The fascinating and dramatic stories behind some of the grandest designs never built.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain - Construction of Rockefeller Center - Netflix
The construction of New York City's Rockefeller Center complex was conceived as an urban renewal project, spearheaded by John D. Rockefeller Jr., to help revitalize Midtown Manhattan. Rockefeller Center is located on one of Columbia University's former campuses and is bounded by Fifth Avenue to the east, Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to the west, 48th Street to the south, and 51st Street to the north. The center occupies 22 acres (8.9 ha) in total, with some 17 million square feet (1.6×10^6 m2) of office space. Columbia University had acquired the site in the early 19th century, but had moved to Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan in the early 1900s. By the 1920s, Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan was a prime site for development. Around that time, the Metropolitan Opera (Met) was looking for a new site for its opera house; and their architect, Benjamin Wistar Morris, decided on the former Columbia site. Rockefeller eventually became involved in the project and, in 1928, leased the Columbia site for 87 years. Rockefeller's lease excluded land along the east side of Sixth Avenue, to the west of the Rockefeller property, as well as at the site's southeast corner. Rockefeller hired Todd, Robertson and Todd as design consultants and selected Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray; Hood, Godley & Fouilhoux; and Reinhard & Hofmeister as architects for the new opera complex. However, the Met was unsure about moving to the new complex, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 put an end to the plans. Rockefeller instead entered into negotiations with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to create a new mass-media complex on the site. A new plan was released in January 1930, and an update to the plan was presented after Rockefeller obtained a lease for the land along Sixth Avenue. Revisions continued until March 1931, when the current site-design was unveiled. A late change to the proposal included a complex of internationally themed structures along Fifth Avenue. All structures in the original complex were designed in the Art Deco architectural style. Excavation of the site started in April 1931, and construction of the first buildings began that September. The first of the complex's edifices was opened in September 1932, and most of the complex was completed by 1935. The final three buildings in the original complex were built between 1936 and 1940, although Rockefeller Center was officially completed by November 2, 1939. The construction project employed over 40,000 people and was considered the largest private construction project at the time. It had cost the equivalent of $1.4 billion in 2016 dollars to construct. Since then, there have been several modifications to the complex. An additional building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza was constructed in 1947, while another at 600 Fifth Avenue was constructed in 1952. Four towers were built along the west side of Sixth Avenue in the 1960s and 1970s, which was the most recent expansion of Rockefeller Center. One structure in the original complex, the Center Theatre, was demolished in 1954.
Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain - Theaters - Netflix
Out of the four theaters included in plan H-1, of March 1930, the city only approved the construction of two; and thus, only these two theaters were constructed. Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, a successful theater operator who was renowned for his dominance of the city's theater industry, joined the center's advisory board in 1930. He offered to build two theaters: a large, vaudeville “International Music Hall”, on the northernmost block, with more than 6,200 seats; and the smaller, 3,500-seat “RKO Roxy” movie theater on the southernmost block. The idea for these theaters was inspired by Roxy's failed expansion of the 5,920-seat Roxy Theatre on 50th Street, one-and-a-half blocks away. Roxy also envisioned an elevated promenade between the two theaters, but this was never published in any of the official blueprints. Meanwhile, proposals for a Metropolitan Opera House on the site persisted. Official plans for a facility to the east of the RKO Roxy were filed in April 1932; the projected 4,042-seat opera facility would contain features such as a second-floor esplanade extending across 50th Street. However, the Met was unable to fund such a move, so the proposed new opera house was relegated to tentative status. In September 1931, a group of NBC managers and architects toured Europe to find performers and look at theater designs. However, the group did not find any significant architectural details that they could use in the Radio City theaters. In any case, Roxy's friend Peter B. Clark turned out to have much more innovative designs for the proposed theaters than the Europeans did. The Music Hall was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in the Art Deco style. Eugene Schoen was selected to design the RKO Roxy.
Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain - References - Netflix