Vatican in New York: Townhouse with glass-tower appeal
The Vatican's Mission to the United Nations at 25 E. 39th St. has always struck us a rather curious bit of architecture. A townhouse reclad in a glass-and-steel sheath that appears more at home on a 60-story skyscraper somewhere on Park Avenue. Flagpoles and an ominous gate complete the corporate look. The effect is strange: It looks like somebody took an office tower and shrank it to six stories.
We can't blame the Vatican for this. The townhouse was turned into into a tiny tower in 1968, and a finance firm, Metalurg, sold the building to the Vatican in 1994 -- just in time for Pope John Paul II's 1995 visit here -- for a cool $3 million, a steal by 2008 standards.
The idea to convert an 1870 townhouse into a tiny tower in the International Style is odd, and very much a product of 1960s-style urban planning.