By Carter B. Horsley
One of the city's finest apartment buildings,
770 Park Avenue is a Georgian-style confection designed by Rosario
Candela, widely regarded as the foremost architect of grand apartment
buildings in the city.
Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas
Mellins devote considerable attention to Candela in their book,
"New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Two
World Wars," Rizzoli, 1987:
"Although Candela designed 775 Park Avenue,
as well as 47 Plaza Street in Brooklyn in 1928 on his own, he
frequently collaborated with other, more established firms. In
the late 1920's and early 1930's, Candela reached his peak in
four splendid apartments, one of which, 770 Park Avenue, he designed
on his own. Number 770 Park Avenue of 1929-30…was a seventeen-story
Georgian building, housing forty families in an H-shaped plan
that maximized light and air for each apartment on a deep site.
Candela created a complex of interlock of duplex and simplex apartments
so that no unit was denied a street orientation. Though the massing
was simple, the complex window rhythms suggesting the plan enlivened
the composition as did the terraced setbacks rising to a domed
View from the northeast
"The elegance of the building's massing
and detail was carried to the interior, which included Modern
Classical lobbies and hallways decorated by Mrs. George Tuckerman
Draper - who, as Dorothy Draper, would become one of the most
successful decorators of the 1930's and 1940's - as well as to
the design of the individual apartments, many of which were duplex
units" for example, most double-hung windows in the libraries
and living and dining rooms of apartments were brought to within
ten inches of the floor and protected by ornamental iron balcony
rails to suggest the typical condition of the piano nobile
of an elegant townhouse.
"Candela's smaller English Renaissance
apartment house at 778 Park Avenue at the northwest corner of
Seventy-third street, built in 1929-31, entered into a remarkably
coherent and lively dialogue with his earlier work at 770 Park
Avenue; the pair of towered buildings formed a monumental gateway
west toward Central Park."
Candela’s buildings, "it is said,
were the grandest of the decade that was itself the greatest,"
wrote Elizabeth Hawes in her book, "New York, New York, How
The Apartment House Transformed The Life Of The City (1869-1930)",
published by Henry Holt in 1993.
New zoning in 1929 permitted taller buildings
on Park Avenue and "Candela's buildings began to fly and
to suggest on the outside some of the extravagant behavior inside,"
Hawes wrote, adding that "The first to appear was 770 Park…which
rose to twelve stories and then broke up into tiers of setbacks
that were topped with a lanternlike penthouse tower. A year later,
778 created a similar silhouette on the northwest corner, and
together, the pair framed the street like important monuments.
The rooflines could be seen from far way, and they expressed the
essence of these buildings elegantly, for they looked like clusters
of houses or small European villages."
Hawes noted that the developers of 770 Park
Avenue, which has 39 apartments, described the apartments as "country
houses" and that the building's "irregular fenestration
animated the façade… adding rhythms that suggested
the life within."
Candela, she continued "had a respect
for privacy and an eye for significant detail. He was a complete
thinker. He added duplicate water connections to street mains
and multiple switches for ceiling lights as well as beautifully
turned staircases and separate wine cellars. More significantly,
he designed buildings from the inside out. He placed windows where
they received light, balanced a room, or allowed a graceful arrangement
of furniture…. Candela also invested unusual energy in the
entry hall. In a typical apartment, he made it a full-sized room
with rich views into the interior because he thought it was important
to greet a visitor with a full sense of a home…. Candela
liked puzzles. During the Depression, he took up cryptography,
and during World War II, he broke the Japanese code," Hawes
Born in Sicily, Candela came to the United
States in 1909 and graduated from the Columbia School of Architecture
in 1915. His other famous buildings include 834 and 960 Fifth
Avenue, 720, 740, 775 and 778 Park Avenue, and 19 East 72nd Street,
all considered among the most glamorous addresses in the city.