The Museum of the City of New York’s newest exhibition explores and celebrates the legacy of renowned Sicilian American architect, Rosario Candela (1890-1953), who played a major role in defining luxury living in early 20th-century New York. The first exhibit devoted to him, Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela highlights his distinctive “prewar” apartment buildings that now define major New York City streets — now some of the most coveted addresses in the city.
Designed by Peter Pennoyer Architects and organized by MCNY’s curator of Architecture and Design, Donald Albrecht, the exhibit presents photographs, ephemera, graphics, project designs and digital animation to show how Candela, an immigrant architect, established himself as a successful and influential figure. After moving to the United States around 1910, he attended Columbia University and graduated with a degree in architecture in 1915. He would later go on to become an instrumental force in revolutionizing how the wealthiest New Yorkers lived.
Samuel H. Gottscho, “960 Fifth Avenue. Dining room,” 1930. Museum of the City of New York,Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, 126.96.36.1992
Lobby looking toward interior courtyard of 19 East 72nd Street. Photo by Wurts Bros. Museum of the City of New York, Wurts Bros. Collection, gift of Richard Wurts, X2010.7.2.7444
“Elegance in the Sky tells the biographical story of an Italian-American immigrant architect who made a permanent name for himself, and shaped New York City as we know it today,” said Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design. “A key theme of the exhibition focuses on the economic history and ingenious marketing campaigns that convinced the wealthy to give up their private homes and move into apartments designed by Candela, which are still highly desirable today.” In total Candela designed or co-designed 75 apartment buildings.
Elizabeth Arden’s penthouse terrace at 834 Fifth Avenue, looking south, May 23, 1933. Photo by Samuel Gottscho. Museum of the City of New York, gift of Gottscho-Schleisner, 188.8.131.5220
Hugh Baker residence at 843 Fifth Avenue, 1931. Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho. Museum of the City of New York, gift of Gottscho-Schleisner, 184.108.40.2061
To paint this story, the exhibit focuses on three districts that Candela transformed — Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Sutton Place — some of his best known work being produced in the 1920’s. The exhibition showcase both vintage and contemporary photographs that highlight the exteriors and interiors of his buildings that were characterized by terraced setbacks and Art Deco ornaments, including a digital animation of 960 Fifth Avenue.
778 Park Avenue, 2018. Photo by Rob Stephenson, courtesy of the photographer
East River looking south from the Queensboro Bridge, c. 1935. Photo by Beecher Ogden. Museum of the City of New York, Photo Archives, X2010.11.11518
According to the Museum, Candela met the demand for apartment living by “creating residential buildings that mixed single-story, duplex, and triplex units, all with spacious and graceful plans. Some apartments even offered private, multi-story “maisonettes” at street level. Promoted with alluring marketing schemes, these structures established new standards of chic urban living for some of New York’s wealthiest citizens. Even today, almost a century after they were built, Candela’s buildings rank among the most prized in the city, and the phrase ‘designed by Rosario Candela’ remains a real estate magnet.”
We will be hosting a curator led tour of this exhibition this summer, stay tuned and join Untapped Cities Insiders to join in! In the city, you can do a self-guided tour to these famous Candela’s buildings, such as 960 Fifth Avenue, 740 Park Avenue, One Sutton Place South, and more, using the Urban Archive app, a new location-based mobile platform that maps the historical image collections of New York City’s museums. Additional programming includes an architecture walking tour and a conversation about Candela’s allure at the museum.
Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela is now on view through October 28, 2018. For more information, visit mcny.org.