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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image Living Together Modern Apartment Houses
Manhattan House
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Modern Apartment Houses
Manhattan House
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After World War II when construction begins again, just as with office-building design, European modernism comes to the fore for apartment houses of the 1950s and early 1960s. And in fact white brick becomes, at least early in this period, a progressive kind of material.

And this is Manhattan House, one of the first large-scale apartment-house projects that was begun after World War II. It was designed in the late 1940s by Mayer and Whittlesey—a firm that specialized in apartment-house construction—working with Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, who a few years later go on to design Lever House and some of the other really important early-modern office buildings.

White brick was chosen here because it was clean and modern and healthy. Light bounced off of white brick. The brick was glazed so that it would be easy to clean, and so it was all about light and health issues, which were important concerns of modern designers.

This complex is an entire square block, but instead of building at the perimeter of the block and having bleak, dark courts in-between, the entire complex is placed in the middle of the block with large gardens in the front and in the rear so that there would be a tremendous amount of light and air. It incorporates balconies, it's a relatively early balcony project, so that people could come out and breathe the fresh air that was maximized by all the light that would be coming in from the gardens that were around it. And you can see the effect of the gardens and the light in the lobby. The lobby walls are all glass, which allowed a tremendous amount of light to come in.

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