Friday, September 3, 2010

Wings Over Rochester, NY

I lived in the Albany, New York area for several years and got to know the eastern half of Upstate pretty well. Because of my population forecasting job and the fact that I had a cousin living nearby, I occasionally ventured to Rochester and other parts of western New York.

Downtown Rochester, aside from the Genesee River cutting through it, always seemed standard-issue to me. Aside from one building.

That building, designed by Ralph T. Walker and completed in 1930, was originally home to the Genesee Valley Trust Company.

What distinguished it were huge, Moderne-Deco wings that capped the design.

In the top photo, those wings don't seem particularly out of proportion. But both in person and in memory they strike me as being huge. And a little odd, even though I'm a fan of Art Deco.

I find it hard to put a finger on the problem. The best explanation I can come up with is that, compared to the wings and supporting tower, the rest of the building is a little too plain. It seems to need more Deco decoration -- perhaps in the way of spandrels linking the windows vertically and more sculptural-relief elements on the part of the building below where the tower sits (not necessarily on the "back part" on the left of the top photo). In other words, transition elements are needed.

In any case, if you happen to travel to Rochester and are anywhere near downtown, take a short detour and give it a look.

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