The Flatiron Triangle & A bite of Eataly

At the triangle formed by 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue and Broadway, facing Madison Square Park and pointing directly at the Empire State Building, stands one of New York’s most iconic skyscrapers – the Flatiron Building.

Built in 1902, at 20 floors and 285 ft (approx. 87 m) it was not the first nor the tallest skyscraper in New York – but it was certainly the first triangular one. Actually, another floor was added in 1905 raising it to 21 floors and 307 ft (93 m) height. Which explains why in order to reach the top floor, one has to take a second lift from the 20th. But it doesn’t necessarily explain why the bottoms of the windows are chest-high making it impossible to enjoy the magnificent view unless standing up.

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Flatiron Building in early stage of construction, Fifth Avenue and Broadway, New York City. 1902.

Designed by architect Daniel Burnham from Chicago, with influences from the Beaux-Arts architecture (a late form of Neoclassicism where Greek and Roman models are combined with Renaissance forms) and built by George A. Fuller, a construction company also based in Chicago.

Its peculiar form and postcard-perfect structure has inspired countless artists, photographers, filmmakers and travellers like us who, camera on hand, hope to catch its geometrical magnificence from every possible angle.

Although it was named ”Flatiron” the building is not an isosceles triangle (a triangle with at least two equal sides) like a real flatiron for cloths, but a right triangle:

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Floorplan of one of the Flatiron building’s floors from a 1902 issue of architectural digest. Found in a very interesting article by R. Grigonis regarding history and myths around the Flatiron Building: http://www.interestingamerica.com/2011-01-03_Flatiron_Building_New_York_by_R_Grigonis.html

Depending on where one stands, it may look like a normal building or a thin, flat wall – like being in an IMAX theatre having an intriguing real-life 3D movie experience.

Looking at its curvy vertex, I was wondering what it would be like to work in one of the ”point” offices. Being a working space it is not open for viewing but I gather from different articles that, because the building is so narrow, most of the offices are flooded with light which helps create a pleasant working environment; but, on the other hand, its structure favours a number of atypical spaces which not only make it difficult to fit modern office furniture but also discourage casual contact between staff. And, oddly, the bathrooms alternate by floor – men’s rooms on even, women’s rooms on odd floors. Not the most user-friendly office building but only a small inconvenience considering that workers spend a big part of their day in one of New York’s – and indeed the world’s – most recognisable buildings!

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Flatiron Building today from same angle: Fifth Avenue and Broadway, New York City. 2014.

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The other reason why you should visit this part of Manhattan is just across the street and is called Eataly. The grandest and finest food emporium dedicated to Italian gastronomy, with more food shelves, stalls and gourmet restaurants than you would normally expect to find in a small Italian town, all brought together under one roof.

The variety and quality of products neatly displayed in stacks, refrigerators, on ice or pallets, spread over an indoor area of  50,000 ft² (4,600 m2), is so dizzying you’d be excused for forgetting what it was you came in for, in the first place!

Actually, Eataly is a chain with Chicago being the largest in the USA (at 63,000 ft² – 5,850 m2) and Rome accommodating its Megastore in a staggering 170,000 ft² (15,800 m2)-large abandoned Air Terminal of the Ostiense railway station. Considering the scale difference, why Rome would need an Italian food market larger than Piazza del Popolo escapes me, but these are the facts.

So bedazzled were we at Eataly that, after the first few rounds we decided to keep it simple and settled for a salad of the freshest seasonal vegetables and a crunchy bruscheta del giorno, at Le Verdure. But the real treat was a homemade, wonderfully creamy gelato (right next to the entrance on the 5th Avenue) with vanilla and salted caramel flavours, washed down with an Italian latte. Mouthwatering bliss!…

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The Flatiron Building,
175 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York

EATALY,
200 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Shared photo credits (Konstantinos & Lia)

New York, 3 June 2014

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