New York City 2.0

The next day I got up early to pull my things together and head over to my friend Jean’s place who studied and now works in New York. I took the subway to the upper west side of Manhattan and found her at her apartment. It was nice to see a familiar face! We chatted for about an hour catching up and she made me some recommendations of things to see. My goal for the day was to nerdishly visit a list of buildings that have been constructed since I was last in New York back in 2012. And so off I went! I started in the North Manhattan at the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center (they really need a nickname for it), by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR). I tried and failed to get inside but even from the outside I was impressed by the custom shaped concrete panels. I think that the building stands in interesting contrast to the uniform brick buildings that surround it. Next I took the subway down to the Columbia campus and saw the Jerome L. Greene Science Center by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. I liked the details of the building (What RPBW is known for), but didn’t think the building itself had much presence. Then I took the train again to 63rd station and walked a while to see West 57 by Bjarke Ingels Group. I tried to sneak in to see the courtyard but was stopped by security *sigh*. The building looks impressive from the outside, but for me it is the ground level and the spaces on the interior that truly make a building and so I couldn’t make much critique of it. The slanted roof was definitely in need of a wash!

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Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center

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Renzo Piano lighting

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West 57

From there I walked to the start of the Highline. I had been there back in 2012 when the project was still quite new, and was pleased to see that it had aged well. I was very impressed by how mature and full the plantings were. Along the Highline there is extensive new development and I stopped at the Shed by DSR that is still under construction. It is a project that I was introduced to at a lecture by Elizabeth Diller herself at ACADIA last year. I had to peak through the construction netting to get glimpses of the structure and what I saw looked very cool! The raw structure of the shed roof is complete and looks great, and I could also get a glimpse of the large wheels that will allow the it to roll off the building and over the adjacent plaza. I still can’t believe how far DSR got with that concept and that it is becoming a built reality! I wanted to take the subway again to get down to the World Trade Center but had to walk three stops because stations were closed. By the time I got there I was pretty tired out! I accidentally came across the  World Trade Center Transportation Hub by Calatrava on my way to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The space was beautifully lit up with light and the people in all colours stood in stark contrast to the crisp white of every surface! I only saw the museum from the outside (that will have to wait for another time), but was very interested to see the memorial that had still been under construction back in 2012. The voids speak very powerfully; however, it was strange to see those big, deep holes, see those thousands of names, and have crowds of tourists chatting around you and taking pictures.

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The gigantic wheels of the Shed!

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Children’s landscaped play area on the High Line

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Nicely detailed stair on the High Line

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World Trade Center Transportation Hub

The last place I went to was a suggestion from Jean. She recommended I go to Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island designed by Louis Kahn. She also recommended I take the Roosevelt Island Tramway. The tramway was such an amazing way to look back on the city and see the Queensboro Bridge! I was so tired that I tried to take a bus that drove up with the hope that it would eventually go to the park (the island is not that big). Unfortunately it headed North but I took it as a time to rest as I knew it would eventually turn around and head back. When it reached the northern tip I had to switch buses. At one of the stops on the way back an older man got on the bus that looked so familiar to me and I didn’t know why at first. But as I looked at him more I realized that he was the pastor of Redeemer Church in New York whose name was escaping me! I thought of going to say hello, but thought it would be silly since I could not for the life of me recall his name! It only confirmed who he was when it looked like another stranger came up and started talking to him. When we arrived back at the tramway station and we had gotten off, I then realized that it was Tim Keller and likely his wife. But by that point he was getting on the Tramway and I still wanted to go see this park. So I had my first ever celebrity citing… if you could call it that!

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The park turned out to be a nice reprieve from the urban bustle. There were only a handful of people and I enjoyed the monolithic forms of marble. The sun was getting lower in the sky and lit up the skyline. I enjoyed the whole experience (the sloping walls, the lines of trees), but did not like how the park terminated at the southern tip. It ended at a thick stone guardrail when the form really wanted to extend as a pier or slope into the water. As much as I would’ve liked to stay their longer, I had agreed to meet Jean at the Metropolitan Museum at 7:30pm. I took the tramway again, and from there decided to walk to the museum and look for something to eat on the way. I found an amazing bagel place called Pick a Bagel and ordered a delicious reuben sandwich on a bagel. I took it and ate it on a bench by the museum and it was sooo good… probably one of the best bagel sandwiches I’ve ever had! When it was time to meet Jean I moved to the steps of the museum. While I waited I got to enjoy some music by a street musician who was playing the saxophone. He played wonderfully and there were two little girls who were dancing to it. It was such a beautiful scene to take in. When Jean arrived we went directly to the roof because we wanted to see the sun set from there. We couldn’t have picked a better place or time. There was an amazing sculptural exhibit of life size sculptures. The sculptures, paired with the setting sun, the vines and hedge, and the people chatting, created a dreamlike atmosphere. We discovered that the sculptures are replicas copied from pieces in the art in the museum and then reconfigured to create a new scene. It felt like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Jean and I walked around and took in the scene and the park and skyline beyond! We then headed back into the museum to see an exhibit presenting the work of avant-guarde fashion designer Rei Kawakubo. We had just enough time to see most of the exhibit before the museum was closing.

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Beautiful Louis Kahn handrail detail

 

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My view eating dinner outside of the Met

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Exhibit on the roof terrace of the Met

You would think that I had done enough already, but the day was not yet over. Jean and I walked through a quiet and dark Central Park (which I had been accidentally calling High Park over and over again…. you’re welcome Toronto!) to get to a bar she had in mind in the Upper West Side where we could chill and talk some more. This was the first time I had been to Central Park at night and it was so peaceful. By sheer luck we passed by the portico at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. I had seen it before in the daytime, but at night it is lit up in such a way that the amazing pattern of ceiling tiles are put on display and makes you experience the space in a whole new way. It was beautiful! We didn’t end up getting to that first bar because we got sidetracked when Jean discovered that I had not yet seen Lincoln Square. So off we went to a plaza that I had walked by earlier that morning but had not gone to explore. It is a complex of three monumental, concrete clad buildings that are the musical hub of New York. There were things I liked and didn’t like about some of the buildings (the Opera House tried too hard to refer to an older architectural style). My preferred building on the square was the New York City Ballet that had a balcony where people on intermission from the show were looking over the courtyard with the fountain at its center. DSR did a redesign of the public spaces back in 2009 including an area with trees and lit benches, and the Hypar Pavilion that had a sloping grass roof. Jean and I went to the Italian restaurant that occupies the pavilion and treated ourselves to expensive drinks and dessert. From there we took the subway home and I was exhausted but very content. Part of me wished I had planned to stay longer in New York, but at the same time was very excited to visit friends and see Boston again!

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Portico at the Bethesda Terrace

 

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Lincoln Square and the Hypar Pavilion

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