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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Public Realm Expansion of the Public Realm
Appellate Division Courthouse
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Expansion of the Public Realm
Appellate Division Courthouse
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Nowhere is that more evident in New York than at the Appellate Division Courthouse on Madison Square. This is a relatively small building in comparison to the Opéra, but it takes the ideas that were seen at the Opéra and it uses them to create this incredible little masterpiece in New York.

This was designed in the 1890s by an architect named James Brown Lord, and Lord was familiar with these French architectural ideas, and the building, although small, is a very three-dimensional sculptural building with pedimented, columned porches projecting out on both façades. And then it is filled with sculpture, and the sculpture is allegorical.

At the top of the building are figures representing the history of law, Moses, Hammurabi, and other figures. And in fact originally there was a figure of Muhammad, but when Muslims complained that you're not supposed to have lifelike images of Muhammed, this statue was removed. So there's one vacant space on the building today.

Elsewhere on the building there are allegories of law, allegories of justice.

Many different sculptors worked on this building. And the most prominent sculptor to work on the building was Daniel Chester French, so he got the most prominent site, the pediment over the front entrance. And this sculpture here is by a second-line sculptor named Ruckstuhl, so he gets a not quite as prominent site. And a third range of sculptors did the smaller figures, the figures of law at the top. And this is very typical that there'd be a hierarchy of sculptors working on the building.

Then you go inside this building and every single detail is very carefully planned to create a unified environment. Everything was designed for this space; the furniture was designed by Herter Brothers, the marble was very carefully chosen. There are mural paintings on the walls in the vestibule, and each wall was done by a different mural painter.

So again you have many different artists working, and they're all allegories. Here's an allegory of law protecting mankind. And then when you get into the courtroom there's a stained-glass dome, there's spectacularly carved woodwork. And other mural painters were at work designing allegories. In fact, in the courtroom the most prestigious mural painters of the day did some of the painting here.


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