What is your favorite New York City building? Which one(s) do you passionately detest? Often times, those most loved are also the most hated. Some are critics darlings or, alternatively, the people’s choice. Some just take awhile to get used to, while others capture the zeitgeist but fade in popularity as tastes change. Some are forever polarizing. Some, like the Twin Towers, get a second chance in public opinion, but only because of the circumstances of their loss.
Looking over New York’s architectural landscape, for your consideration we’ve identified eight controversial works, from the beginning of the twentieth century to today, that are still standing. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these or any other buildings you adore or despise.
1. Flatiron Building
A muse of artists, photographers, and, of late, Instagrammers, the Flatiron Building is one of New York’s best loved icons and a neighborhood namesake. However, in its early days, negativity and controversy swirled around it like the wind storms it purportedly created. Insults came from many directions. “Some would call it gorgeous; it is in reality grotesque” (New York Press) and it is “a monster that violates every principle of architectural art” (sculptor William Urdway Partridge). The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.”
Montgomery Schuyler of Architectural Record lamented that architect Daniel Burnham “built to the limit” and went on at length about the odd shape site: “Having an awkward triangle as a site, he has not recognized its awkwardness, nor its triangularity.” What time has shown, however, is that by following those awkward dimensions, Burnham supplied the Flatiron Building with much of its singular popular appeal.