Professor Montgomery

Author: Abril Rodriguez (Page 1 of 2)


I believe that studying the course of New York City Architecture outside of the classroom greatly benefited me because first of all it allowed me an opportunity to be outdoors which is always a good thing. Had the class taken place indoors each week, my entire semester would of consisted of me being cooped up indoors behind a computer screen finishing other schoolwork or catching up on my sleep  instead of listening to long lectures. I’m not the biggest fan of history, most especially when it’s given in such a dull atmosphere. Secondly, there’s always a better sense of retainment (at least for me) when I get to experience or see things first hand rather than through a projection screen. Needless to say, it would be foolish to not even at least once take the opportunity to study outside the classroom when the subjects of the class can easily be found only a couple train stops away.  Another thing I enjoyed about the class was the sketching part. I’m not the best at sketching and I don’t always go to places where I myself would think to take out my sketchbook and start some sketches but during the few times we did sketch I think it not only helped me slightly work on my sketching skills but also to exercise the little sketching skills I already have.

Other than the weather not always being in our favor and once in a while having to carry too much because there’s nowhere in school to leave my stuff, I would say that other students should be allowed the same opportunity I had while taking this course. If not all the time, at least once in a while students should be taken out of the classroom to learn and if professors can help expose students to the architecture surrounding them why shouldn’t they be able to. I have a friend that transferred into the architecture major from Albania and she told me that all the buildings they studied were right here in New York so why let this great opportunity of being so close to major architectural buildings go to waste. If more students were given the chance to study New York’s architecture outside the classroom then perhaps more people would become interested in the historical side of this major and instead of putting students to sleep with long lectures they’d be more engaged in class conversations.

SWA# 12: Battery Park

Between Lincoln Center and Battery Park, the planning that went into Battery Park’s creation seems more befitting in its environment. Whereas, in the area that was turned into Lincoln Center, the previous environment was simply torn down. 

Walking along Battery Park, you notice there’s a sense of circularity and the circulation is guided by a path along the waterfront. The buildings adjacent to the park also beautifully respond to the waterfront, assimilating to the curving that occurs in the park’s design. In contrast, Lincoln Center is composed entirely of rectilinear buildings. Even the plazas share that characteristic. Another big difference between these areas is the spatial experience you have when walking in these places. Within Lincoln Center, especially when not many people are out and about in the Center, I feel like everything seems very spaced out. This quality is understandable because the center typically is for the masses that come to watch performances but when empty, a lot of grandness or spaciousness is felt. In Battery Park, there’s enough space for groups of people to stroll around together but the spacial experience isn’t of grandness like in Lincoln Center. Instead, as you’re strolling along in the park, you experience a sense of tranquility or almost awe because of the waterfront, especially when the sun is about to set. This beautiful scenery is maximized with the view to the cityscape seen at the other end of the Hudson River. 

All in all, the planning that took place in each area successfully created enjoyable and appropriate ambiances for both Lincoln Center and Battery Park.

SWA #11: Lincoln Center

Civic centers such as Lincoln Center relate to the city around them because they provide gathering spaces where they intend to, as an urban core, connect people from the surrounding suburbs.

In the case of Lincoln Center, a chunk of land previously known as San Juan Hill was demolished ousting thousands of families from their homes to create the famously renowned cultural center that is Lincoln Center. It unites several buildings such as the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet, which turns Lincoln Center into a concentration of prestigious cultural venues. Although there is a lot happening within the buildings in Lincoln Center, the great amount of open space left between those buildings offers plazas that come alive during different times of the day and are open for the public’s enjoyment. Walking into Lincoln Center via Columbus Avenue, right away you encounter Josie Robertson Plaza where a grand water fountain is situated directly in the middle providing an area to sit encircling the fountain. If you were to walk into Lincoln Center via W 65th street, you’d encounter the Hearst Plaza consisting of a reflection pool and a raised lawn area. 

Although the area that is Lincoln Center has been elaborately designed and laid out, the institutions that surround the center seem to almost discretely hide the prodigious plazas created for the pleasure of the public. I only say this because of how the buildings are positioned to face. With this arrangement it does reach its goal to connect people however, it almost creates a sort of island fenced up by these performing-arts institutions.  

SWA #10: Mid-town Modernism

During this site visit we walked around observing the Seagram Building, Lever House, Citicorp, Lipstick Building Ford Foundations and the United Nations. These buildings were all built relatively around the same time, mid to late 1900’s. A specific style or design language is being developed for office/institutional buildings which is still noticeable in today’s typical office/ institutional buildings.

All with the exception of the Lipstick building, the massings were very similar but not exactly the same for the buildings we observed. They were all very rectilinear in massing. Not including the United Nations building, all the building’s massings are lifted up by the building’s columns. This was due to the fact that Le Corbusier’s five points of a new architecture heavily influenced and led the twentieth century modernist architectural movement, around the time the buildings we observed were constructed. The massing of the Lipstick Building is different compared to the other buildings because the architectural style is no longer modern but actually post modern. It’s elliptical massing was done on purpose to help it stand out among its neighboring buildings. 

The first two buildings we observed, Lever House and the Seagram Building, sort of set the standard for design in the area of Park Avenue and not only that but also set a precedent for future office buildings to follow. A striking feature of these building is the absence of ornamentation on the building’s exterior. However, it could be argued that the mullions and different types of glass have become the ornamentation/decorative feature of the building’s facade. In the Lever House, there are two different tones of glass used, a darker non-transparent green glass which helps hide floor slabs, dropped ceilings and all mechanical work happening under the floor slab as well as a greenish transparent glass which allows you to peak into the different rooms/spaces within the building. Meanwhile in the Seagram Building, the facade consists of alternating bands of bronze plating and amber tinted glass that gets separated by the bronze toned I-beams which run vertically, imitating mullions. Uniquely for the Citicorp building, there’s less sense of transparency between the interior and exterior of the building until you’re higher up in the building because of its extremely thick and un-aesthetically pleasing columns, which are hard to miss walking along the streets.

When we talk about the evolution of the exterior skin of a building, we have to keep in mind that every building’s facade is unique in conception and that the way in which we design is constantly changing per discoveries made. The point being that the evolution of the exterior skin of a building is a process which is currently still occurring because we’re still designing unique building facades and not just making the same building over and over again.  However, in the case of office and institutional buildings,  I’ve noticed that no matter what massing the use of a curtain wall and the alternating between transparent glass and spandrel glass (or other non-transparent material) has become prevalent for these buildings. Which in a way has become a signature or identifying feature of the modern office/institutional buildings from both the present and the past. 


SWA #9: The Chrysler and Empire State Building

Around the early nineteenth century, tall buildings were beginning to pop up in the city’s skyline. It was during this time that towers such as the Chrysler building and the Empire State building were made. Although they were developed around the same time, they have very distinct features that set them apart. 

Both buildings represent the power and prestige of the automobile industry responsible for  their construction. They were also built in the Art Deco style and contain steel framework. The Chrysler Building was built about a year before the Empire State Building, reaching a height of 1,046 feet (including its tip). The Chrysler Building contains a great level of ornamentation on its facade. The materials used on the façade are black granite, white marble and brick at the upper levels. A unique feature of the Chrysler Building are the hubcaps and car hood ornaments, signature features of the Chrysler car company’s car, at the corners of the building. Not only that but eagles and gargoyles mark the building’s setbacks.  Its crown and spire are made of stainless steel. It was in competition with the Manhattan Trust Building for tallest building and it earned the title but its victory was short lived. 

After eleven months of completion a new building, the Empire State Building, took the title of tallest building, reaching a height of 1,454 feet. The Empire State Building’s façade is covered in limestone and granite with touches of aluminum. These three materials are prominent features of the Art Deco style. The buildings most notable Art Deco elements can be located within its lobby. Due to the lack of ornamentation, the building isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Chrysler Building. The reason for this was because its construction was more focused on the structure of the building. Similar to the Chrysler, the Empire State building also has setbacks. Except it contains one major setback and then several smaller setbacks.

SWA #8: Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station

Typically civic infrastructure is influenced and guided by the architecture that already has a prominence over an area. It’s built to benefit its citizens and, in a way, inspire or to further the city’s growth/ development. Areas like Penn Station and Grand Central reflect New York City’s civic architectural culture and history through their design and their ability to function while being so busy.

Both Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal serve as the city’s connection between several rail lines to go to and from other cities or just within the city. New York City is an incredible busy city, with people constantly on the move and this can easily be seen in the city’s transportation systems. Specifically in Grand Central Terminal, we are able to see a design which considers such congestions and overcrowdedness and successfully offers solutions for it. Due to the fact that the terminal connects several train lines, it also provides several circulation paths to allow for these masses of people to get to and from their destination without such fuss. The design of Grand Central reflects the architectural culture through its use of several architectural styles such as Greek, Roman, Beaux-Arts mixed with an interpretation of it all. All this can be seen throughout the terminal, including at the details of the handrails, the ceiling and the use of chandeliers, statues etc.  Moving around the terminal, the most prominent experience you’re met with is the grandness of it all. The height of spaces is bigger than any space one could possibly be used to.

Unlike Grand Central Terminal, the new Penn Station loses the glamour that it previously (old Penn Station) held as it is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The new Penn Station is a modernistic approach, with very little consideration for the amount of time a person would be spending inside the station it’s creation seems only to consider the functional aspect of the station. Design wise, it doesn’t implement any of the old architectural styles but instead showcases the city’s own emerging style. Nonetheless, it’s able to fulfill its purpose as successfully as Grand Central Terminal.

SWA #7: Landmark Buildings in Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is home to quite a few landmark buildings. Several of those buildings go back to early settlement times where the positioning of these buildings was dictated by their needs. As time progressed, new structures were being built around them— creating a unique urban composition. These compositions are visible to us through the spaces, sight lines and urban streets we see today. 

An example of this unique composition can be seen at the site of the National Museum of the American Indian. Before it occurs a welcoming green space, Bowling Green, for users to enjoy whether or not they intend to go into the museum. This big street, Broadway, is split into two as it reaches Bowling Green, this is done intentionally in order to make a person’s, who is walking down Broadway street, line of sight focus in on the Museum’s monumental facade. Walking along Broad Street, we notice the street is sort of turning/curving, offering a different urban experience. All these turns offers different structures to admire as you walk up towards Nassau Street. Once there, a similar occurrence to that of the museum occurs for Federal Halls. Except here, the building appears to have taken up some of the street and in order to keep walking up you’d have to turn again and walk around it. This instance created here is done so that as you’re walking up from Broad Street and you’ve walked past the Stock Exchange Building, you’re stopped by the need to get around Federal Hall but also to admire its grandness and the statue of George Washington. 

Very similar experiences occur for several of the landmark buildings, where streets and spaces are treated with the same manner so that people have these delicate and unanticipated experiences as they’re about to come in contact with these magnificent historical buildings. 

Short Writing Assignment #6: Comparing the Frick Museum & Guggenheim Museum

A museum’s goal is primarily to collect and preserve art objects in order to make them accessible to visitors through exhibitions and programs. New York City has several museums such as the Frick Museum and the Guggenheim Museum, which even though different in design share the common goal of being a sort of cultural institution for the people.

Henry Clay Frick was one of the most powerful industrialists of the nineteenth century, leaving him with a vast amount of money to spend. He had already begun collecting art work prior to moving into New York City. When he acquired the land which today contains the Frick Museum, he paid for his home to be designed in a way that would accommodate his collection of art. In his will he dictated that his residence be turned into a gallery called The Frick Collection, showcasing all his collection of art. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in the late nineteenth century in a form that people considered/described as an inverted ziggurat. It looks like a cylindrical building and it gets wider as you move up a level. This museum houses several collections of artwork ranging from impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern and contemporary art.

Within each museum, the spaces vary. This affects the way in which one circulates throughout the gallery spaces of each museum. Inside the Guggenheim, a grand ramp extends from the ground level all the way to the final top level where a skylight offers natural light to enter. This arrangement was intentionally designed so as to lead visitors to take the elevator to the top floor and then slowly work their way down along the curving pathway (the ramp). Unlike in the Guggenheim, the Frick Museum contains no forcing pathway to guide its visitors from one showroom to the next. Several rooms are interconnected, most likely due to the fact it was previously a house, which makes it difficult to really circulate throughout the museum in an “organized manner” without forgetting to enter one showroom. As I see it, the Guggenheim Museum offered (and still does) a unique experiencing of not only the spaces but the art work as well, while circulating throughout the museum. However, based on my preference, the sequencing of spaces within the Frick seems a better fit for displaying artwork simply because the museum contains corridors between showrooms where one is given this brief pause before admiring other artwork. In the Guggenheim Museum this transition space is slightly lost because the partition walls created don’t create rooms, they merely separate the work for a brief moment.

Short Writing Assignment #5: 19th Century NYC Neighborhoods

Greenwich Village was kept intact during the realization of the 1811 grid plan and thanks to that we are able to experience the houses and the entire neighborhood in the original and irregular old street scape in which they were built in. As we walked into the neighborhood of SOHO,  there was a major shift in the usage of buildings as well as the architectural style used to develop said buildings.

As we walked around the neighborhood of Greenwich, we could see that many houses resembled one another which probably means they were developed by the same person and sold for profit, similar to the houses developed in Brooklyn Heights. Although there are several features that the houses of this neighborhood share with the houses in Brooklyn Heights— from monumental parlor floors to the amount of detail invested on the front door, they still have their unique qualities. For example the use of iron as a material was beginning to rise at the time and its use can be seen on the decorative gates of those homes. Not only does Greenwich Village reflect the old architectural style which consisted of lower level buildings, big entrances and wide streets, it also depicts the development around park spaces. This development can be seen at Washington Square Park and at Sheridan Square. A notable quality of Washington Square Park is the major street stopped to create this major view of it. In that instant people are granted a moment to look at the park and see the grandiose Washington Centenary arch. This delicate treatment can be seen for Sheridan Square, where despite the geometric configuration of the lot, it was still achieved and today serves as a beautiful viewing garden for the community.

Walking into SOHO,  a major shift takes place well throughout the neighborhood. There’s more commercial buildings rather than homes, the once low leveled buildings are now growing vertically thanks to the creation of the elevator. Cast-iron architecture takes off in this neighborhood due to it’s inexpensive, fast building and conveniently accessible qualities. The notable quality of the buildings in SOHO is that although the process of these buildings wasn’t difficult and could have a building constructed within as short as four months and yet several buildings were made with great detail at the cornice and for each Corinthian column which seemed to have become a signature/identifier of these SOHO cast-iron buildings. The material was painted to resemble previous materials used on the façade, like stone and could easily be freshened up with paint as well.

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