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Carter's View

Architects have long pondered how best to signify that their building has stopped its penetration into the heavens, and the most popular means they have employed is the cornice, a protruding element that overhangs the building's facade. This element is usually not too tall, so as not to seem ungainly, and not too deep, so as not to appear too dangerous or cast too large a shadow. Cornices, like most architectural elements, come in a variety of shapes and designs, but most are quite detailed and complex and often are the most decorative element of a building's exterior.
Many are elegant and impressive, like the one found atop the Metropolitan Club on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue at 60th Street, or the Verona apartment building, designed in 1908 by William Mowbray, at 32 East 64th Street. Other cornices are quite minimal.
While cornices were popular in pre-war residential architecture, they are much rarer in new buildings, although Annabelle Selldorf's design for 200 Eleventh Avenue, best known for the "garage" rooms in many of the apartments, features an interesting, curved cornice interpretation. The center of the top of the facade at the A Building at 425 East 13th Street, designed by Cetra/Ruddy and now nearing completion, has another cornice variation, a perforated overhang.
Carnegie Hall Tower Carnegie Hall Tower
Perhaps the most interesting modern cornice is atop the Carnegie Hall Tower at 152 West 57th Street which was erected in 1990 and designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates. Instead of a projecting decorative cap, Pelli has protruded spokes on three of the tower's top facades that clutch at the proverbial passing clouds and passionate dreams wafting up from the concert hall in an aggressive but minimalist fashion.
The Scholastic Book building The Scholastic Book building
Another interesting and quite bold modern cornice, consisting of three large overlapping red metal bands, can be found at the Scholastic Books building at 557 Broadway, built in 2001 and designed by Aldo Rossi and Gensler Associates.
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Additional Info About the Building

Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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