When the Bronx Zoo recently called lights out on the World of Darkness, I was disappointed. That’s not to say I was surprised: It’s news to nobody that the Bronx — like almost every other zoo, aquarium, museum, college, industry, company, household, individual — isn’t exactly flush right now, and something had to give. But though the loss of the nocturnal animals is a significant one, the exhibit’s closing was noteworthy for another reason. When it comes to zoo buildings, the World of Darkness is one of the most fascinating.

The World of Darkness was built in 1969. It has no windows, and from above looks like a giant letter C; the exterior is made up of tall, narrow gray stone panels of varying heights, which pitch inward. Unlike a lot of the other things you… More…

The populists are up in arms today about Wall Street moguls awarding themselves huge bonuses, but a little international economic collapse has never really stopped America’s super-rich from living it up. Take the Great Depression. Things were getting pretty rough for the masses: New York’s Central Park had become a shantytown known as “forgotten man’s gulch” — a haunted place to be, especially in the depths of winter. But the city’s super-rich, their wealth largely insulated from the crisis, valiantly rose above the tide of misery to celebrate ever-more incandescent and insensitive parties.

The keynote Manhattan event was the so-called “Fête Moderne,” a fancy dress ball hosted by the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects on January 26, 1931. As America’s unemployed froze on late-night food… More…