Accidental Architecture: Cutting Buildings To Suit the Economy


In hard times, it can take a while to finish a building. The Norman Foster designed Hearst Tower sits on top of the original Hearst building designed by Joseph Urban, but cut off halfway up by the Great Depression. While it got topped off in a green tour de force, we are not always so lucky.

Lisa Santoro or the Manhattan Building Examiner writes:
Along Madison Square Park lies the Metropolitan Life Insurance North Building, designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid, adjacent to the landmarked Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower. The Art Deco North Building, designed to be a 100-story tower, was to be the world's tallest building at the time. However, due to the Great Depression, only the first 29 floors were built before construction halted in 1932. If built according to its original plans, it would have been double the height (with certainly more bulk) than its neighbor, at fifty stories.


Indeed, it ended up looking quite different.


In Toronto, the new Eatons Store and office building was going to dominate Midtown;


It got cut off at the sixth floor, but at least the stunning Round Room and other Art Deco spaces were built and eventually restored. The building then acted as a base for some ugly apartment buildings.

Santoro concludes:

Although no architect ever wants to see one of his or her masterpieces unfinished, I would contend that there is something intrinsically beautiful and natural in such works left undone.

Certainly it is better to seal up and finish what you have, instead of just letting the frames rot, exposed to the weather, which seems to be happening all over right now.

Related Content on