Remember Frank Lloyd Wright’s old car showroom on 430 Park Ave.? Us Either, But It Deserves A Look
It was not so long ago that NYC had one more Frank Lloyd Wright building: The car showroom on Park Ave
He was cranky. He was obstinate. He did not care if people hated him or his work—and they did. He wore a scarf, a pork pie hat and walked with a cane. Frank Lloyd Wright was one cool dude. In spite of the fact that many of his spectacular and innovative buildings fell apart in almost as much time as they took to build, his designs stick in the craw of the collective architectural consciousness. Here, in New York City, his only remaining structure is none other than the Guggenheim Museum. Not a humble legacy and one entirely befitting of his not-humble life and times.
But it was not too long ago—up until 2013, in fact— that NYC was honored with another Wright building within its borders. Nestled into a cozy spot at 430 Park Ave., was a mid-century masterpiece that would have made Don Draper exude an emotion. Originally intended as a showroom for Jaguars (the car, obvs), and had as its centerpiece, a revolving “turntable” displaying cars. Designed in 1954, and possessing all the futuristic hubris we have come to love from FLW, the car showroom was commissioned by pioneering auto importer, Max Hoffman. While its exterior was by no means outstanding, the interior was alive with FLW’s typical sensuous curves, functional beauty and excessive glamor. The inside did not mimic but complimented the vision of car designers of the day—sleek, opulent and visionary. In typical FLW style, the building went way over budget and over schedule, so that by the time it was completed, Jaguar had already sought another structure in which to proffer its wares. Max Hoffman responded by bringing some of the first Porches to the US and showed them off here.
At the time, the building was roundly panned by critics, including being referred to by the New York Times as “Cramped.” But it held the eccentric and strident appeal of all of Wright’s work and being in NYC just made it even more glamorous.
But time passes, and with it comes the judgement of fads, trends and a distaste for nostalgia. So in 2013, some short-thinking bureaucrat signed the papers to tear down a mid-century icon. Barely anyone noticed. It fell with less of a bang and more of a whimper—as far as is possible for concrete and steel to be silent. And now we have these photos to recall, and a small aching in the pit of any stomach that cares about great design. But Frank Lloyd Wright should know, that down here, we who love design, tip our pork pie in your direction.
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