Last week, I was trudging through a very slushy midtown when I happened to turn onto 47th Street…
…and walk past what has to be one of the strangest buildings in Manhattan:
A six-story office building, the facade of 15 East 47th Street is completely obscured by a wall of brass-colored rings:
Here’s a close-up. You can just see the outline of the building’s windows on the other side:
The rings go all the way to the roof…
…and are actually set at a slightly downward angle, perhaps for better visibility from the street. By my count, there are over 6,000.
Adding to the mystery, this is the entire ground floor facade:
Just a door with a number and some circles…
…and a nondescript buzzer. There was no answer when I buzzed, and I’m pretty sure the building is completely vacant.
As it turns out, the building at 15 E 47th Street was once the home of Algeria’s Permanent Mission to the United States. The building was purchased by the Algerian government in 1975 and renovations commenced, at which point I assume the current facade was added. Once completed, the Algerian government remained here until the early 2000s.
But what’s the story with the ringed facade? Reader Architecture Dilettante writes: “It’s a modern take on an Arabic mashrabiya, the carved wood lattice over a street-side window that gives shade and privacy while allowing air to circulate. They’re mostly used in urban areas.”
I noticed the property next door was also abandoned. Very curious if they’ll both disappear in the coming years. If anyone has any further information, be sure to share!
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