In this continuing series on anniversary structures President, Ian Firth, looks at six great 70 year old structures.
Are you keeping up? I hope you are enjoying these ventures into history. We are now halfway through the process and have arrived at a sample of structures completed 70 years ago in 1947. Now, given that the period immediately preceding was characterised by world war, it is perhaps surprising that anything notable was built at all at that time, but I have managed to find a few. (Well, strictly speaking, my young assistant in the office managed to find them for me!)
In choosing these structures, I have tried to range as widely as possible around the world, reflecting not only the wonderful variety of engineering and architectural styles out there but also the wide international reach of this Institution. Our members are spread all over the world, and roughly half of them are outside the UK, so I have tried to reflect that in the selected projects. Maybe at the end of the year we will take a look and see how widely dispersed they have been. This month we visit four continents – Europe, Asia, North America and Africa. (If you want to see inside Frank Sinatra's house you have to read to the end!) I wonder where we will find ourselves next month.
1 Barnabéu Stadium, Madrid
This well-known stadium is the home to Real Madrid, one of the world's most famous football clubs. The previous stadium, known as Chamartin, was extensively damaged in the Spanish civil war, but in 1943, when Santiago Bernabéu became the club's President, he proposed plans for a massive 100,000 seater stadium. The plans were approved and the stadium was completed in December 1947. The inaugural game saw the "whites" win against the Portuguese club, Os Belenenses, 3-1.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by Luis Garcia
By modern standards, the stadium's structure seems rather heavy and overbearing, but at the time it was considered quite revolutionary. Two steel trusses span the long sides of the stadium, carrying the front edge of the roof over the stands along the side of the pitch. Around the ends, the roof is cantilevered from the heavy concrete structure supporting the terraces below. It has undergone significant upgrading over the years, and it is widely considered to be one of the best loved stadia in the world.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by Little Savage
In January 2014, always mindful of the need to modernise, the club unveiled what will become the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium of the future. The stadium will be equipped with the latest technology: information and communication systems, 360-degree screens positioned above the stands, and state-of-the-art management systems. It will be safer and more comfortable for spectators. The project has taken into account the sustainable use of energy and includes plans for the construction of retail, leisure and restaurant zones, a hotel and underground parking. A retractable roof will allow the stadium to be used for various sporting events. Moreover, the nature of the design will allow its construction to be carried out without interrupting the normal sporting calendar.
Florentino Pérez explained: “We want the Santiago Bernabéu to become the best stadium in the world. The new twenty-first century Bernabéu will continue to be a hallowed ground and it will remain in the heart of our city and be a model and icon in world football. A Bernabéu for all our fans and members to be proud of." We look forward to seeing it.
2 Alisher Navoi Theatre, Tashkent
The Opera and Ballet Grand Academic Theatre in Tashkent is named after Alisher Navoi and is one of the leading centres of performing arts in Central Asia. In fact, this is one of the only three theatres (out of more than 700) that were given the status of "Grand" in the old Soviet Union. The other two were in Moscow and Minsk.
The theatre was completed in 1947 after a long delay caused by World War 2. The design is by Soviet architect academician, Alexei Schusev, who also designed Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square which was built in 1948. Japanese prisoners of war were involved in the final construction stages.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by Bobyrr
It is a striking and imposing building situated in the centre of Tashkent, and uses motifs of traditional Uzbek monumental architecture in the interior design of the theatre. Stylistically, the building is a unique combination of European architecture and oriental elements. The tall and imposing arches rest on sturdy abutments and invoke something of the character of a madrasah. The high portal ornamented with a stalactite cornice is topped with turrets similar to the minarets of Bukhara. The diversity of architectural styles is found in the galleries, arched ceilings and ornamental fretwork in polished marble. Each of the six side foyers - the Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm, Samarkand, Fergana and Termez halls – is characterised by its own personal style, reflecting the architectural peculiarities of each of Uzbekistan’s regions.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by David Stanley,
The artists of Navoi Theatre in Tashkent have graced the stages of La Scala, Milan, The Paris Opera, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan and the Bolshoi and Mariynsky theatres. Its wide repertoire ranges from classical favourites such as Swan Lake and Don-Quixote, to original creations, such as Dilorom or Tanovar, inspired by ancient Uzbek folk tales. Their performances can be compared to the best in the world.
3 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York
This 33-storey, 623,000 ft office tower was completed in 1947 and served as the New York headquarters of Standard Oil (also known as Esso, as in S.O.). It was noteworthy at the time for being the tallest air-conditioned building in the city. It is a steel frame building with concrete floor slabs.
Standard Oil eventually moved on, as did later tenants Time-Life and Time Warner, and the tower went through changes of ownership, including Mohammed Al-Fayed who sold a 99-year lease to the tower in 2013 for $420 million to RXR Realty, a privately held real estate investment firm.
In 2015, RXR embarked on a major $150 million upgrade, appointing architects Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) with preservation consultants Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, to make the building more competitive with other modern towers. Among other things, the works involved restoring the limestone facade and historic-profile windows in a manner which was said to evoke the beauty, elegance and sophistication of the Art Deco era. Plans by KPF also included modifications to the tenth floor to give the building more interior space, with outdoor areas on the ninth floor roof and an extension to the 11th floor to create a terrace on the floor above.
Image: Wikimedia Commons by David Shankbone
4 Rickenbacker Causeway, Florida
The Rickenbacker Causeway connects Miami, Florida, to the barrier islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne across Biscayne Bay in the USA. It has a total length of 8.7 Km, with a longest span of 970m.
The Causeway is a toll road, and is named after Eddie Rickenbacker, the American World War I flying ace and founder and president of Miami-based Eastern Air Lines.
Talk of a bridge to Key Biscayne, inspired by the bridges connecting Miami to Miami Beach, started in 1926, when city planners in Coral Gables dreamt of a bridge to the islands to make Key Biscayne their seaside resort in the way that Miami Beach had become for Miami. But political obstacles to the project soon appeared and those dreams took a knock when the Great Miami Hurricane crossed over Key Biscayne on its way to Miami later that year.
Plans resurfaced in 1939, and following a bequest of some land on the northern end of Key Biscayne, a deal was done and construction started in 1941. Then, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II stopped all work until after the war. Eventually the Rickenbacker Causeway, comprising 1.2 miles of bridges and 2.7 miles of roadway on fill, finally opened in November 1947.
By the 1970s the sites along the Rickenbacker Causeway had become extremely popular, partly because of the American television series Flipper, and the opening of Planet Ocean, a themed tourist attraction, increased the pressure. By 1980 it became evident that the concrete and steel structures supporting the roadway west of Virginia Key needed replacement.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by Don R Logan
Five years later, the high-rise William Powell Bridge and the new bridges nearest the toll plaza were built and opened at a cost of $27 million. With exception of the drawbridge (which was removed) the old structure was left intact to serve as fishing piers. In 2011, the West Fishing Pier was demolished.
5 Maputo City Hall, Mozambique
In the 1930s, a competition for a new city hall was launched by José Maria da Silva Cardoso, the mayor of Lourenço Marques, as Maputo was known in the colonial period. The need for a new city hall was triggered by the growth of the colonial city. The competition was won by the Portuguese-Brazilian architect Carlos César dos Santos in 1938. Construction began in 1941 and was completed in 1947.
Image: Wikimedia Commons, by Teixant
Santos designed the new city hall with a trapezoidal layout, and it is situated on a hill - so it automatically became the focal point of the Samora Machel Avenue, which connects Independence Square with the city's downtown area. The building has a façade of 65 meters (213 ft) and is designed in the Neoclassical fashion, following the architectonic beaux-art rules. The city's government moved into the new structure in 1947, and it remained the seat of the Maputo city government after Mozambique's independence in 1975.
6 Twin Palms - Frank Sinatra's Original Palms Springs House
Twin Palms at 1148 East Alejo Rd is a mid-century modern house in Palm Springs, California. The house was designed by E. Stewart Williams, to a commission from the American singer and actor, Frank Sinatra. The house was Williams's first residential commission. Sinatra lived in the house from its completion in 1947 until 1954. He sold the house in 1957.
Sinatra started coming to Palm Springs in the late 1940s. Friends of Sinatra's who had also started frequenting Palm Springs included Lana Turner and Dinah Shore, and the actress Ava Gardner who was to become his second wife. On 1 May 1947 Sinatra walked into the offices of the architect E. Stewart Williams, wearing a white sailor cap and eating an ice cream, and requested that the firm build him a Georgian style house as a weekend residence; he had recently signed a film contract with Metro Goldwyn Meyer and had made his first $1 million. Feeling that the Georgian style was unsuitable for the extremes of the desert environment, Williams showed Sinatra two architectural drawings, one of the Georgian design, and the other of a single-storey modern house. Thankfully, Sinatra chose the modern design.
The project proved problematic from day one. Sinatra demanded that the house be ready for a Christmas party, which left only a few months to design and build the house. Construction proceeded around the clock and at an exorbitant cost, but the house was completed just in time for Sinatra to ring in the New Year. The house was completed at a cost of $150,000.
Image: Wikimedia Commons by Carol M. Highsmith.
Following completion, the house set the standard for postwar Hollywood glamour and embodied the pinnacle of casual living. It not only became home to Sinatra and his family, but also served as a sensational backdrop for celebrity gatherings, passionate romance, violent heartbreak, and the ever-important cocktail hour.
Twin Palms is a single-storey residential building, 4,500sq ft in size with 4 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms (aside: who needs 7 bathrooms with only 4 bedrooms?!), constructed around long horizontal lines framed with steel and aluminium, and with windows that stretch to the ground. The house has a flat and slightly sloping roof, and a piano shaped swimming pool. The house is named for the two palm trees that stand next to it. The house would become an early emblematic example of a style known as desert modernism.
Although the house was only accessible to Hollywood’s elite, the rest of the world caught a glimpse of it in Joan Crawford’s 1950 film The Damned Don’t Cry
. Sinatra apparently repaid a favor he owed by permitting his house to be used in the movie, though he was insistent that only shots of the exterior could be taken. The house received additional exposure when it was photographed by renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman.
Image: Wikimedia Commons by Carol M. Highsmith.