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Every other week The Downtown Doodler draws an architectural detail of a building in New York City, an an “archi-doodle.”  This week’s design is a combination of elements of different ornamental details at Rockefeller Center.  

Rockefeller Center was originally intended to house the new Metropolitan Opera house, but when they backed out in 1931, John D. Rockefeller scrambled for a new vision for Rockefeller Center. The result was a complex that oozed Art Deco from its architecture as well as its art.

In 1932 the Rockefeller family put aside $150,000 for hundreds of pieces of art for the plaza. This would amount to $2.5 million today. The majority of the art in Rockefeller Center is allegorical. Almost all of the art, including the mosaics, tell stories stressing the importance of education, wisdom, and international trade.

Raymond Hood was hired as the decorator for the new vision of Rockefeller Center. This included the Atlas in collaboration with New Jersey native and sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan. After the hype around the collaboration got to be too much, Hood quit and Lee Lawrie was promoted to the role of a decorator. He contributed the most pieces of art — twelve —  including the statue of Atlas and his relief of Wisdom with Light and Sound.

A large number of other artists were commissioned to complete murals, mosaics, and sculptures, including Isamu Noguchi, whose stainless steel bas-relief, News, over the main entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza was largest metal bas-relief in the world at the time of its completion.

If Nelson Rockefeller had his way, Picasso or Matisse would have painted the mural in the lobby at 30 Rockefeller Center. The iconic mural, American Progress, which adorns the walls today is actually the second mural to be painted on the lobby back wall. The original, Man at the Crossroads, was papered over because it was too controversial, similar to the murals at the landmarked Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport.

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Have a great week!

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