Apr 2, 2009 2:35 PM | 4
Back in December I posted a short piece about the Union Temple building that never saw the light of day, at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Plaza Street. This stretch of the Parkway was a graveyard for grand designs, for directly opposite the Temple, the Moderne style Central Library building by Githens and Keally was the replacement for an unrealized original design by Raymond Almirall.
The long sad story of the unfinished wing and the "hole in the ground" that that sat for thirty years until a Central Library was finally opened in 1941 (and then it was only half finished) has been briefly covered elsewhere. We certainly applaud the impulse to celebrate the fine building we have; but it is also instructive to take a closer look at the building we do not have.
The library owns several renderings of elevations of the building Almirall began designing around 1907. Almirall drew a few versions of the Plaza entrance pictured above, but all incorporate grand steps leading up to an entrance with colossal columns, according to the Library Journal, "coupled in three bays, with great windows...plainly announcing the magnificent entrance hall...The avenue wings are treated in a style of simple, classic dignity, the bays well-spaced, well-proportioned and in excellent scale." In a Streetscapes article, Christopher Gray calls it "a superrich version of Grand Central Terminal's Beaux-Arts sundae but with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry." With the massive Brooklyn Museum further down Eastern Parkway (only half of which was ever built) and the smaller Union Temple That Never Was just across the street, the neighborhood would have been a happy family of beaux arts blancmanges. Instead, we enjoy a more balanced architectural diet better suited to Brooklyn's metabolism, with art moderne (a later, more horizontally oriented form of Deco) as the plat principal and Richard Meier's airy modernism for dessert.