Everybody's going ga-ga over architect Robert A. M. Stern's 15 Central Park West, the enormous residential condo from the brothers Zeckendorf going up just north of Columbus Circle. What is it that's driving the whole town crazy? It's simple: CaCO3. What's that spell? LIMESTONE! It's been years since anyone dared to sheathe this much steel with so many thick slabs of calcium carbonates. Why limestone? Stern explains it thusly: "Limestone is far more beautiful than any other stone ... it reflects the light beautifully and even on a gray day it seems to glow." Last month, James Gardner of the NYSun said it's more than the stone—it's the Stern:
What transforms this project from elegant pastiche into Architecture with a capital "A" is the sensitivity of the detailing around the windows and the entrances. Above all, Mr. Stern has applied a skillful sense of proportion and scale, not only between the two buildings in the project, but in the handling of the angular, pillared summit of the taller building, and the zigguratted terraces in the smaller building.Ahh, craftsmanship!
Above, in all its bucolic glory, is an Indiana quarry very much like the one that gave us the limestone now going up at 15 Central Park West. How much limestone, you ask, would that be? Over 6,000 tons of Indiana rock. Seems like a lot, no? Well, consider this: Over three times as much were needed to build the Empire State Building. 207,000 cubic feet! 19 tons of buttery limestone were cut from the Indiana earth and shipped all the way to 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. When 40 Wall Street went up it was clad in limestone to a greater height than any other building in the world. Grand Central's outer walls incorporate 21,000 blocks of Bedford limestone, and atop the 42nd Street entrance the 60-foot wide statue of Minerva, Mercury and Hercules ("Transportation!") was cut from 1,500 tons of the same stone. But all those tons of limestone you see around NYC are just a drop in the bucket. Indiana is loaded with limestone. The whole saga is laid out in this handy article from The Journal of American History:
The hill country of southern Indiana is a long way from the cosmopolitan architectural centers such as Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., but there is a crucial connection between those very different places. What, for example, do such notable edifices as the Tribune Tower, Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Washington National Cathedral, to name only a few, have to do with Lawrence and Monroe counties in Indiana? The answer is rooted in history, for 340 million years ago, during the Mississippian period, Salem limestone (now called Indiana limestone) was deposited in a shallow sea over what is now Indiana. Today just sixty feet below ground, this stone belt is approximately two miles wide and thirty miles long, and it is considered to be the richest source of architectural limestone in the United States. 340 million years ago! It was worth the wait, wouldn't you say? And take a look at how well it's been cut and shaped and formed by all those skilled workers. Everybody might not be able to call 15 CPW home, but we can all enjoy how great it's going to look.