Most of us have known the agony of trying to find an original and interesting costume for a fancy dress party. The hours wasted in panicky brain racking, the abortive forays online, the misguided experimentation with papier-mâché before ultimately one throws down the superglue in disgust and dons the sexy cat outfit after all. Perhaps that sense of dread is the reason behind our latest Love of the week. Taken at the 1931 Beaux-Arts Ball, it is an effortless demonstration of how to nail a dress code, depicting seven architects dressed as their buildings, as loved by Laura Havlin.
The inspiration for New York's Beaux-Arts Ball came from the annual costume ball given at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A night of surreal excess and extravagant costumes, students created elaborate allegorical floats, featuring fabulously designed nudity, louche antics, cross-dressing and high style, which swirled around the room before being assessed by a panel of judges. E. Berry Wall wrote, "It is a riot, a revival of paganism, known elsewhere only in Italy. It is also, in its way, a hymn to beauty, a living explosion of the senses and the emotions.” A truly joyful celebration of high art and hedonism, the concept took hold across the Atlantic, with many American architecture schools holding their own versions. This picture from the New York party in 1931 perhaps marks the high point of costume creativity, starring Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ely Jacques Khan as the Squibb Building, Ralph Walker as the Wall Street Building, Arthur J. Arwine as a low pressure heating boiler, A. Stewart as the Fuller Building and Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York.
So, as Halloween looms and costume parties beckon, we ask Havlin to name her wearable building of choice.
Why did you love this picture?
It's architects having a laugh, clearly proud of their work. They get loads of practice at making tiny versions of their buildings in their jobs all the time (I imagine), so of course they were going to be amazing at making costumes based on them.
Where would you keep it if you owned it?
I'd frame it and hang it on my living room wall.
What building would you come dressed as?
Well, I don't know if I'd be able to join in since I haven't designed any buildings, but perhaps Nicholas Hawksmoor's St. Anne's Church in Limehouse, East London. There is a pyramid in the grounds and nobody quite knows why it's there. Apparently, it was supposed to be part of the church and was in Hawksmoor's original drawings. If I had to wear it, I imagine its A-line shape would be quite flattering.
What is your favourite building in film/art?
Union Station in Los Angeles is beautiful with an art deco design, cool marble floors and luxurious large leather seats in the waiting area – it even has a flower garden. It's a pleasure to pass through and puts British railway stations to shame. The building is used in a lot of movies, most notably the courtroom scene in The Dark Knight Rises.
If you could design your own building, what would it be, and where would you place it?
Something space-ship-like in the Hollywood Hills.
Who is your favourite architect and why?
Frank Lloyd Wright, for creating so many houses that look like a pleasure to live in with their clean American aesthetic and huge windows, and for being a lovely man, creating this entire house with every detail made bespoke for this man in a wheelchair.
What are you looking forward to about October?
I'm looking forward to the screening of Gore Vidal's United States of Amnesia at the BFI London Film Festival on the 12th.
What was the last thing you bought?