NYC Architecture Inspired by Europe: Part II Italy

New York City has often been on the forefront of architectural ingenuity. Concurrently, many of the City’s notable buildings were inspired by Old World architecture. Presented below, the second part of our series provides a survey of New York City buildings and their Italian inspirations. The authorities differ on the authenticity of some of these claims, after comparing them let us know what you think.

1. Saint Mark’s Campanile/Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, Bankers Trust Building, and Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse

st mark's campanile venice belltower

Saint Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The present campanile was constructed in 1912 and is a recreation of a 1514 one that collapsed in 1902. It served as the inspiration for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building (1 Madison Avenue), the Bankers Trust Building (14 Wall Street), and the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.

The former Metropolitan Life Insurance headquarters was once the tallest building in the world.

Cass Gilbert died while theT hurgood Marshall United States Courthouse was still under construction. His son, Cass Gilbert Jr., oversaw the courthouse’s completion

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5 Responses
  1. Benjamin Hemric Reply

    Great series — wonder which countries are next?!

    I enjoy the close matches the most. But even those that are a “stretch” (e.g., like, at least in terms of the photos, the Apthorp and Palazzo Pitti) are interesting to consider.

    Perhaps one more to add to your list is the 1905 Tiffany Building by Stanford White (modeled on the 16th Century Venetian Palzzo Grimani).

    A “stretch” (so it seems to me from the photos I’ve seen) is the Judson Baptist Church and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

    Also aspects of NYU’s Bobst Library (the reverse hallowed out columns of the facade and the patterned tile floor of the atrium) are supposedly based on a European (Italian? French?) precedents. (Hard to do quick internet research on Bobst now as most internet links are about the recent renovation.)

    A lot of Fifth Avenue mansions and clubs look like they may be based upon specific Italian precedents but, given the absence of any mention of specific names, they may only be good “generic” copies: Metropolitan Club (Fifth Ave. and 60th St.), the University Club (Fifth Avenue and 54th St.?); Cartier’s (Morton Plant Residence); and the Century Association (43rd St.).

    One building I hope you might be interested in researching a bit, given that your bio says you went to Columbia, is the building on the south side of 43rd St., that used to be the home for the Columbia University Club. It’s now owned by the Unification Church. The architecture of the building has never been highly regarded so there doesn’t seem to be much written about it. But to me the building is kind of pleasant and seems kind of Venetian.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Wed., Aug. 29, 2012, 6:05 pm

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