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RCA: 1933

RCA: 1933

September 1, 1933. "Rockefeller Center, New York City. RCA Building, general view from the old Union Club." Our second look at 30 Rock in the past few days. 5x7 inch safety negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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The essence of the skyscraper.

"What is the chief characteristic of the tall office building? ... it is lofty. ... It must be tall, every inch of it tall. ... It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line." — Louis H. Sullivan.

A good use of rising front

I used to do shots like this, much harder on a digicam (well impossible without a shift lens), but what an example of corrected verticals!

Seems to Get Lost in Today's NYC

This is one of the most beautiful and I think under appreciated structures in NYC. Nowadays however, it gets lost among the other buildings. I say let's tear down some of those other ones and let the best truly shine like they did before every street became a deep, shadowy asphalt canyon.

The Magic Palace of Radio City

The broadcasting industry was in its 13th year when it erected this huge building. From 1934, The Magic Palace of Radio City in Modern Mechanix.

21st century clutter

Much harder to get a picture with all of the post 1933 development blocking the view.

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Great to see a photo of this building where the full impact of its Art Deco majesty can be appreciated!

How do you get these, Dave?

Dave, how are you able to get these hi-res versions from the LOC? All I can find there are the uncompressed tiff files, which aren't nearly this good. It seems like years ago, I was able to download larger files (mainly from the Theodor Horydczak collection, and the HABS/HAER collection).

[Click link, click thumbnail, download archival TIFF. - Dave]

Technical Commentary



Ale wielgachny !I to amerykanesy zrobili? Ciekawe czyimi rekami to zrobione jest?

"When we were Jung, and easily Freudened"

I refuse to mention the word "phallic" here. No, I won't, I won't!

"There was a wall of course in erection."

I didn't say that I wouldn't quote James Joyce (twice). In spite of the imposing verticality here, the real beauty of Rockefeller Center is in its multitude of lavish Art Deco details. The complex both visually overwhelms and seduces the viewer-visitor at the same time, which is a very difficult thing to pull off. It remains, at least to my mind, the most harmonious large group of buildings in the United States (contrast, for example, San Francisco's clunky Embarcadero Center). Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to create something just as stylistically integrated on this scale, but for various reasons, he never could.

There's a definite "Wow!" factor here, but it's entirely appropriate to the United States (and especially New York City) in the post-Depression period. That is, a "Can-do" attitude that persisted right through WWII, and saved the free world from the horrors of Fascism.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents set quite a high standard for posterity...

Angling for a View

This picture, and especially the previous night shot, when viewed full size, benefit greatly from the drama of slowly scrolling up from the foot to the pinnacle. The nighttime picture takes you from somber darkness at street level, past endless tiers of lighted windows and cornices, to a mysteriously luminous overcast, somehow condensing the emanations of light from the city below. Oddly, the daylight image loses a bit of focus top and bottom, making the construction lot look like model toys in a sandbox.


Dubai eat your heart out.

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