Tag Archives: art deco

Art Deco meets Gotham city in Singapore’s Parkview Square

On North Bridge Road, stands Parkview Square, a grand towering monolith on an expanse of vivid green, with the doll-sized shop houses of Kampong Glam on one side and the squat grey blocks of Bugis Junction on the other. Aptly described by one critic as “art deco meets Gotham City”, it harnesses classical deco flourish to bold, powerful, futuristic lines.

A corner of the courtyard at Times Square
A corner of the courtyard at  Parkview Square

Parkview Square was the swan song of Taiwanese Tycoon, Mr C.S. Hwang, chairman of the Chyu Fwu Group, who, for his last project, wanted something “imposing and monumental, yet stylish and elegant”

Designed by American Architect James Adams in partnership with DP Architects of Singapore, the $87.93 million edifice was inspired by New York’s 1929 Chanin Building.

The streamlined exterior of Parkview Square is clad in brown granite, bronze lacquer and glass. It is heavily ornamented with motifs and sculptures. Gargoyles keep watch over its walls and four massive fibreglass men, holding light balls, stand guard on the points of its roof. The building sits in a Venetian-style piazza, ringed by statues of inspirational world leaders and artists, including Sun Yat Sen, Abraham Lincoln, Salavador Dali, Mozart, Chopin, Isaac Newton, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

In the centre of Parkview Square’ Courtyard is a statue of a mythological golden crane, a talisman of prosperity for the building. A Chinese poem on the pedestal describes the bird’s return to its temple in Hubei.

Inside, Parkview Square’s cavernous 15 metre high lobby has art deco pillars, balconies in cast bronze, walls with murals and ceilings with frescos in art nouveau style. But despite the stunning décor, centre stage in the lobby is seized by the Divine Wine Society Bar’s Gotham City-scale, 3 storey wine chiller.

Primarily, Parkview Square is an office block, which seems me rather a pedestrian purpose for a building which speaks so volubly of boundless creativity and limitless skies. But then, who knows what inspired visions and bold dreams are born on those infinitely re-configurable floors?

The Empire State Building

Like the Rockefeller Centre, the Empire State Building was a depression era project. But while Rockefeller’s comparatively down to earth dream was to create a city within New York City, the sky was the limit for the men behind the Empire State building. They wanted to create the tallest structure on earth! The building was designed by architect Gregory Johnson and constructed by a company named the Starrett Brothers and Eken.

The Empire State Building from the NY City Sights bus
The Empire State Building from the NY City Sights bus

Work began on the site of the former Waldorf Hotel on the corner of Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day (March 17) 1930. The 3,400 labour force was made up mainly of European immigrants and Mohawk steel workers from Montreal. 60,000 tons of structural steel, 10 million bricks, 1,8886 60 kilometres of elevator cable, 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone and granite façade and 6, 4000 windows went into the 86 floor, 331,000 ton structure. For more modern buildings, construction companies may choose to buy a stainless steel beam and other robust materials to build a durable structure that will stand the test of time. On May 1, 1931 President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in the White House which turned on the lights and the Empire State building was officially opened. It was 6 weeks ahead of schedule and $5 million dollars under budget.

The piece de resistance of the finished building is the magnificent five story art deco lobby lined with granite and marble and highlighted with brushed steel. It is decorated with a metal mosaic depicting the Empire State building as the centre of the universe and hung with giant bronze medallions portraying the master craftsmen who worked on it. The metal tower at the summit was originally intended to serve as a zeppelin port. But the age of the zeppelins was brief and only one craft ever moored there. Still, since it opened, more than 117 million people have come to enjoy the magnificent views from the observation deck on the 86th floor. Over 1,000 businesses are housed in the Empire State building which has its own dedicated zip code. Many people who build fabric buildings look to the structure for inspiration, even if the materials used differ some these days.

From 1931 until 1972, when the World Trade Centre was raised, the Empire State building was the tallest in the world. With the tragic events of September11, 2001 it became, once again, the tallest building in New York but by this time, out in the world, it had been surpassed.