I wanted to share a few things from a recent trip I took to Manhattan over the Christmas Break. New York City is one of the mecca's of U.S. architecture. When I lived in Princeton, New Jersey I visited NYC quite a bit because it was a short train ride from Princeton. Ever since I moved to Charleston (7 years ago) I have not been back to NYC, so this big apple trip was way overdue.
Before I get into the details of the trip, I wanted to talk about the importance of traveling for an architect. Architecture students are taught early on that learning from the past and studying existing buildings is an important step in the design process. In archispeak we would refer to that as ‘precedent research.’ Traveling is a great way to get inspiration from existing buildings and places. One of the consequences of this 'architectural upbringing' is that architects will often schedule vacations around visiting buildings and architecturally inspiring places. And I am no different as I am constantly searching for ideas to draw inspiration from. I'm really not sure if there are any original ideas left, and even if I was able to muster up an original idea, I am not sure if anyone would like it. Most clients want a building that looks a little bit like something they have seen before. This fact reinforces the motivation for designers to get out there and see the world.
Our NYC visit was a quick day trip. From northern Maryland, we drove to Trenton, New Jersey early in the morning and took the train into the city from there. After arriving in Penn Station, we hoofed it to Times Square where we purchased tickets to see the Broadway show ‘Jersey Boys.’ See that, it’s not all about architecture. I fit in one non-architecture related stop to prove to my wife that I’m not a complete dork and that I do still have some ‘swagger.’
Before the 2pm show, we made a quick visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim museum. I believe this building is a masterpiece and there are many things that an architect could learn from this building. But since this is a blog, and I want to keep it short and sweet, I will narrow it down to one thing. The best thing about the Guggenheim is that it is a compact museum and very easy to maneuver. Many museums suffer from being too large and spread out and I am often left unsatisfied to knowing that I may have missed something really cool. The spiraling circulation ramp of the Guggenheim makes viewing art in the museum very easy and pleasing. My strategy has always been to take the elevator to the top floor and then to work your way down, essentially letting gravity do most of the work. The only place that we were allowed to take photos in the museum was on the ground floor in the atrium. Yes, that is an architectural selfie.
Since my photography of the Guggenheim was lacking, I have provided something much better. A clip from the Clive Owen Movie, 'The International.' This is essentially a shoot-em-up movie that features an awesome action scene inside the Guggenheim. Warning, there is some gore involved in this scene and some buildings were harmed during the making. Enjoy.
After the Guggenheim, it was lunch then an Uber ride over to the August Wilson Theatre for Jersey Boys. I don’t have any comments about the architecture, but I will say that Frankie Valli (and the actor portraying him) had some pipes! I am definitely on a Four Seasons kick now.
After the show, it was 430 and we were loosing day light. The last place on our itinerary was the High Line park. If you have not visited the High Line you must make it a part of your next trip to the city. It was my first visit and it was amazing. The High Line is a park built on the structure of an old abandoned rail line that is elevated approximately 30’ above street level. Because it is elevated, the park allows for a continuous stroll for 1.45 miles between 34th and 12th street. The park was designed by the acclaimed architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and I have to say that they knocked it out of the park. Pun intended. It is truly a unique space and it provides an incredible perspective for viewing the city.
The park provides an awesome vantage point for viewing the city and across the Hudson. I also noticed that this part of town featured many buildings that were former warehouses, or new buildings made to look like warehouses. Warehouse architecture is definitely a trend right now. #warehousearchitecture
Say what you will about the work of Frank Gehry, but the IAC Headquarters building is awesome. It has the undulating sculptural quality typical of Gehry's work, while also exercising some restraint. It was much more impressive in person than the pictures I have seen.
One of the landmarks on the High Line is the Standard Hotel. This building is notable because it actually straddles the High Line. The architecture of the Standard is somewhat un-remarkable. Standard maybe? It's not bad, it's just not great.
The lobby of the Standard was surprising. It was surprising because it was so small for such a large building. But it made up for it in the detail.
Thats the end of our New York Trip.