New Rochelle, New York is presently experiencing a transformation of its downtown with numerous mid-rise and high-rise mixed use and multi-family buildings recently completed or under construction. We thought it would be an opportune moment to re-photograph one of Papp Architects’ earliest projects, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. NBW Tower, as it was originally known, (formally National Bank of Westchester, now occupied by Chase Bank) was a pioneer office tower building in New Rochelle. We recently interviewed our Founder, Laszlo Papp, FAIA, regarding his recollections of the project.
New Rochelle, today, is generating a great deal of development activity. What was the architectural and economic climate in New Rochelle prior to NBW?
L.P.: At the time the Bank decided to build its expanding computer offices in New Rochelle, the downtown could be characterized as dormant and under-developed. We expected this important building, at the City’s center, would provide a much needed boost to the city. It took a long time to get to where we find New Rochelle today.
The bas-relief sculpture incorporated into the street level façade is still an attractive feature of the building; do you recall any interesting interactions with the artist?
L.P.: In order to give visual importance to the building I wanted to provide visible, important artwork. This came from my Hungarian experience, where a percentage of the construction budget was devoted to art. In this case, we were able to effectively extend our budget by working with the artist (Paul Nonay) to generate a limited series of artistic forms which were then cast into the concrete panels and placed on the building by the Contractor.
Any other recollections or reflections?
L.P.: We had a respectful, harmonious relationship with the Bank and the Contractor throughout the design and construction process. As a result of the project’s success, I did not have to advertise or compete for future work; all work came by recommendation.