Spotlight on Mid-Century Modern Architecture

This week the theme is mid-century modernist architecture, emphasizing some of the most highly acclaimed buildings in the city. The self-guided walks below include architecture landmarks such as Lever House, the Seagram Building, the United Nations, pockets parks from the 1960s, and post-war lobby interiors. The places are near one another in Midtown East. Enjoy your walks wherever you may live.

A Walk for the Optimistic Modernist: From MoMA to the United Nations
Great modernist architecture and design, in form and function, should be uplifting, utopian, and optimistic, embed with hope for the future. Some people loathe modernist architecture, but it's usually a dislike directed toward the sort of buildings that have corrupted and ravaged this hope, structures that end up crushing the human spirit rather than uplifting it. For fans of sleek International Style and postwar design, and I am one of them, a walk connecting several fine modern buildings and public spaces in Midtown can lift up the spirits.

Scenes from a Visit to the United Nations
Because of its high-profile global role in matters of war and peace, the United Nations complex on 1st Avenue between 42nd and 48th Streets, just off the East River, attracts a million visitors a year, many of them from overseas. While several of the most notable art and architectural features of the General Assembly Building can be viewed for free in the Visitors Lobby, including the hauntingly beautiful Chagall window and a Cold War model of Sputnik, a paid guided or audio tour beyond the Visitors Centre provides access to much more - the important assembly hall itself, several galleries of donated artwork, and exhibits highlighting the organization's mission.

Modernist Escapes in Midtown Manhattan
The other day I discovered the calming interiors of two nearby spaces - Olympic Place, an arcade in the Olympic Tower just off Fifth, connecting St. Patrick's on E. 51st St. with E. 52nd, and Park Avenue Plaza, between E. 52nd and E. 53rd. and between Madison and Park. Olympic Place, though a modernist walkway, explicitly asserts a connection to classical Greece as it serves as the home to the Onassis Cultural Center. The center features galleries with free admission and open to the public Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple, from the archives.

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