“I want you to have this thing, you’ll do something fun with it.”
So far I’ve disappointed my friend Jo, who got this relic when she designed and ran the controversial and celebrated restoration of the Chrysler building lobby in 1978. I haven’t done much beyond ogling and photographing this sconce, one of the original elevator indicators in the lobby. Maybe one day I’ll be inspired to build something recalling its opalescent glass or art deco shape. Josephine Sokolski and her firm JCS Associates won the honor of peeling back the layers of cost cutting and tacky additions when a new owner took control of the landmarked office tower. She also won the booby prize of arguing with the NYC landmarks commission and the architectural press for nearly two years. Ultimately she prevailed and the city and Josephine came out the better for it.
A few days ago, she made us smoothies for lunch and let me into her archives (Sokolski closed the doors of her firm in 2006 after a 40+ year career) for a look at some of the details, reproduced here in blur-o-vision phone-tographics.
Have you been lately?
I met Josephine for the first time when she walked out of the elevator into my antique shop (on the 2nd floor) holding a lit cigarette. She asked for an ashtray and observed “You’re in a “____” building, naming my loathsome landlord who was a large midtown property owner. His dad sent him to Dale Carnegie, but he flunked out.” Love.
Years later I saw this piece in the Times in which she talks about the joys of informal living on Park Avenue and the benefits of flecked black and white floors.