20 Fifth Avenue

Designed by Boak & Paris, 20 Fifth Avenue is a transitional work for the district, completed in 1939 when few large-scale luxury dwellings were being constructed in the city.  Its architecture represents an intriguing inter-period mix of jazz-era historicism and the post-war functionalism to come.

Details are heavily Neo-Classical, but applied to a surprisingly dynamic and asymmetrical series of bays suggestive of the sculptural turn later modern architecture would take.  Seen from below, the structure gives its corner a jolt of cinematic drama.

Boak & Paris is one of New York’s little-known but distinguished architectural firms; as noted by historian Christopher Gray: “Together, the architects did two remarkable things: they survived and even prospered during the 1930’s, when more established architects could not, and they developed an elegant model for the urbane but down-sized apartment building in Depression-era.”

Russell M. Boak and his partner, Hyman F. Paris, parted ways in 1942.  Paris evidently retired, but Boak formed a new partnership with Thomas O Raad and the new firm continued to produce solidly designed and elegant buildings – including the Brevoort at 11 Fifth Avenue, directly across the street.

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