Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dear Huguette,

I love your homes.

The tragic story of Huguette Clark and the fate of her Gilded Age fortune, made by her father Senator William Clark in the late 19th century, is one of the most fascinating I've heard in a long time. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her life is the built environment in which she lived, or purchased but never occupied. Recently  one of my favorite blogs, Mansions of the Gilded Age, an amazing repository of information and links about fabulous mansions, did a post on Senator William Clark's Fifth Avenue mansion with links to floor plans and various photographs.

The Clark Mansion circa 1915, a decade after its construction.

The cavernous dining room...

The famous Salon Dore, originally part of the 1768 renovations of the Hotel Clermont in Paris, then enlarged by William Clark for this residence, and currently installed in the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. For more information on the history of this fascinating room follow this link that Mansions of the Gilded Age provided here.

Located above the entrance hall on the second floor of the mansion, the petite salon is my favorite room. I love the scale of the room and its elliptical shape. All I want is to rebuild this room and put a huge Jeff Koons fuschia balloon animal statue in the middle of the space and recreate his Versailles exhibition... or paint it black and gold. 

A French Empire inspired room... I always love the severity and austerity of the Empire style, but especially in this case since it provides such a dramatic foil to the rest of the house...

Love this bronze statue in the staircase...

I'm completely obsessed with this staircase... all I can imagine is Lady Gaga re-recording her Paparazzi music video in this space...
right? It would be so amazing... 
especially if she also used the Salon Dore for this next scene...
I doubt Huguette or Senator Clark would approve...
  however this is my sybaritic fantasy.

The mansion as seen from Central Park during its demolition in 1925 when all of the preceding photographs were taken.
All photographs of the mansion are courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York; see all 41 of them here.
The home was demolished in 1925 and replaced by a decadent co-op apartment building. Huguette and her mother later moved into another 5th Avenue apartment which she retained until her death. The apartment covered two floors and 40 something rooms. In addition to this property, Huguette and her mother also owned a Santa Barbara mansion known as Bellosguardo, which they built in the early 1930s following the demolition of the existing Italian/Mediterranean Revival structure built in the early 1900s.

An aerial view of Bellosgaurdo as it appears today...
The home was designed by Reginald Johnson in the early 1930s for Huguette and her mother.

The original Bellosgaurdo as built by Francis Wilson for the prominent Graham family in 1904. William Clark bought the home in 1923, and following his death, Mrs. Clark had the house demolished and rebuilt.

1920s photographs of the gardens and terraces of Bellosgaurdos.
Photos of the garden come from here.
For more information on the history of Bellosgaurdos read this article available here.

Huguette also purchased a New Canaan mansion known as Le Beau Chateau in 1952. The home was built in the late 1930s for a US senator and his wife. Huguette renovated the house and added a wing to it, but never occupied it or moved any furniture into it. The home still stands empty and is for sale for $24 million.

The front facade of the chateau...

I haven't dealt with the other eccentricities of Huguette's life other than that of her built environment... If you're interested please click here for the Mansions of the Gilded Age post and superior research.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saint Charles Church, Vienna

I've studied this amazing building over the last four years in various art history and architectural history classes. It's a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and I was extremely disappointed when we walked into the building and realized it was virtually covered in scaffolding. After walking around a bit we discovered you could take an elevator to a platform at the base of the dome and view the fresco painted on the dome up close. 

This sunburst of marble, alabaster, and gilt elements was exceptionally beautiful. 

The elevator took us up to the base of the dome and then we realized you could walk up to the cupola via a set of narrow stairs built of scaffolding. Only ten people could be on the stairs at once, but there was no actual way to tell how many people were walking up or down the stairs. As we reached the top and could look out at the amazing views, you could feel the plywood rocking back and forth as other people made their way up, needless to say we quickly turned around and walked back down. 

The ceiling of the cupola...
Being able to experience this building in this unique way was priceless... its amazing to think that the only other people that were able to see it in this way were the people who first built it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Vienna Secession Building

This was definitely something I was dying to see and it did not disappoint. Gustav Klimt's 1902 Beethoven frieze is located in the basement of this structure. It was purchased by a private collector after its exhibition and later moved to this fitting location. It was one of the most spiritual works of art I have ever seen... it literally moved me to tears.

The Secession Building was almost completely destroyed in World War II and has since been rebuilt and restored.

Gilt snakes biting circles form a frieze around the building... my favorite design element used on the exterior of the structure.

Mosaic urns supported by four bronze turtles flank the entrance.

Monday, May 23, 2011


After leaving our great little hotel in Vienna and headed towards the Hofburg Palace, we passed these fantastic iron doors. 

An octopus?

Could I ask for more?
I don't think so.


Our favorite little trendy restaurant in Budapest... unfortunately we discovered it our last evening...

Right at the base of Buda hill and steps away from the Miklos staircase, this little restaurant is fantastic. White Stark chairs, fantastic chandeliers, and flocked wallpaper with silhouettes make this hip little restaurant completely fabulous. The wine selection is fantastic, and the food is even better. They are currently working on opening a gourmet grocery in the basement of the restaurant with delicacies from all over Europe. Definitely not to be missed!

Visit them here:

My favorite site in Budapest...

Within our first day in Budapest, I came across my favorite architectural site in the city. I say site because it is not necessarily a building, but a complex of buildings that make up an elaborate stairway which leads to the top of the hill in Buda. The entire complex is completely rundown and highly deteriorated, which only makes it more appealing. 
This masterpiece of mid-19th century eclecticism was designed by Ybl Miklos. He was one of the most influential architects during this time period in Europe, especially Hungary, and designed the opera house in Budapest as well. His later buildings are marked by an interest in the revival of the Italian Renaissance, such as this complex.

Note how virtually the entire right side of the arch is missing its applied decoration revealing its brick and mortar construction.

This is the central component of the staircase.

The complex from the banks of the Danube in Pest.

A view of the complex from the main bridge spanning the Danube in Budapest.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Gellert Baths

As reluctant as I was, I am so glad I went to the baths at the Gellert Hotel and Spa while in Budapest. Not only were the mineral waters fantastic, but the architecture and embellishments in the spa were amazing. The entire space, which consisted of a large vaulted hallway with a stained glass ceiling that led to the baths and pools, was covered in tiles and mosaics. Unfortunately, I could only take a few photographs in the public areas of the baths. The men's bath was spectacular; two pools separated by a central walkway each had glazed terra-cotta fountains.

 The central hall of the spa and the rotunda. 

This ceiling is one of the most spectacular design elements of the entire spa. I especially love the exposed light bulbs.

The entrance area of the spa. I especially love the mosaics around the door frames in this space... would love to have it replicated in a bathroom eventually...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Crumbling Buildings

What I loved most about Budapest was it's authenticity. Although some areas seem somewhat touristy, the majority of the city feels gritty, beautiful and realistic. Many 19th century buildings lining the avenues remain not just un-restored, but in a state of extreme deterioration. Exteriors of these structures, which appear to be palatial stone mansions, have large expanses of decorative stucco missing, revealing their more modest construction method of brick and mortar.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Budapest & Vienna

Well, I'm finally back after ten very short days in Budapest and Vienna. I'll be doing a few posts on my favorite buildings, sights, and restaurants throughout these two amazing cities. 

One of my favorite architectural details, a domed ceiling from the exterior of the Budapest Opera House. I love the simplicity of the black, white, and gold. 

Much more to come!