31 May 2006

Video of New York Trip

After reading the last entry about the New York trip if you have some energy left check out this video which was also shot during the same trip.

30 May 2006

New York, New York

This very long entry is dedicated to a week long trip to the ‘Citiest of Cities’ – New York City. I have to say that this past week in NYC has to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had.

There is something about this city that makes it almost as perfect as a city could be – the scale, the imagination, the filth, the pace, the density and the people – this place as got it all.

I was there as part of my annual Excursion part of our theory programme at the Berlage along with our Dutch Architecture Historian/ New York Fanatic/ Eccentric and Fast-paced/ Frog loving professor – Thomas Van Leuven. His passion for this city and life in general was completely inspiring and has made this trip very dear to me. Our mission in NYC was to trace the history of the city (actually only Manhattan) as a pedestrian; taking clues from the streets, the curbs, the sewage caps, the facades of the buildings and everything that presented itself to our curious eyes.

So the race to uncover the history and familiarize our self with this great city began literally a few minutes after we reached our hotel on Riverside Drive. Below I shall try to narrate a day by day account of the major architectural achievements of places in the city that we visited or pasted by.

Day 1 – (22nd May 2006)

The above images show us a few minutes after our arrival from Amsterdam. Thomas decided to start of our trip by introducing us to our hotels surroundings. So along the Hudson River inside the Riverside Park we walked north and later cut across towards the Central Park exploring relatively quiet neighbourhoods of mid town Manhattan. After which Thomas asked us to move on our own trying to stay up as late as possible so as to avoid any jetlag since we had a tight schedule to keep up for the coming few days.

Once on our own we formed small groups and moved around in the area, but a few of us more crazy people headed straight for the one place that everyone knows is as clich̩d New York than any other РTimes Square.

The strange thing for me about Times Square was the fact that it wasn’t as big as I had imagined. But nonetheless it is one of the best spots to feel the life and pace of the city.

Day 2 - (23rd May 2006)

The day started off early with a two hour long lazy cruise in the Circle line go around the Manhattan Island. It was a great way to understand the scale of this city to catch a few glimpses of buildings that we either already knew or would know in the next few days. A great way to orient your self to the city provided you have time to actually see it from the inside.

After that we explored some parts of Down Town by foot before heading to see one of the pioneering buildings of New York – The Wool Worth Building. When it was newly constructed it was the Tallest building in the world and much later the WTC was build on a plot almost adjoining this great building. The building is now going through a major revamp and is being converted into exclusive apartments.

Here’s an image of our whole group in the building’s lobby.

After an extensive tour of the building and viewing from its various terrace we headed towards SoHo and explored many streets along the way with Thomas pointing out to many interesting objects along the streets that helped us understand a past of the very streets we walked on.

Here are a few shots to sum up the day.

Day 3 - (24th May 2006)

The Next day took us to one of the most celebrated Monuments in the World – The Statue of Liberty.

Once past the absurd amount of Security we gained access to the statue itself, but since 9-11 all access beyond the plinth has been banned for all visitors because of guess what?

After that we headed to see Ellis Island and the great Immigration Hall. Besides the great view of Manhattan from here (shown below) the Hall itself is a marvellous space making this a must see at least for all architects.

Then back to Manhattan to discover a few things close to our hotel.

And last stop of the night was the new Apple store close to Central Park. Besides having heard that it’s a nice building I really needed to check my mail. (Free Internet can really boost your popularity)

Day 4 - (25th May 2006)

Day 4 was mostly spent in Museums – The Metropolitan Museum of Art (or simply the MET) and at the Cloisters way up north on Manhattan.

The MET has a very nice collection of Art work but not too many Artists that we generally here about (I mean not the ‘Star Artists’). The view of Central Park from its terrace is amazing – don’t miss it.

The Cloisters is a very different kind of Museum, it’s a branch of the MET and house an amazing collection of Medieval Art and Architecture from different parts of Europe. In fact most of the interesting parts of the Museum (the courtyards and colonnades) were bought to America by some enthusiastic collectors during the mid 19th Century. And with generous help from Rockefeller Jr. it was all acquired a put together as a Museum designed in a very interesting Medieval like style incorporating all the parts bought from Europe with modern Museum functions by Architect – Charles Collens.

Most people who have lived in the city or visit there haven’t seen this Museum and I feel it’s a very interesting building and if you’re an architect you must see how as early as the 1920’s the architect of this project has wonderfully handled the whole issue of heritage and conservation. (Read more about the Cloisters HERE)

And the last major stop of the day was a quick halt at the famous Columbia University. Check below the hideous piece of circulation (or better still pedestrian infrastructure) that Bernard Tschumi designed in the campus when he was dean of the Architecture department here.

Day 5 - (26th May 2006)

This day has to be the biggest architecture marathon of the trip.

Rem Koolhaas in his book “Delirious New York” has a chapter titled ‘How Perfect Perfection Can Be’ dedicated to the building we went to see on Day 5: The Rockefeller Centre. And believe me when you understand the project – its complexity, its response to this great city and its Utopian aim and achievement – you can’t but agree more with Koolhaas.

The Project itself takes over a few blocks of the Manhattan grid and makes a sort of city within the city, but I have to face it’s probably the only project I’ve seen any where that does this in a genuine way without any tall claims or pretentiousness.

The height of the main tower and it’s location in Mid Town gives amazing views from its roof top aka ‘The Top of The Rock’. Check out Central Park towards the North;

and the tall towers towards the South all piercing the sky. (Check out the Empire State building reaching beyond the clouds in the centre of the below snap).

After a good couple of hours we beheaded to see in my opinion the most beautiful skyscraper in the world – The Chrysler Building.

She (and this one is a she for sure) has the most amazing roof and a great story to go along with it – read this and more about the buildings history – in the links section of this Wiki

Next stop yet another famous New York eye catcher architecture – The Grand Central Station and its great hall. Sadly though the sun wasn’t out and all most of the day making it impossible for me to get one of those cliché images of the hall with the sun rays shining through.

When in the station don’t miss the wonderful food court in the basement and also check out the cool Guastavino Tiles on the roof and structure inside and just outside the Oyster Bar and Restaurant. (By the way they serve the best clamp chowder I have had in my life – try it, it’s awesome).

The rest of the day had more great pieces of architecture in store for us.

The United Nations building – Though I really like the slab and its look Super Studio look I have to say that the main lobby look on more real than the set made for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The space is all wrong – proportions, material, scale and what’s with that horrible roof?
Nonetheless an important building for any New York visitor to see.

The Seagram building (below) by the master architect Mies himself. It’s difficult to spot this building till you see the plaza in front of it cause of the many many look alikes that can be found near it.

I have to say that I love this building.

Next stop the Prada store by yet another Starchitect – Rem Koolhaas. Though it is only an interior design job you could classify it as an interior architecture project. This project was done as a collaborative between his office OMA and his research think tank AMO (that was helping in the branding and identity building for “Mrs. Prada’s” designs).

We had one of “Mrs. Prada’s” faithful girls show us the outlet and the concept behind the design of this nice exhibition and retail space.

And the last stop of the day was the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This has to be the Museum with the best collection of Art work anywhere. This great museum houses some of the most important works of Modern Art.

Walking through this Museum was like taking an art history class. (Pity I was thrown out before I could take a glimpse and quiet a bit of the Museum). Don’t forget that most Museums in New York allow free late entries on one day of the week, but as I found out it doesn’t leave enough time for you to see much ;).

Day 6 - (27th May 2006)

First stop of the day was the American Museum of Natural History. They have some really great Diorama’s depicting wildlife from various habitats from around the world.

Truly yet another MUST see in the city for Nature freaks like myself.

Then we walked across the street to take a stroll in the what may be the most famous park in the world – Central Park.

Some spots in the park have been shown in so many Movies and Sitcoms that it felt like I’ve been there before. In the bottom left above check out the memorial made to John Lennon very close to where he used to live and eventually got shot. (Imagine all the people … living life in peace……)

Last stop of the day was the old Meat packing district of Manhattan, however today it no longer serves as a Meat Packing district and has now transformed into a district full of trendy bars and restaurants.

Day 7 - (28th May 2006)

Day 7 was very easy going, not much stress of running around since a lot of people wanted to make the most of the great shopping the city so the only important sight of the day was the Brooklyn Bridge.

I couldn't resist getting thee snaps of myself (below) clicked as homage to one of Bollywood's Greatest Sad (sad as in sad and horrible) Movie in recent times. I have to admit besides being Sad and having Shah Rukh Khan as lead I love the movie, so here's to "Kal Ho Na Ho".

(You can see the title song of the movie HERE)

As I said it was a lazy day and soaked in the sun and enjoyed being in New York. Here’s a few snaps from the rest of the day.

We even managed to seek in a small Picnic at Central Park.

Day 8 - (
29th May 2006)

And sadly it came – the end of a great week in this great city. But there were a few things to finish doing before I left back to Europe.

Seeing the Permanent Mission of India to the UN by my es-boss Charles Correa was one of them. I have to say this is one of my favourite projects by him and I think it stands out as a very nice piece of Architecture even in this city.

And last but not the least I had to catch up with some good old friends from the other side of the world (from my College days in Mumbai and my school days in Dubai).

One thing about New York that made me completely fall in love with the city is it’s resemblance to Mumbai - the pace, the swamps of people and Yes! the trash.

(It was great to meet you gals, sorry I couldn't spend more time with you. Hope to see you people here in the Netherlands sooner or later).

(Arasu – as great as ever, keep it going man. Hope to catch you here in the Netherlands too).

And sadly my last pic from New York (or should I say my last pic for now).

Hopefully I’ll be back soon.

19 May 2006

Practicing Tokyo @ Ypenburg (Netherlands)

Starting the 15th of the month till today we had a Master class (Intense Workshop) with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto (Principle of Atelier Bow-Wow, Tokyo and professor at the Tokyo University of Technology).

The studio explored what using Japanese Building regulations could generate in a generic Dutch Suburb. The site chosen was Ypenburg a thematically developed suburb in the outskirts of The Hague.

Besides using Japanese Regulations the studios basic aim was to triple the density of Ypenburg. We relied strongly on Tsukamoto’s own practise and his approach towards similar constraints in Tokyo.

found the format of the studio and it’s functioning extremely interesting, with quiet a few new faces from other schools and countries joining us for this. The intensity was amazing; it still is surprising to me the quantity of work that was produced and last but not the least I got to meet some great people, looking forward to the next Master class.

15 May 2006

Weekend in London

Just back from a quick trip to London. It’s great to have old friends here – it’s sort of like going home. (Above photos with KRVIA people in London)

So as soon as I met Neha we tried going to AA bookshop to pick up some books but the store was closed so we sneaked in a few minutes at the British Museum. Actually we had only time to appreciate Fosters amazing roof for the Great Hall.

After that I decided to go check out some new stuff in the city, and high on my list since a while was to see the whole Eastern Docklands development and all the new stations in the area (especially in light of the studio I am currently doing at the Berlage).

Below is the main station at Canary Wharf yet again designed by Norman Foster (in sort of his usual aesthetic). The station is mainly about the main entrance hall the picture on the right but I have to say that the materials and the light quality is very nice, unlike most Dutch architects Foster’s architecture doesn’t question what one already knows it merely gives it a clean corporate look, and as far as he doesn’t claim that it does more I guess I like it – Brutally efficient and pleasing.

Over the past twenty years the London Docklands (as this area is popularly known as) with Canary Wharf in the centre has developed into one of Europe's biggest clusters of skyscrapers and direct challenge to the financial dominance of the City of London.

However, along the way they made a few blunders in this huge project the most visible one being the Millennium Dome. Today is almost no better than a nice background for movie, ads and touristy postcards. So here’s one to that spirit.

After the Docklands, I headed for Holloway Road to check out the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre designed by the sensationalist architect Daniel Libeskind. He designed this building sort of fresh from his heroics of the Jewish Museum, Berlin and this building clearly shows a hangover. Read what he has to say about it himself on his website - http://www.daniel-libeskind.com/projects/pro.html?ID=44

The Next day besides going to see the Baishakhi Mela (Bangla New Year Festival) at Brick Lane (read more about it here - http://www.visitbricklane.com/baishakimela/index.php); I went to see the London Aquarium near the Thames. Though I was a bit disappointed at the collection and the general layout of the spaces I have to say that the big shark tank was quiet nice. Probably just making it worth one visit.

And lastly I saw yet another piece of Architecture by Norman Foster. This time an airport, the Stansted airport and again I would have to use the same words as in the Canary Wharf station to explain this project – Efficient, simple and pleasing. (Check more about this and previous mentioned projects on his website - http://www.fosterandpartners.com/)

09 May 2006

Mid Term Review

After a week of frustrating days and sleepless night. We just managed to finish enough work to have a mid term review.

I have to admit that the work (at least of my group) could, in fact should have been better.

The studio for some reason doesn’t have a focus; the problem at hand - i.e. designing the high speed train station at South Axis, Amsterdam (Zuidas as they like to call it here) – has more to it than just a well designed station. And I constantly feel a disbelief in most students (including myself) in the idea that an architect can solve the problems of the strange master plan and weird political situation of this ‘New City Centre’. I guess the below picture shows exactly that same worry on the faces of most Jury members.

But to be fare to the tutors I have to say that it is not an easy problem to digest let alone to find a solution too. And I have to admit its nice to have a room full of some of the top architects in Europe trying to help us figure this one out.

In the picture above from left to right in front row – Vedran Mimica (Asst. Dean Berlage), Sylvia Lavin (American Architectural Critic and Greg Lynn’s wife), Ben Van Berkel (Namesake Tutor and Director of UN studio), Alejandro Zaera Polo (Dean Berlage and Director FOA), Jaap (Project Leader Zuidas station OveArup London) and I don’t remember the lady in front. In the second row Caroline Bos (Art Historian UN Studio), Olaf Gipser (Main Studio Tutor), official from Asmterdam, Caroline (Architect with OveArup London).

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