Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time & Life Building (1959)

New York, New York 10022

Like so many others, I am a HUGE fan of the weekly soap opera Mad Men. Yes, it's a soap opera, although perhaps the most existential one to ever hit the airwaves (and, no, Dark Shadows does not count). My enthusiasm is somewhat odd as I can count the hours per week that I watch television on one hand and with few exceptions have yet to get sucked into many of the serial dramas that have been all the rage ever since The Sopranos changed the vernacular of water cooler conversation in 1999. I will admit was attracted me most to the series was the style and portrayal of the era. The transition years from as the 1950s became the 1960s, and more specifically "pre-Beatles" America, has long been an interest of mine - so I guess you could say I was a target audience of sorts. But what has kept me interested since the series began 3 Summers ago (and, yes, I did watch the first season premier "live" when it happened), is double-whammy of excellent screen writing and a meticulous attention to detail about which I have found very little to complain about over the course of 3 seasons.

One of those wonderful little details was this season's first episode in-passing reveal that the new firm is renting office space in the Time & Life Building. The actual building, built in 1958 and ready for occupancy 1959, would have been fairly new in November 1964 - which is the time frame this season begins. The building was the first of several buildings designed for an expansion of Rockerfeller Center. The Time & Life building was designed by the Rockerfeller family architect, Wallace Harrison. Originally, Time Inc. occupied 21 of the 48 floors, so the notion of an upstart advertising agency renting one of the floors is very much in keeping of the reality of the historic building.

Fortunately, the glass, aluminum, and limestone building is fairly well-preserved - including the lobby area. One of the notable characteristics of the design (and perhaps what many New Yorkers would recognize it by) are the swirling designs on the sidewalks and in the lobby which, in true International Style, were patterned after the sidewalks bordering the beaches of Rio De Janiero's Copacabana Beach. Murals by Josef Albers and Fritz Glamer still grace the lobby walls.

But before you get too obsessive over a fictional historical dramatic soap opera, AMC has yet to reveal which floor Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are occupying.