29 March 2009

New York, New York!

Aiiiiiiiii New York!! There surely is no city like this one. 


I was here last 2 years back with my school in Rotterdam and had spend a good week seeing almost everything there is to see here in terms of Architecture except for the Guggenheim Museum, or at least that's what I had thought. This time I was on my own and decided to - revisit some of the stuff I had already seen (things that had left a lasting impression on me), revisit some buildings that I had failed to appreciate/understand last time and of course visit some of the new stuff. 


Here's some photos of the buildings/spaces that I would classify as the 'classics' of New York:

Rockefeller Centre 

The building that Rem Koolhaas explains as the epitome of the concept of Manahattanization. This clearly is the masterpiece of New York's experiment with radical Architecture.

Chrysler building

The most graceful sky-scraper ever built, since its creation many towers around the world have been built with this as their model but very few of them if any can claim such beauty.   

Empire State building

In many ways this building will always be the tallest building ever built, it may not be in actual size but for sure in shear ambition and presence. 

The tallest building in the world today is now being built in Dubai - the Burj Dubai - though quiet beautiful in its own right, it lacks the dignity of the Empire State. In other words King Kong would have long been forgotten if it wasn't for him deciding to climb this building! 

Grand Central Station

Once you walked thru the main hall of this station as the sun shines thru you'll know why this one is on my list. And by the way the clam chowder at the Oyster Bar (below the main hall) was as great as I remembered : )

The Lever House

Last time around I was not aware of when this great idea was built and ignored its extreme significance to the world of 'Corporate Architecture', partly because it is opposite the much celebrated Seagram building by Mies Van Der Rohe.

Central Park

And last but not the least on the list of Classics is 'Central Park', there is no New York without this park. If New York is synonym of Urban, Central Park is its antonym. This park completes this great city. 

Now here's some of the stuff I had missed or was too early for last time:


Guggenheim Museum

I've never been a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and less so of the Guggenheim brand of Museums,

but standing half way up the famous ramp - looking down at the people staring up into the great central space, watching their eyes following the motion of the continuous gallery space and everyone enjoying the great artwork on display - 

I realized just why this building, its architect and the Guggenheim foundation have changed the way we perceive and make museums. I strongly believe that the only way to understand architecture is in flesh - not thru models or drawings or videos or photos - and this building has undoubtedly reiterated that fact.

Storefront for Art and Architecture

This is by far the smallest project I am going to talk about in this blog entry. But like most other projects mentioned here its the idea behind it that's quiet impressive.

In this tiny project Steven Holl blurs the boundary of gallery space and public street and questions the sanctity of the art gallery. 

Paley Park

This tiny park located at 3 East 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan is the only project in this list that I had no idea about and found it by chance while exploring the midtown area. I have heard a lot about the small neighborhood parks in New York but this is the only one I have seen so far. This one has a great waterfall on the back wall that drowns the noise of the city and provides a great escape from all the chaos around. I read that it was designed by the landscape firm of Zion & Breen and opened way back in 1967.  Paley park is often cited as one of the finest public spaces in the US!!

Hearst Tower 

This tower designed by Norman Foster and was built on top of a 1928 6-story, cast stone building which was original designed as the base for a proposed skyscraper, the construction of which was postponed due to the Great Depression. The new tower by Foster was completed nearly 80 years later. The Hearst Tower was the first green building completed in NYC, with a number of environmental considerations built into the plan.

Alice Tully Hall 

Like the IAAC in Boston (hopefully the next posting on this blog), the new concert hall at the Lincoln centre by diller scofidio + renfro is a great public building that very actively engages with its urban context. In fact it's one of the few new buildings in the city that even bothers to try. While most buildings try to hide behind the logic that every block is a world in itself and therefore there is no need to respond to the context this one successfully does the complete opposite.

Although I am not able to precisely explain why - there is something extremely Dutch about its design!

The New Museum

And lastly on this list - the much celebrated new New Museum building by Japanese Star architects - Sanaa. Like most other works by this dynamic duo the extreme abstraction that makes the project (especially in a context like this, of the run down Bowery street of east Manhattan), also threatens it by its extreme coldness. 

Though its surely worth it to make a trip to this building while in New York, I think it needn't be up there in the list of must sees. 

Like I mentioned earlier besides seeing architecture I was primarily here to meet friends and as you can imagine there is no place like NYC to hang out with friends. I don't remember that last time I had a spend soo many nights staying out in a row. Thats when I really understood how this city actually never sleeps (this place makes London look like a sleepy village).  


The one other place worth mentioning was the art gallery district in Chelsea - unfortunately I ran out of time to explore this area well .. but what I saw was great - Great galleries and even greater art. 

This area also has New York's only Frank Gehry project. A sort of typical Gehry building minus the Titanium cladding..

I guess that's all from this trip  : ( 

I haven't even left but I can't wait to be back. 

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