New York's Top 10 : Rockefeller Center (part 2) - Rockefeller Center Artworks & The Building of Rockefeller Center

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Rockefeller Center Artworks

  1. American Progress

    Jose Maria Sert’s (1876–1945) mural depicts America’s development over 300 years by uniting two forces, brain and brawn. Sert’s Time mural adorns one of the ceilings.

  2. Wisdom

    The striking central figure of Wisdom by Lee Lawrie (1877– 1963) grasps a compass pointing to light and sound waves and is carved on a screen made of 240 glass blocks.

  3. Gaston Lachaise’s panels

    This two-panel work by the noted American sculptor (1882– 1935) honors the contribution made by workmen to the Rockefeller Center’s construction, depicting them at their labors.

  4. News

    This heroic sculpture by Isamu Noguchi (1904–88) is cast in stainless steel. The 10-ton panel illustrates the tools of the press, including camera, telephone, pad, and pencil.

    News, Isamu Noguchi
  5. Industries of the British Empire

    Cast in bronze and finished in gold leaf, this panel by Carl Paul Jennewein (1890–1980) depicts nine major industries of the British Commonwealth, including sugar cane, salt, and tobacco.

  6. Intelligence Awakening Mankind

    Some one million tesserae (pieces of glass enamel) in more than 250 shades create Barry Faulkner’s (1881–1966) mosaic representing spoken and written words.

  7. Portals

    Josef Albers’ 1961 work of thin, highly polished, milky-white and ivory Carrara glass creates a surface of receding squares that gives the mural a sense of depth.

  8. Winged Mercury

    Lee Lawrie’s stunning 1933 relief of Mercury, the Roman god of trade, profit and commerce, celebrates the British Empire. The golden classical figure wears a helmet – a sign of protection.

    Lee Lawrie’s Winged Mercury
  9. The Story of Mankind

    Another Lawrie is a bold 15-block history accented in gold, scarlet and blue-green. The history is topped with a clock, signifying the passage of time.

  10. Wall Drawing 896

    The newest mural, a site-specific, geometric design created in 1999 by Sol Lewitt, covers four walls of the entrance to the headquarters of Christie’s on 48th St.

The Building of Rockefeller Center

When the Depression made John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s original plan for a new opera house impractical, he instead developed a large, creative-commercial complex. The innovative Art Deco design, led by Raymond Hood, included a mid-block street (Rockefeller Plaza) and an underground concourse. The 14 buildings constructed in 1931–40 provided 225,000 jobs during the worst of the Depression. Artworks were an essential element; over 30 artists contributed work for foyers, façades, and gardens as part of the “New Frontiers” program.

John D. Rockefeller driving in final rivet

Rockefeller Center construction workers, 1932 Top 10 Statistics
  1. Tallest building: 850 ft (259 m), 70 floors

  2. Elevators: 388

  3. Passenger rides per day: more than 400,000

  4. Fastest elevator speed: 1,400 ft (427 m) per minute (37 seconds non-stop to 65th floor)

  5. Number working in the complex: 65,000

  6. Telephones: 100,000

  7. Office windows: 48,758

  8. Restaurants: 45

  9. Shops: 100

  10. Daily visitors: 250,000

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