New York SpiceScrapers
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 98 18:39:54 -0700
Subject: New York SpiceScrapers
Forwarded-by: Sebastian Banker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Newsgroups: alt.music.spice-girls, alt.architecture
> WHAT IF the Spice Girls were
> midtown modern skyscrapers???????????????????????????????????????? Mel
> B is Blackrock of course...a chameleon, imposing, moody, threatening,
> physical and vigourous.
That's the one I have the most problems with, however appealing it appears
on the surface...Black Rock aka Eero Saarinen's 1965 CBS headquarters might
suit the "idealized" Mel B, the noble savage, but it doesn't take into
proper account her Scary Spiceness, that loud, tactless, grating
whiz-in-the-flowerpotness...it's got her narcissism, but is just too Bill
Paley-elegant for that full threatening blackness to come through Darth
Vader-style. It's too Posh to be Scary. Though it's hard to tell what the
midtown alternatives are...an outlandish, overweening 80s opus like Helmut
Jahn's CitySpire doesn't quite fit the bill, nor do the extroverted recent
towers in the Times Square area. The decorated loudmouths of the 80s and
90s are just too overdressed and cheap looking (Mel B is actually relatively
restrained, by Spice standards, in her getup); perhaps if there was a
midtown version of one of those 70s SOM raw-or-rusty-steel Led Zep-era
gargantuas like One Liberty Plaza downtown or the Annenberg Building way up
on the Uppermost East Side, we'd have the proper (if more gross than
"physical and vigourous") Scary Spice equivalent. Maybe there's the
rub...Mel B simply isn't "midtown" enough. She's much more at home in the
tight-packed asparagus-anarchy cauldron of downtown...though NOT including
World Financial Center (a less tarty variant on GeriPoMo) or the World Trade
Center (the most un-Spicified skyscrapers in all of New York)...
> Geri would be the Worldwide Plaza...big boned,
> colorful, not quite stylish but a 'looker', talks big and hangs out in a
> bad part of town.
Fine judgment, using the proudest relic of pre-crash Skidmore Postmodern; it
does both the building (or, rather, the complex) and Ginger Spice justice.
Of course, what could be more Geriesque than any proud derivatives of the
aesthetic? (Even when the details are more Gothicky than Baroque, Ricardo
Bofill made it all possible.) And of course, the tendency of the proudest
PoMo skyscrapers to look overinflated profoundly suits the the physical
reality of Geri...
> Vic is so many but mostly 9 W 57th...sleek and
> swooping, monotone, attempting to look 'expensive' rather than elegant
> (and succeeding).
Nice choice, too. Mies van der Rohe was by far the Poshest of the Modernist
heroes, ergo Victoria, "Posh", is by far the most Miesian Spice...but she
ain't half as Posh as she pretends she is. So instead of Mies, she's one of
"Bunshaft's boners" from the 70s, the sort of immaculately-designed but
urbanistically brain-dead High-To-Late Modern opuses that gave such
architecture a bad name. Of course it looks "expensive"--Easy V doesn't
come for free, after all. It's a high class whore, not an obvious trollop
like the GM Building nearby. That big black glass waterfall does not sing,
does not smile...but BOY is it ever, er, "Posh". Or tries to be. Or
something. (But now, Victoria WITHOUT makeup; that'd be, or course,
Harrison & Abramovitz's 1955 Socony-Mobil building, the big hideous aluminum
box across from the Chrysler Building that looks like it's got a terrible
case of acne...)
> Emma's detracors would cast her as the (former) Pan
> Am but we see her as Johnson's AT&T...popular and beloved, 'happy',
> devoid of irony, perhaps a bit bland.
I like the Pan Am idea because if there's any building in Manhattan that
looks like it's got a big butt, it's Pan Am;-) (Also, the present "MetLife"
logo fits the building as ill as Emma's clothing.) Still, AT&T isn't bad,
though I'm ambivalent as to how popular and beloved or (especially given its
place in birth-of-the-Postmodern lore) devoid of irony it is...perhaps, in
the Venturian sense, Baby is the biggest "duck" of the Spices, her infantile
image obvious from the getgo. And AT&T might be classified as "Baby"
Postmodern, in that it represents an infant--and like Emma, a bit ungainly
and awkward--version of the style that produced the fully mature "Geri"
Worldwide Plazas of a later age. You're right about "happy"--it (and the
bulk of PoMo on principle) is the antithesis of unsmiling Posh 9 W 57th.
I'm trying, though, to rationalize the very awkward correlation between Emma
boffing the (ex) Spice manager and AT&T now being HQ for a major music label
(Sony, though, not Virgin)...
> Mel C. is CitiCorp... self
> confident among peers, athletic, a tour de force of expression(ism),
> finely balanced."
I like this one; a skyscraper that's always seemed, in a refreshing way,
apart from the madding crowd in NYC (in style, vintage--built in the middle
of NYC's "drop dead" 70s--and insouciance). Sort of the way Sporty's the
fave of many of those who find the other 4 Spices a touch ridiculous or
vacuous. But I think it's also because the architect (Hugh Stubbins) was a
product of Walter Gropius' milieu in Harvard, and Mel C is, in a way,
Gropius to Victoria's Mies--basic practical, sports-gear rational,
built-to-function rather than self-consciously Classical-immaculate. In
some ways plain-Janeish and overly neutral, too, and uncertain as to what
kind of consistent image to project; Mel C's been through all sorts of
guises, from pure Sporty to normal-natural to quasi-Posh and back to Sporty,
and seldom with complete success--it's like decorating a diagram (and
remember the title of that critical book about the Harvard school, The
Decorated Diagram...). Citicorp, happily, combines the best of
these--normal-natural looks, Sporty athleticism, a touch (just a touch) of
Posh styling, whatnot; it's like those moments when Mel C gets her looks
© 1998 Peter Langston