Art: Cheops' Architect

  • Share
  • Read Later

(6 of 7)

In the mid '30s, Harrison had his own office and two new partners: Andre Fouil-houx and Max Abramovitz. The firm helped add two more buildings to Rockefeller Center, put up the 12-story Rockefeller Apartments in Manhattan and the $1,200,000 Hotel Avila in Caracas, Venezuela's first luxury hotel and still its best. Harrison's firm was given the job of finding a suitably futuristic theme for New York's World's Fair. He and his designers spent months on the problem. On the 1,036th drawing, they got what they wanted—the Trylon & Perisphere. When the fair officials ran short of money and cut the Perisphere down by 20 feet, Harrison felt it was "a disaster."

In World War II Harrison went to Washington, where he served for four years as deputy to Nelson Rockefeller in the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Harrison the Government official proved an able administrator with a knack for homely diplomacy. Then came the U.N. job.

New Directions. The U.N. buildings have consumed most of Harrison's time since the war, but he has also been branching out in other directions. In Dallas, he is putting up a 500-ft. Secretariat-like office for the Republic National Bank, the tallest skyscraper ever built in the Southwest.

He has finished plans for a $6,000.000 aquarium for Brooklyn's Coney Island, is working on a $1,000,000 auditorium for Ohio's Oberlin College, a $3.500,000 office for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Manhattan, and a $22 million public housing project (1,800 apartments) in Brooklyn. Near Pittsburgh's "golden triangle" stand two brand-new Harrison skyscrapers. One is a 41-story, $23 million slab sheathed in limestone and glittering stainless steel for U.S. Steel and the Mellon National Bank; the other is a 30-story office building for the Aluminum Co. of America.

Except for the steel skeleton, almost the entire building is aluminum. Stamped aluminum panels cover the girders; there are aluminum partitions, woven-aluminum lighting fixtures, aluminum wires to carry the electricity, bright-colored aluminum strips for the roof terraces. ("Who knows?" muses Harrison. "Maybe someday we'll have cities colored like rainbows.") The huge, 300-ton aluminum and glass lobby is suspended like a giant weight by cantilever girders from the rest of the building. There is a radical new air-conditioning system that cools like a radiant-heating plant; cold water is pumped through small pipes, thus eliminating cumbersome air ducts. And the windows are a window washer's delight. Each one is surrounded by an air-filled rubber tire. When the air is let out, the window spins on its axis for easy cleaning. After washing, the tires are blown up again from a small compressed-air tank trundled around on a cart.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7