Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bryant Park Studios aka The Beaux-Arts Building

Barbara, an integral part of the Bryant Park Corporation for 10 years and active member in her Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn community, sheds light on one of the many beautiful buildings surrounding the park in this guest post.

The distinctive Bryant Park Studios building, at the corner of 40th and 6th Avenue, was one of the earliest buildings in New York specifically designed to house artists’ studios. According to an article by Christopher Gray in the New York Times, it had a critical asset for turn-of-the-century artists. The landmark building, with its double-height windows and location across from Bryant Park, allowed for uninterrupted northern light exposure that made it aptly suited for artist studios.



Over the years, the 1901 Beaux Arts-style building has attracted an eclectic roster of tenants, including the photographers Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, and Bert Stern, the French cubist painter Fernand Léger, and the sculptor Jo Davidson. The building is almost exclusively tenanted by women’s contemporary casual showrooms, such as the very popular, hip woman’s line Alice + Olivia, and White + Warren, a luxury cashmere line that is a favorite of editors and celebrities.

Long-time tenant Stan Herman, a clothing designer and the past-president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, recalls immediately falling under the space’s spell. ”I went to the building to buy fabric one day and saw the windows and the fireplace, and I had to have it,” he said. That was in 1975. Today, he is the building’s longest-running tenant. He credits his eighth-floor studio view for inspiring him to stage the Seventh on Sixth fashion shows in the park.

It was also that view of the park and its trees that inspired the design for the Bryant Park sanitation worker uniform, which Herman designed. The shades of green that top the London Plane trees became the pallette of colors. He is constantly inspired by the view of this modern, ever-changing city through the graceful shape of this landmarked building’s windows.

Some of the building’s enduring charms might be traceable to the good taste of Abraham Archibald Anderson, a painter and philanthropist, who in 1900 commissioned the prominent architect Charles Alonzo Rich to design and construct the elegant 12-story building. Rich designed an elaborate French Beaux Arts-style building that featured 24 north-facing, double-height studios, just right for painters of big portraits and giant landscapes. Rich and his partner Hugh Lamb were noted for their commercial and institutional architecture. Examples of their work include, The Harlem Club and the Harlem Free Library, and buildings on the Pratt Institute (Brooklyn), Barnard, Colgate, Dartmouth, Smith, Williams, and Amherst College campuses.



During the last few years, the owners, an affiliate of Mountain Development Corp. has completed substantial façade work on the building, including both corrective work to sections on the upper floors and an entirely new storefront on the retail level. Mr. L. Robert Lieb, Chairman of Mountain Development, said a master plan, for the renovation of the façade of the retail level, entryway and the exterior elevations, was prepared by the firm of CR Studio Architects PC.

The plan was approved by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission and includes, amongst other things, restorative work to the terra cotta and salmon brick façade, and the reconfiguration of three former storefronts to create one larger store. This store is now the new flagship for Alice + Olivia, which also maintains a showroom on the ninth floor.

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