Rockefeller Center

RockefellerCenterPlaza_feature_CharlesBirnbaum_2012.jpg
New York, NY
United States
Rockefeller Center

Comprising three city blocks between Fifth Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, West 51st, and West 48th Streets in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the 22-acre complex includes nineteen business and entertainment buildings, predominantly in the Art Deco style, constructed under John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in the 1930s. A number of architects collaborated on the project, including Reinhard and Hofmeister Raymond Hood, Harvey Wiley Corbett, and Wallace K. Harrison. The Depression-era development owes much of its success to the integration of landscape, public art, and open space, intended to increase property values by maximizing fresh air and light for its tenants. The open space has come to serve a public purpose, and is organized around a main axis, including the Channel Gardens, Lower Plaza, and Rockefeller Plaza. The Channel Gardens, much like its namesake, separate the British Empire Building and La Maison Française. At the center are six rectangular pools which feature bronze mythological fountainheads by Rene Paul Chambellan that face the sunken plaza to the east. Surrounding the pools are rectangular planters which are planted seasonally. The Lower Plaza sits eighteen feet below ground level and provides access to an underground shopping concourse, parking, and subway system. The plaza is surrounded on four sides by nearly 200 flags, each representing members of the United Nations, and features Paul Manship’s bronze-gilded Prometheus, one of the artist’s most iconic public works, in the center of a rectangular granite fountain. The plaza features many public artworks, including Isamu Noguchi’s News on the façade of what was the Associated Press Building at 50 Rockefeller Center and the statue of Atlas facing Fifth Avenue by sculptor Lee Lawrie who contributed the largest number of individual pieces to the campus. Rockefeller Plaza is a private street running north-south between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, bisecting the Center from West 48th to 51st Streets, simultaneously disrupting the city grid while accommodating additional circulation. Rockefeller Center was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.