You cannot understand New York City living without knowing the work of Rosario Candela, the most legendary NY architect of the 20s and the 30s. Called 'the Bernini of the Upper East Side' by my friend and colleague David Netto, Candela's career emerged when the culture of the skyscraper had become the touchstone of New York City's built fabric and when luxurious living had moved from the mansion to the 'mansion in the sky.' With no less than 75 buildings completed within less than a decade until ended by the Great Depression, Rosario Candela has been credited for formulating the high standard of chic urban lifestyle that New York has come to be known for. This morning, I made my way to the Museum of the City of New York, just hours before its opening of the exhibition 'Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela.' It comes to revisit the setback terraces, the neo-Georgian and the Art Deco ornament of Candela-designed high-rise apartments, to explore the shift in the real estate market, and to illuminate on the classic New York City lifestyle. The tour that we received, as a part of my course Design and Decorative Arts in New York City, by the show's curator Donald Albrecht revealed that Candela was particularly active in three major neighborhoods, creating the distinctive “prewar” streetscapes of Park and Fifth Avenues, Sutton Place, and Central Park West. Candela's name was completely forgotten in the postwar years, when the glass curtain took over as the symbol of New York skyscraper, and has not come back until well into the 80s. Michael Gross' famed book '740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building,' the biography of Candela's most famous tower, which has became the home for America's most powerful families (Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Chrysler, Houghton, and later Kravis, Koch, Bronfman, Perelman, Steinberg, and Schwarzman) has brought his name back. Yet, it was Robert Stern's revival of the prewar tower in his ultra successful real estate projects such as 15 Central Park West, that has brought the name of Candela back to his original allure.
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