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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Skyscraper City Rockefeller Center
The Ornament of Rockefeller Center
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Rockefeller Center
The Ornament of Rockefeller Center
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This is a very French-inspired, Beaux-Arts plan. The planning here is very traditional; everything is on axis. You are carefully moved through the space, just as you are moved through the space at a traditional Beaux-Arts building, like the New York Public Library.

Also, as on most of the great Beaux-Arts public monuments, like the New York Public Library or the U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green, the ornament on this building is very traditional. It is almost all allegorical. It is always almost entirely symbolic of ideas that Rockefeller was interested in. For example, on axis with the Channel Gardens is Wisdom, parting the clouds of ignorance. The Rockefeller family was very interested in education, so the family funded a large number of educational projects. And because they were very interested in this idea, it is given a prominent place in the complex.

Their interest also in world trade is very evident at one of the entrances to the International Building, where you have symbols of trade, of the New World and the Old World, and of the northern and the southern hemispheres. You have a clock at the top that is actually a sun, and the sun is shining on Mercury, the god of commerce. Just below the sun is Mercury. You can always identify him, because he has a little, winged helmet on. To the left and right of Mercury are the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Below him are symbols of technology and industry. That is flanked by a mosque, signifying the Old World, and a Mayan or an Aztec temple, symbolizing the New World. Below is a ship of exploration, and the ship is going between the castles of Europe and the industry of America. And below that are figures of the four races that are identified by racial characteristics. To the left and right are the eagle of the New World and the lion of the Old World. So all of this is about the different parts of the world and about world trade because of Rockefeller's view that through trade you would have international understanding, and all the peoples of the world would come together.


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