Exceptions such as the Chrysler Building and other iconic skyscrapers aside, New York City’s office buildings are often mudane while many the Private Owned Public Spaces (POPS), a city zoning regulation, are equally if not even more uninspired. Melvyn Kaufman, developer of many Midtown and Financial District skyscrapers actively sought to diverge from standard design practices. The New York Times called him an “oddball,” while others saw him as a “sly urban prankster.” Kaufman hated the International Style office lobbies, calling them “marble and travertine mausoleums” which were not just boring but also “bad for the living and terrific for the dead.” He wanted more than that and with a famous hands-on approach with his architects, he made it happen.
1. 77 Water Street
77 Water street is arguably Kaufman-style at its very best. The best part is hidden from ground-level pedestrians. On the roof of the building is a full-size model of a World War I era warplane. This replica fighter plane is made out of stainless steel and positioned to take off (or arrive) on an Astroturf runway complete with landing lights.
Why? At 26 floors, 77 Water Street was surrounded by taller office buildings filled with people looking down out of their windows. As far as Kaufman was concerned, with so many people glancing out of their offices, they deserved to see more than industrial-size air-conditioners. He instead caused countless office workers to wonder whether or not this plane ever really took off and landed on the roof of 77 Water Street. Sadly however, the faux grass runway and the plane appear to be deteriorating due to the elements, with the above photographs taken in August 2015. The plane is now under netting, which was not the case originally.
To the right of the lobby (again sunken down and to the back of a plaza) is a playful Wild West-style candy store: