A Rainbow at 22 Stories Up

I’ve been scouting midtown office spaces recently, many of which have had some pretty great views of the city like the one below.

108 East 38th 01

I’m a big fan of buildings with ornamentation that is essentially invisible from the street, and I happened to notice something neat on the roof of the building at 108 East 38th Street.

108 East 38th 02

Weird to find it on an otherwise boring building, but look closely and you’ll see a really unique color pattern on its topmost level, certainly the most colorful thing around at 22 stories.

108 East 38th 04

I’m always amazed by architects who add this sort of thing despite the fact that few people will ever notice it – it definitely happens less and less these days. Also, is that a face in the center of the top arch? Can’t tell. Pretty great balcony to boot.


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  1. When my daughter lived in NYC, on the 19th floor of a building near the WTC, I was amazed by the decoration on some of the buildings at that height, but I saw nothing highly colored like that!

  2. Things like that get “value-engineered” out now. A pity.

  3. I love the tops of buildings in NYC. People wonder why I look up all the time…

    Check out the top of the Woolworth Building near city hall. Well that whole building is gorgeous. Also 2 Park Avenue South, the Chanin Building on 42nd Street (cattycorner to the Chrysler Building) and the Sony Building, which looks like a chesterfield dresser.

  4. I decided to peruse my Google-fu to see if I could find out anything on the building… the page I found with the most information about the building is: http://www.cityrealty.com/new-york-city/apartment/rentals/for-rent/the-towne-house-108-east-38th-street/549

  5. So cool! My buddy lives on E. 36th and has a fantastic view of that very building. He’s on the 10th floor and that colorful ornamentation is, like, right out the window. Spectacular views of the Chrysler Building at night too. I’ve been meaning to take some photos from his apartment for a long time. I’ll try to get on that…

  6. I work at 90 Park (the ugly brownish number to the left of the Met Life building in your first photo). I walk by this one all the time and I have certainly noticed the rainbow.

    Check out the vines on the top of Ten Eyck Troughton Residence not far away:

  7. A lot of us architects still want to put stuff like that in, and can from time to time, but like Jen said they usually get ‘Value Engineered’ out. The only thing ‘decorative’ you can sell to clients most of the time these days is something that’s ‘green’

  8. You might like this:


    Taken from the top of the Empire State Building. Look for others on the gigapan web site….

  9. claudia fountaine

    My daughter is moving into that building next month, so I did some research on it (and the Murray Hill history). The architechts were Bowden and Russell, and this building was finished in 1930 right at the start of the Depression. The style is Art Deco or Art Moderne. The articles said it had something called “rippling spandrels” whatever THAT is. And it mentioned the polychrome glazed terra cotta panels (which I’m sure is what you’re showing in your photo). The building has a “cubist” composition with a set back tower….24 stories. It’s a designated landmark. It was actually one of the last buildings in the neighborhood to be built, most of the buildings being residential townhouses or mansions built for the high society people of the 1850’s and 60’s. J.P. Morgan’s mansion is right nearby.

  10. I lived in this building for six years, in the late 70’s early 80’s in a gorgeous apt on the 13 th floor facing south, complete with 60 ft terrace , casement windows and a beautiful fireplace ( wood burning) …oh my I still miss it and love that home and would dearly love to have it again. I now live in Southern California however am always a New Yorker at heart. I had many beautiful parties and adventures in that home . You wrote this on aug 15th I just realized, and that my dear is my birthday. Would love hearing from you and wish you many blessings in your new home.