of the front. I wonder if CdP is aware of this. In any case, I hope the sticker is not there for too much longer, and I look forward to many more excuses to wind up in front of this building.