Stravitz, David 1940-
STRAVITZ, David 1940-
Designer and product developer, photographer, and author.
The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon,
Day by Day, introduction by Christopher Gray, Princeton Architectural Press (New York, NY), 2002.
A designer and product developer who holds more than 100 patents and 400 copyrights, David Stravitz is also a photography aficionado. In 1979 Stravitz met with a retiring photographer who was selling all of his equipment. As he decided on what he wanted to buy, Stravitz came across a box in a corner of the studio. Full of eight-by-ten negatives that were being scrapped for their silver content, Stravitz held a few up to the light and discovered that they were a chronicle of the construction of one of New York City's most famous architectural landmarks, the Chrysler Building. Stravitz bought the entire box of negatives and then held on to them for the next twenty years before assembling many of them in his book The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon, Day by Day.
Most of the photos that appear in The Chrysler Building were taken by Peyser & Patzig, a prominent commercial and industrial photographic firm of the time. The firm took the photos with a large-format camera like the ones used by Ansel Adams for many of his famous shots of national parks. "The detail is magnificent," Stravitz observed in the Library Journal. In fact, the photographs appear just as they were taken, cleaned up a bit for dust and fingerprints but without the use of computerized digital enhancement. In addition to providing a chronicle of the building's construction—starting with the destruction of the building that once stood on the lot—and interior design, the photographs also inadvertently capture the day-to-day life going on in the city's streets. The Chrysler Building, which many consider to be the epitome of the Art Deco architectural style, was completed in 1930. In addition to a preface and some brief descriptions of the photographs in the back pages, the book includes an introduction by New York Times architectural writer Christopher Gay.
Some reviewers, such as Carolyn Kuebler writing in the Library Journal, criticized the book's lack of text. "A more thorough text would have given the volume further value," said Kuebler. However, David Middleton noted in January online that "the book is mercifully free of pages and pages of uninterrupted text and the photographs are unencumbered by subtitles (except for those which appeared on the original negative). The reader gets to experience the erection of the building almost the way any New Yorker in 1929 would have."
For many reviewers, the highlight of the book was not the construction process itself or the first images of the building's marvelous Art Deco design. Rather, they found the glimpse of life in New York City eighty years ago amidst the Great Depression to be the collection's most intriguing aspect. Calling the "more 'architectural' photos …pretty dull," Rupert Loy-dell, writing in Tangents, noted that "it's the wider picture that intrigues." Martin Filler wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "Gritty street scenes straight out of Depression Era movies underscore the stark contrast between the dazzling new tower and the tough lives of those who pounded the pavements below."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of
The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon, Day by Day, p. 295.
Library Journal, September 1, 2002, p. 48; November 1, 2002, Carolyn Kuebler, review of The Chrysler Building, pp. 87-88.
New York Times Book Review, December 8, 2002, Martin Filler, review of The Chrysler Building, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, October 21, 2002, review of The Chrysler Building, p. 66.
January,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (January 29, 2003), David Middleton, review of The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon, Day by Day.
Tangents,http://www.tangents.co.uk/ (January 29, 2003), Rupert Loydell, review of The Chrysler Building. *