6 Modern Architectural Marvels in Upper Manhattan



Harlem and the rest of Upper Manhattan are best known for their brownstones and other pre-war architectural styles.


Still, notable examples of mid-century modernism can be found throughout.


As the wrecking ball has come for sites like the pavilion at Lasker Rink and Pool (see below), it's a good time to check in with some of TCU's favorite buildings from the '50s, '60s and '70s.


From south to north:

1. The Greater Refuge Temple

2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd and W 124th St

Architect: Costas Machlouzarides

Year: 1966


The Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem
The Greater Refuge Temple in Harlem.

An old movie house that became a church, this building was "scooped out" and turned into something resembling a Lincoln Center concert hall by architect Costas Machlouzarides. A year later he went on to design the Church of the Crucifixion in Harlem's Sugar Hill (see No. 5 below).



2. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building

163 W 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd

Architect: Ifill Johnson Hanchard

Year: 1973


6 Modern Architectural Marvels in Upper Manhattan
The cantilevered Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.

Designed in the Brutalist style by Black architecture firm Ifill Johnson Hanchard, this 19-story building juts out from a large public plaza in the center of Harlem in all its concrete-and-granite glory.


3. Manhattanville Houses

Broadway to Amsterdam Ave between W 129th and W 133rd Sts

Architect: William Lescaze

Year: 1954-1961


Manhattanville Houses, designed by Swiss architect William Lescaze
Manhattanville Houses, designed by acclaimed Swiss architect William Lescaze.

Designed by Swiss architect William Lescaze (of PSFS Building fame) between 1954 and 1961, the Manhattanville Houses introduced new ideas to public housing. Their Y-shape was a departure from the typical slab or cross shapes frequently seen in other projects. And Lescaze used colored panels not only to update the public's perception of the building, but to decorate the balconies on each floor that served as "backyard[s] in the sky."


4. Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church

58 W 135th St and Malcolm X Blvd

Architect: unknown

Year: 1960s


Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem

The colorful, modern facade—architect unknown—actually hides a much older structure. Built as the Lincoln Theater in 1915, it was once a destination for black vaudeville before turning into a movie theater and later a church. There has been plenty of talk about the house of worship being replaced with a residential building, but the church still stands for now.


5. The Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion

459 W 149th St and Convent Ave

Architect: Costas Machlouzarides

Year: 1967


The Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion in Harlem's Sugar Hill
The Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion in Harlem's Sugar Hill.

Reminiscent of Le Corbusier's church at Ronchamp, this building is a spectacular modern sight in the Sugar Hill historic district, an area better known for its beautiful old brownstones. Along with the Calhoun School on the Upper West Side, it is considered one of architect Costas Machlouzarides's signature works.


6. George Washington Bridge Bus Station

Fort Washington to Wadsworth Aves between W 166th and W 167th Sts

Architect: Pier Luigi Nervi

Year: 1963


The George Washington Bridge Bus Station was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi
The George Washington Bridge Bus Station was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi.

Designed in 1963 by Italian architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi (also responsible for the 1960 Olympic Stadium in Rome), this massive bus terminal is a visual jolt of soaring lines and bold geometric patterns made from reinforced concrete. The building on the west side of Broadway resembles some sort of futuristic steam liner, while other views are reminiscent of Eero Saarinen's swooping TWA terminal at JFK (which opened in 1962, one year earlier).



Gone but not forgotten:


Lasker Rink and Pool

W 110th Street and Lenox Ave

Architect: Fordyce & Hamby Associates

Year: 1966 (demolished 2021)


6 Modern Architectural Marvels in Upper Manhattan
The shaded pavilion at Lasker Rink and Pool in Harlem.

Built in the '60s, the concrete pavilion overlooking the old Lasker Rink and Pool in Central Park was demolished last year as work began on the new pool and rink facility called the Harlem Meer Center.

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