Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Ken Burns's JAZZ
Friday, January 25, 2013
Quote of the Day"Until [the 20th] century, the public and the profession [of architecture] shared a known vocabulary; the divide between them was simply a matter of the degree to which traditional forms were mutually understood. Like so much else in the arts, architecture has taken new forms and developed a new and often arcane vocabulary. The alienation that started with the distrust and dislike of the unfamiliar in modern architecture has been exacerbated by the increasingly abstract and esoteric nature of current philosophy and practice."
Friday, December 14, 2012
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (December 21st is coming)
"Architecture is invention. All the rest is repetition and of no interest." - Oscar Niemeyer
“I like provoking people. It’s what you’re supposed to do.” - Thom Mayne
"Like other kinds of art, great buildings contradict everything else. They make us think. They start conversations, so people talk about what it means to fit in, what it means to have courage. It’s okay for some buildings not to work." - Gregg Pasquarelli
"Maybe that’s what a city is: confrontation and complication. In New York, the name of the game is to have one’s own envelope." - Bernard Tschumi, responding to Pasquarelli
“The street wears us out. It is altogether disgusting. Why, then, does it still exist?” - Le Corbusier
This one's been forgotten about:
"If you know it is useful, and feel it is beautiful, repeat it." - Adolf Loos
Monday, November 12, 2012
I ♥ New York
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Archtober & CNU New York: Principles of Urban Design
ONE OF FOUR ARCHTOBER EVENTS AT CNU New York is a walking tour that uses the streets of New York City to illustrate the principles of urbanism and urban design. This will be the newest tour in a series given by John Massengale for the Institute for Classical Art & Architecture (ICAA) and the universities of Miami, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.
Massengale is a Board member of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), the founding Board Chair of CNU New York, and a former Board member of the ICAA and Federated Conservationists of Westchester County (FCWC). Co-author with Robert A.M. Stern of New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture & Urbanism 1890-1915 (Rizzoli, 1983), he is writing Street Design, The Art & Practice of Making Complete Streets (J. Wiley & Sons, 2013) with Victor Dover. An architect and urbanist, Massengale has won awards for architecture, urban design, architectural history and historic preservation.
WHEN & WHERE: The tour will meet Saturday, October 27 at 9:15 am on the steps of Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street at the head of Broad Street, and will end at 12:15, with a Dutch Treat lunch at a location to be determined for anyone who wishes to stay.
Tour limited to 20. Please RSVP @ http://bit.ly/cnumass
AIA credits applied for.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
A Main Street Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
I HAVE a guest piece in the Berkshire Record this week on massDOT's $4.8 million Main Street "Reconstruction" in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The article itself is online at Better! Cities & Towns and at Streetsblog Capitol Hill. Here are some extra photos and captions:
A SIDEWALK on the central block in massDOT's Main Street Reconstruction Project in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Studies have shown that mature trees have economic value for the merchants on retail streets, and the book Principles of Urban Retail says storeowners want passersby to pay attention to their shop windows, not the sidewalks. But the massDOT plan will cut down the existing trees and use formulaic changes to make the sidewalks fancier. The result will be a place where fewer people want to walk and stop.
There is a larger copy of the photo here.
A VIEW of the the central block in massDOT's Main Street Reconstruction Project in Great Barrington, Massachusetts while the Bradford Pear trees were in bloom last April. The wide-angle photo highlights the width of the street, although it is less noticeable to drivers and to pedestrians on the sheltered sidewalks. An old photo of Main Street(below) shows trees tall enough to form a canopy over the street. The current trees were chosen by massDOT in the 1960s. The traditional way to introduce new trees would be to phase them in over time, but massDOT and their consultants prefer trees which never grow very large, to be cut down every 20 to 30 years for new street work.
There is a larger copy of the photo here.
AN EXISTING conditions photo of Main Street in Great Barrington, Massachusetts above a CAD rendering showing changes proposed by massDOT as of May 3, 2012. Without the mature trees, the space between the buildings on Main Street is too wide to be a comfortable pedestrian space, and the sidewalks have lost their tree canopy and shelter from the sun. Studies have shown that the brick crosswalks are less visible and therefore more dangerous at night and in the rain than traditional striped crossings. The brick crosswalks and the grass plantings draw attention to themselves rather than the beauty of the street. Another before and after view can be seen on the town website.
AN HISTORIC photo of Main Street in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. There is a larger version here, along with archival information.
After the jump, an historic view of South Main Street and another sidwalk view.
A POSTCARD showing South Main Street before it became a modern auto sewer. There is archival information on Wikipedia.
There is a larger version here.
Friday, February 17, 2012
McKim, Mead & White, Pennsylvania Station, 1910
TIMESMAN MICHAEL KIMMELMAN wrote Restore a Gateway to Dignity about some current ideas for Penn Station and Moynihan Station, the name for the station Senator Patrick Moynihan planned to build in the McKim, Mead & White Post Office across the street from Penn Station, above the same railyards.
I sent a Letter to the Editor, but never heard back from the Times. Here it is:
Senator Moynihan once sent me an email about contemporary Classical architecture, much to my surprise and delight. A friend had forwarded to him an email I had written about Classicism in our time, and he wrote to me about why he wanted a great Classical train station for New York. The Senator would be disappointed by what has happened to the plans for Moynihan Station since his death. We're not getting the Classical monument he wanted.
The primary reason is that the New York architectural establishment acts like Henry Ford: they will give you any architectural style you want, as long as it’s glass and steel and Modernist. That's why the various architects hired for Moynihan Station are only of the type that say you can’t build Classical buildings today, even though New York is home to some of the best contemporary Classicists.
Like Charles McKim, who successfully argued against a commercial tower above the old Penn Station, Senator Moynihan would also oppose real estate deals with the Related Companies to build towers above the station. Moynihan wanted some civic beauty and dignity for our citizens. These real estate deals are for the 1% who want more consumers.
The last point makes sense if you have read Kimmelman's article, but may require a little explanation if you haven't. Since the days of Doctorow (Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff), New York City has considered it good business to sell of development rights in return for having developers build civic buildings, particularly schools. In the view of someone like Senator Moynihan, and me, this is a bad idea.
Moynihan was educated in some of the great New York City public schools designed by Charles B.J. Snyder a hundred years ago, when New York City thought it was important to spend money builiding a great school system, embodied by the schools drawn by Snyder. The buildings are recognizable as city schools, and they are neighborhood centers as well. In a nutshell, they are prime examples of the Civic Art valued by Moynihan.
Today, the city thinks more about how consumers can be used to build city facilities. The school at the base of the Frank Gehry designed tower on Beekman Street is an example. The Related Companies, well connected in the Bloomberg administration, have proposed buying the rights to build three towers in the Moynihan Station block. This might make sense if we lived in a poor rustbelt city. But New York may have never been richer. The number of houses and apartments new and old in Manhattan that only the truly rich can afford is asstounding.
Gehry's Beekman Tower is a case in point. Until a few years ago, no one would have considered building luxury apartments there for the last 100 years. But today it is surrounded by apartments as expensive as any in the history of New York. But it's been almost a hundred years since the city built a great school. Gehry"s can not compare to what we built in 1910, when we had far less money.
McKim opposed a tower over the old Penn Station, because he thought it would diminish the civic character of the privately-built gateway to Manhattan. Kimmelman quotes the famous line about Penn Station from the great architectural historian Vincent Scully: "You used to enter the city like a god. Now you creep in like a rat." If he were here, Senator Moynihan would say the same.
Jane Jacobs & Philip Johnson
PS: A few people have written to me saying that we should simply rebuild the old McKim, Mead & White design for Pennyslvania Station. I've said that before, but didn't bring that up in my Letter to the Times, for two reasons: 1) Letters have to be restricted to 150 words, which doesn't allow room for many points; and 2) most Times readers probably think that's a silly idea. Here are a few counter thoughts.
Twenty years ago, it would have been much more difficult to rebuild the old station then it would be today. Few architects understood the practice of Classical architecture well enough then, but that is no longer the case. And the same advances in computer modeling and robotization that have made the construction of buildings like the Guggenheim Bilbao possible can also be used for Classical construction, making it easier and cheaper to build.
Modernism objects to historical construction and says it's not "authentic," but when visiting Central Europe we go to visit buildings bombed in World War II without realizing that they are reproductions built from scratch. I've put a picture of one below, below an historic photo of another McKim, Mead & White masterpiece, the old Madision Square Garden, which stood on Madison Square before it was moved into the suburban-style structure above the new Penn Station.
Stanford White's Madison Square Garden and Charles McKim's Pennsylvania Station are the two greatest buildings New York has lost. We would be a better city if we rebuilt them.
PPS: Kimmelman himself wrote about about the reconstruction of an old building before he became the Times architecture critic, in an article called Rebuilding a Palace May Become a Grand Blunder, about West German plans to rebuild an 18th century palace in Berlin. He called it a "fake Baroque palace," and wrote, "It’s hard to find a thinking Berliner these days who actually likes the Schloss idea," even though polls show a majority of Berliners support the plan. At the same time, he brought up enough complaints specific to the old building that it's not clear if he would oppose the reconstruction of the old Penn Station.
McKim, Mead & White, Madison Square Garden, 1890
Frauenkirche, Dresden, destroyed 1945, reconstruction 2005