You probably know 570 Lexington as the skyscraper behind St. Bart’s Church: a towering 50-story behemoth of salmon brick, clearly affirming the Art Deco maxim of signifying power through simplicity. Originally built for RCA-Victor, it later became the G.E. building, and was ultimately donated to Columbia University during tough economic times.
I’ve walked past the north-east entrance at 51st and Lex countless times, but honestly have never taken the time to pay much attention. Wish I had…
…as it easily has one of the most interesting bits of ornamentation in Manhattan.
Perched above the G.E. clock are a pair of human hands, which are literally grabbing and overpowering an electrical current. There is something so raw and definite in the piece, made all the more harsh by its rendering in steel.
I also love these stainless-steel hands on either side, which seem to be releasing electricity into the air. Or, perhaps the hands are drawing current from the sky.
Move around to the east side of the building…
…and you find this very interesting mystical looking fellow – is he standing over some sort of square flower? Is that a headdress he’s wearing?
A closer look – I love the angularity in his design. That square flower is pretty cool:
Update! Happened to pass by the building again in my travels today, and noticed a few more great details – this building is just dripping with ornamentation. First, above the 51st Street subway entrance, a gorgeous deco-style bird:
Much higher up, this guy sits at a corner of the building, complete with a huge headdress and a bolt of lightening emanating down:
Two more characters on the eastern side:
I especially like this googly-eyed one:
Finally, another lightening bolt decoration. Note the interesting diagonal brickwork on the right:
Of course, 570 Lex is best known for its incredible rooftop, which I really really hope to see up close one of these days. Until then, a picture courtesy of Flickr user mpirrocco:
Finally, completely disregard that bit about the Lunchtime Atop A Skyscraper photograph being shot here! In my research, I was mixing up the various “old G.E. buildings” in the city – it was 30 Rock after all.