The Art that is New York City

November 29th, 2011

Rockefeller Center

Posted by Spencer Kim in Kim, Reviews    

Described as a “masterpiece without a genius” by Rem Koolhaas, Rockefeller Center is a hodgepodge of unique elements that were brought together through the power of capitalism. Although Rockefeller Center was first started with the intention of housing the Metropolitan Opera, it quickly took on a life of its own, becoming home to countless stores and companies, NBC studios, and Radio City. The plans for Rockefeller Center created essentially what was a city in itself. It was a three block Metropolitan resort, extending not only well into the skyline but underground as well. According to Koolhaas, the Center was meant to be a combination of “Beaux-Arts + Dreamland + the electronic future + the Reconstructed Past + the European Future.” It was to be “the maximum of congestion combined with the maximum of light and space.”

Today, Rockefeller Center is a thriving, commercial area dominated by tourists. While walking through its streamlined, 1930’s modern corridors, one can only notice the mobs of camera-wielding tourists crowding to get to the Top of the Rock. The various architectural elements of the building are lost within the glistening holiday decorations and overshadowed by souvenir stores.  What was intended to be an awe-inspiring, gleaming metropolis was relegated to an overpriced tourist trap.

The removal Diego Rivera’s murals at Rockefeller Center detracts from the thoughtful, collective process that went into planning the locale and the overall appreciation for the locale. Rivera’s murals gave meaningful insight into the nature of capitalism and added to the aesthetics of the building beyond commercial decorations and stores. When visiting Rockefeller Center, one can always admire the different shops and attractions, the cheery holiday tree outside, and the lively ice-skating rink. However, to fully appreciate and evaluate Rockefeller Center as a whole, it is necessary to know the combined effort and history of the location. Without doing so, one would never see the “balance of Greek architecture,” the retained “flavor of Babylon’s magnificence,” the enduring qualities of Roman “mass and strength” or the “aloof, serenity” of the Taj Mahal that were all incorporated into the building of Rockefeller Center.

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