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Mardges Bacon’s study of New York City’s Rockefeller Center (1927-1940) investigates the first rationally planned and coordinated group of skyscrapers and frames it as a dialogue between the United States and Europe. Its lead designer Raymond Hood was fundamentally a pragmatic American architect specialized in skyscrapers. But he did hold visionary ideals, informed by European thinking, which shaped the design of Rockefeller Center. By virtue of its tall buildings and tensional composition, its technical proficiency, its composition as an aggregated superblock, plaza, multilevel networked spaces, promenade, and green roofs, the ensemble projected a new spatial order for the modern city. If this great metropolitan complex was a product of private enterprise, it provided an open plaza for democratic assembly and engaged the public realm. Drawing international interest in its design, Rockefeller Center offered a new paradigm for the urban core.

Mardges Bacon, “Rockefeller Center: Modernist Paradigm for the Urban Core,” in Therese O’Malley and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, eds., Modernism and Landscape Architecture, 1890-1940 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2015), 280-308.

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