Interlude: NYC Architecture

I was in New York City recently for work, and took some time to explore some of the city’s incredible architecture and museums.  I love the fact that NYC is so close to Boston – a visit is easy, and every visit feels like a new and thrilling adventure.  This trip was no exception, and I’ve tried to capture some of that excitement in the videos below.

Design with the Other 90: Cities

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is one of my absolute favorites, and every time I’m in New York I try to visit.  They’re in the midst of a renovation right now, so have put on an exhibit at the UN around the growing number of the world’s population living in cities, and how design might support this growth. “Design with the Other 90: Cities” is “the second in a series of themed exhibitions that demonstrate how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, saving lives… focused on design solutions that [address] the most basic needs of the 90% of the world’s population not traditionally served by professional designers.”  The principle of using design as a catalyst to improve the living conditions of the majority of the world’s population, through interventions that are often incredibly simple and elegant, was inspiring.  The video shows some highlights of the exhibit, as well as highlights of the tour of the United Nations that followed.

Some notes about the video:

  • The first image is from the Roche-Dinkeloo Ford Foundation building.  It’s a lovely interior garden surrounded by the exposed cor-ten steel structure.  Quite a wonderful and calming place just a block from 1st Ave and FDR Drive.
  • The second image is of Tudor City Place, a wonderful hidden gem of a block just opposite the UN. More on how it came to exist can be found on Wikipedia:
  • Although it’s starting to show it’s age, the UN has some incredible detail, from the sculptural doors, to the wonderful old bar on the second level, and the beautiful marble facade.
  • The first project shown from the exhibit is very exciting – a bike and cart made from the same kit of parts and scrap material.  This could be used anywhere, and is truly amazing.
  • The next slide shows a housing prototype that suggests leaving an empty frame at the outset.  This frame allows local residents to repurpose leftover materials to build infill structures, doubling the square footage for a very low cost.
  • The exhibit was filled with more very interesting projects, and I would encourage you to read further on them here:

Walking tour of NYC Architecture

Despite a love of Frank Lloyd Wright throughout my study of architecture, I had never been to the Guggenheim.  So on the second day of my NYC visit, I made sure to rectify that as part of a long walking tour of some of the iconic architecture of the city.

Starting up Lexington Avenue from my hotel, I passed Baruch College’s Newman Vertical Campus, an award winning design by Kohn Pederson Fox.  Then further north I stopped in to see the recently restored mural in the lobby of the Chrysler Building.

Finally I arrived at the Guggenheim, and made a full tour of the museum.  Despite the fact that it’s built essentially as a ramp around a giant rotunda, it’s filled with subtleties.  The Richard Meier reading room is a very delicate space inserted off the main ramp, and definitely respectful of Wright’s designs for the museum.  The galleries on each level make a nice interplay with the circular motion of the ramp, causing you to have to look behind to see into each new gallery.  Some were empty, but some were filled with nice surprises: art, or a path to an even larger gallery.  This sense of surprise and delight really made the entire trip to the top more exciting than it would have been otherwise.  The cafe is a beautiful space, and in warmer weather it must be a real treat to sit on the balcony.  And the way the two cylinders merge in the rotunda provides a wonderful reference point on each level as you climb to the top.

After the Guggenheim, I walked across Central Park to visit the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Museum of Natural History.  It’s a beautiful glass box that contains the spherical Hayden Planetarium, and surrounding the planetarium several levels of exhibits, including a ramp that details the geological history of the earth as you climb up and back through time, and a scaled replica of the planets of the solar system. Since my childhood, I’ve had a great love for science museums, and this one is no exception.  Sadly, much of the main museum was under construction, which made it hard to explore.  But all of the great exhibits from my visit in the 70’s remain intact.

All in all, a wonderful, nostalgic, and inspiring visit to New York City, made so thanks to the wonderful architecture and museums, and visits with some great friends.

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