Fulton Mall

Along Fulton street is the seemingly never-ending string of stores. From jewelry and clothes to fast food and phone carriers; this place has everything you could ever need in a mall but I always tend to ask myself “is it really a mall?” it didn’t look like a the average American mall that we all saw portrayed on television. It also didn’t look like an outlet mall either; since I always had this connotation that a mall should be more cohesive but detached from everywhere else, like it was proving its exclusivity to its customers. Fulton Mall was different, like the term “mall” was born and raised there due to popular demand. There was something so natural and beautiful about it, similar to the beauty of an overgrown tree wrapping itself onto the side of a building. I still get goosebumps whenever I go to Fulton Mall; partly because of how powerful and overwhelming it can feel and it also reminds me of back-to-school shopping.

I have spent countless hours at the old mall in my childhood, toting around my mother’s shopping bags, quietly sighing to myself because she had said the “…. Just one more store.” line three too many times. Exhausted and bored, I never stopped to fully analyze all that the dreaded mall was; all I knew was how badly I wanted to go home and forget the preparation for the imminent and brooding fall semester.

The name Fulton derives from a man named Robert Fulton who was responsible for creating the steamboat in 1814. He pioneered such a great connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn long before any bridges were in place. The long street of Fulton became known to many, due to the steamboat connection and is the main reason why there is a Fulton street in both Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Similar to a previous post on Union Square, by 1900 Fulton Mall had become a popular shopping hub for New York City, gaining foot traffic like the stores and boutiques in Manhattan.

There is now 130+ shops along the Fulton Mall strip. Storefronts and even more stores above; the small shops brave all types of financial storms just to please their customers. 

Beautifully growing and everlastingly changing, Fulton mall has the transportation hub and mass of Times Square and Union Square but also obtains those deep cultured roots of Brooklyn.

The Oculus

The start of a new month has begun; September, bringing forth days of cooler temperatures and fall foliage. For many New Yorkers it also brings retrospective thoughts of the tragedy that happened on September 11, 2001. It, surprisingly, has been sixteen years since the disaster took place but New Yorkers still vividly remember its havoc that struck us so deeply. As the memorial approaches, I thought it would be nice to pay homage to a piece of architecture that subtly reminds us of this terrible day, honors the strong survivors and first responders, and supports the loved ones subjected to an overwhelming loss.

 

Something most don’t know about the after effects of 9/11, is how determined and reactive New York was to rebuild. By 2002, many proposals had flooded New York City from all around the world, in the hopes of helping with the process of rebuilding. Something that was not a part of the overall plan was the remastering of the the PATH train station. But in 2004 the city concocted a plan with Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, to create a partial above and below ground transportation hub. He soon proposed a project named the “Oculus” which was supposed to embody “… the release of a bird from a child’s hand…” Calatrava named it the Oculus since on September 11th the skylight is supposed to be exactly positioned for a bright beam of sunlight to shine through the hub; similar to the Pantheon’s oculus in Rome. This sentimental effect takes place from 8:00 to 10:28; the time that the World Trade Center was struck.

Once the proposition was accepted, its progress and popularity only went downhill. The budget was exceeded by large proportions and constant variance of financial obstruction and waste was brutally thrown at the project; making the construction near impossible. Hurricane Sandy in 2012, alone, eradicated millions of dollars worth of material and other structural elements. The overall design was constantly amended to save money and time. A major change being how the extended columns were supposed to be automated and move with the available sunlight; the tight budget kept this feature from coming into fruition.

After years of dedication, amendments, and withstanding negative media from disbelieving New Yorkers, The Oculus was completed and opened to the public on March 4, 2016; taking about 12 years to produce. The opinions were very mixed about the transportation hub since some were amazed by the respectful design, it’s potential for bringing tourist/revenue, and the methodology of transporting people from one place to another. Contrastly, others thought it was a waste of additional money and didn’t quite see the beauty in the hub.

I, personally, think Calatrava’s Oculus is beautiful and is a great way to show respect for that critical day of New York City history. The pure white wings extends 96 feet in the air from where the unfortunate rubble once laid. Delicately and valiantly, it rises; gracing its viewers with a glance before it releases itself to Freedom Tower. At night, its light illuminates between the columns making the Oculus visible from great lengths which shows us how important it is to let the light and positivity shine through our streets, course through our veins, and beat ever so heavily in our hearts because it is our duty, as New Yorkers, to prevail over any type of circumstance.

The New Museum

Hello CityTech, welcome back to campus! I hope everyone’s summer was as unforgettable as mine was.

Now I return to this semester of blogging with a revised initiative, which is not only tethered to historical forms of architecture within the five boroughs but has been broadened to include both contemporary forms of architecture and art.

Surprisingly, I will start off this semester with a museum that opened its doors to the public for the first time, on December 1, 2007; called The New Museum. The museum was started by woman by the name of Marcia Tucker on January 1, 1977, the small collection was held in The New School for Social Research and the exhibitions were housed there until 1997 when the museum moved to the Astor Building in SoHo (South of Houston). This new location had more space overall, giving the museum a chance to expand. After receiving funding, the New Museum for contemporary art made it’s latest move to its new location on Bowery, which is still in SoHo.

This new building was created by architects, Sanaa. The structure is eight stories high and consists of over fifty thousand square feet of usable space. The eighth floor is designated mechanical space and is not open to the public but the floor below it is the exact opposite. The seventh floor is also called “The Sky Box” since it is paneled with large viewing windows, which frames SoHo like a picturesque landscape. The room is also wrapped with an outside deck which gives the public a quiet urban oasis. From this deck it is easier to see the aluminum facade that webs and weaves around the entire museum making the staggered boxes more cohesive with each other. Further down the building are the exhibits, offices, cafe, and auditorium; each of these spaces occupy the boxes that can be seen from the exterior. The boxes all vary in size which makes each floor have a different ceiling height and method of maneuvering around the large room.

The New Museum only costs $12 for a student to buy a ticket and is well worth the visit. Art enthusiasts, architecture fiends, and those who enjoy a good view, would really enjoy this museum.

Plan your visit here.

Brooklyn City RailRoad

In the 1880’s a new roadway system was born for Brooklyn, it was called the Brooklyn City RailRoad (BCRR) and was the oldest and largest railway system of its time. The old headquarters resides on the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street and is still a prominent building although the line’s discontinuance in 1930. Now, the tracks are still partially visible through the cobblestone streets; showing what was there prior to the rise of other means of mass transit. Although the trolleys stopped running, the history of the archaic system remains engrained into the current culture of transit. Just by looking at the rails you see something more than random exposed metal. You are greeted by New York City, they tell you a story in this greeting. “We are strong and resilient,” they elucidate. “Regardless of the harsh winter blizzards, the extreme heat waves of the summer, the constant trampling by FedEx trucks, or people jay-walking passed us, here we lay, as we always did, with pride and tenacity. Like a weed that can never be plucked or a bird that will never cease to grace us with its musical whistle, we stay here to watch as life moves on around us.”

On July 3, 1854 the first route began its loop, the Myrtle Avenue Line ran from the Myrtle Station to a stop adjacent to the Fulton Ferry. The system started as a modified railway for the time; in that particular time space it was called a horseway since the trolleys were horse-drawn. This horsecar trolley ran along the same line that is now the B54 MTA bus. By 1867 there were twelve different routes and approximately twenty-two million people used the transit system. According to a 2015 government data overview, about twenty-two million people use the MTA in just two business days as opposed to the 1867 review. As time progressed, the use of horsecars slowly declined and the rise of streetcars prevailed. By 1897 there were 27 railways that were stationed in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn.

Because of the proximity of the railways, the BCRR headquarters resided along Fulton Street (or as we know it, Old Fulton Street). The building was built in the early 1860’s and controlled/managed the railways. Offices filled the walls, behind the red brick exterior. The molded cast-iron was styled in a neo-classical style, vying to portray the nobility, control, and power that it held in the community. Somewhere along the years of the Depression the business lost its control, commercial use, and patrons and the BCRR eventually declined in popularity to the public.

In 1975 the BCRR was used as a factory until architect, David C. Morton II, took on the project to make the space residential. As of 2009 the building was named a New York Landmark and is currently still used as dwellings.

Some of the rails are still visible through the cobblestones and concrete. If you are interested in seeing it for yourself take a walk down to the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street to see the headquarters, then walk to the corner of Main Street and Plymouth Place to see the old rails that sprout, bevel, and vine their way through the streets; just keep in mind that they are over 150 years old.

Union Square Park

When I was around the age of six, I picked out my very first favorite place in Manhattan. It was the first time that I can recall myself creating an instinctual memory of a place; that I knew how to get there from home and what it was called. It wasn’t so much of the architecture that made me like the space so greatly, it was this feeling of the surroundings; like everyone was important and we were all connected. Bias of race, gender, or culture played an inferior role in this particular environment; in fact, New Yorker’s differences were highly embraced and even emphasized. To my young mind the place was my own version of kid-heaven; pets, books, music, diverse cuisine, and other shops were all within walking distance from each other; it was fun, challenging, and I always went home with something new. Although I would loudly and quickly state that my architectural taste has gotten more refined from my childhood, somehow I always find myself in my old favorite spot, Union Square.

The origin of the name, “Union Square”, comes from the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. Which was a very detailed plan of the roads, streets, and avenues of Manhattan that we still use today. The plan was completed with the help of John Randel, a surveyor, who joined the project in June of 1808 and worked on the development for the next thirteen years. Throughout the years of observation, the creators of this plan coined the name by explaining the intersection of Broadway and Fourth Avenue (previously known as Bloomingdale Road and Bowery Road) which creates an irregular square that no one wanted to build upon so it was decided to make the space a public park. The area was then utilized for social assemblies and trading. The space was formerly called “Potter’s Field” and was later changed to better fit the social aspect of the area; making a union between both roads and people.

The Union Square Park that we know of, officially opened on July 19, 1839; the roads paved, paths created for foot traffic, and the landscape planted to suit the people.

By the 1870’s the Ladies’ Mile shopping district began to form which was a term to describe the long strip of commerce, art, and theater that lined the streets from Union Square Park to Madison Square Park that is on 23rd street (which I mentioned in a past post for the Flatiron Building that resides juxtaposed the Park).

Throughout history Union Square became a meeting space for people to voice their opinion; whether it be in the form of a speech, protest, or gathering. This is the place that people met with each other to show support and respect. In 1861 about two hundred-fifty thousand people gathered on the Square to show their respect after the fall of Fort Sumter (notable Civil War sea fort); this would be the largest gathering of its time. This aesthetic didn’t depart from New York approach. After 9/11, New Yorkers gathered here in response to the crisis; it showed a large caliber of support and condolences; for some time, it was known as a grieving area.

As I walk through Union Square Park now, I still feel the same vibe that I fell in love with as a child. Music, dance, and other artistic performances taking place on the regular; almost as if something is always happening and if you don’t experience it, you are destined to feel an acute absence of what could have been seen, felt, and cherished.

Morphous by Lionel Smit. A South African sculptor who got his piece to be displayed in Union Square from June 13, 2016 to April 30, 2017.

This Sculpture was made with bronze like the Statue of Liberty.

The Fourth Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

The most recent move that the Whitney Museum has endured is its latest escapade that started in the year of 2010 when Renzo Piano’s design began to be constructed. It resides next to the High Line and patrons from both places are visible to each other. This creates a non-verbal interaction between people; like an extreme version of people watching people. Regardless of its placement, being set among plenty of other larger buildings, it still somehow instills an interplay of inside and outside spaces. The museum is 200,000 square feet which is massive compared to the 82,000 square foot predecessor. The exterior is clad in blue-grey steel panels that reflect and mirror the sky. In the right time of day the building can blend in with its surroundings and become transparent against the sky.

Once you enter the building you are invited by the museum’s shop; which sells books, prints, pins, other kinds of tchotchkes, etc. The elevators are to side; raising people up to the top floor leaving them to walk their way down. I started on the eighth floor and watched as the sun gently poured in through large windows. The light filled the large room, inviting you to stay and observe the art while luring you to go outside. Regardless of the brisk cold air, I felt the need to stay on the terrace; as I took in the spring sun and the sculptures that decorate and live outside. I moved from terrace to terrace, people sprinkled on each level creating a comfortable foot traffic. I continued to navigate through the museum, weaving in and out of the indoor and outdoor spaces until I ultimately reached the end of all the exhibits.

Stairs that connect the terraces.

Sculpture that resides outside

The essence of Whitney’s museum still resides between those walls. The walls are splattered with colors and reminiscent figures; and sculptures gracefully display their physique in the terraces that hover above the building’s footprint. But it all still celebrates American art and what we have to offer the art world. This 107 year old concept has endured through popular despise, fire, four relocations, and some of the worst economic depressions. Only some of these art pioneers were able to see the validity in their work as America ceased its self-loathing period in the art industry. On a regular day you can see many visitors in the Whitney Museum; observing, sketching, reading, or just enjoying each other’s company while sharing their opinions. The art is valued by many and schools use the museum as a resource.

Personally, out of all three homes of the Whitney Museum I like Breuer’s rendition the most; something about massive brutalistic buildings piques my interest. Which was your favorite? What made it you like it?
If you liked the story of the Whitney Museum of American Art, visit the MET (Breuer) and Piano’s Whitney. Admission into the MET is a suggested donation for students, which can be anywhere between $1 to infinity. And the Whitney has reduced price for students.

The Second/Third Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

In 1954 the small studio was overtaken by art and Gertrude Whitney decided to move the pieces to a small space that was located behind the Museum of Modern Art (also known as MoMA) which was another museum, of few, that was created by women. Whitney-Vanderbilt and her students quickly filled and conquered this space and after an unfortunate fire in 1958, it forced the museum to move again. This time they commissioned Marcel Breuer, a famous European architect.

Breuer was a Hungarian native before moving to Germany to become one of the very few students of the Bauhaus, which was an infamous German college for fine arts and construction raised from the harsh conditions of World War II. the school of design operated from 1919-1933 as the program was shut down by the Nazis. This school was affiliated with some of the architectural greats like, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier. From this school, Breuer honed his craft; he nurtured his own style which was very brutalistic. His buildings were extremely weighted to the ground as he explored concrete. Breuer also continued his infatuation with concrete by placing it in an unexpected place like upper Manhattan, making it the third home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The project was completed in 1966 and was the Whitney Museum’s home for 49 years. He designed this building inside and out, from the intricate windows to the furnishings that reside in the museum (which are still fully functional after 51 years of use). The art flooded the walls and created its own atmosphere which was astonishing given the main aesthetic of the museum being American Art. in this era of time it was not a good thing to be an American artist since popular assumption was that all fine art came from Europe. Whitney felt differently than everyone else and thought that she and her students should take pride in their art: therefore she sent approximately five hundred pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, prior to the commissioning of their first independent museum built by Breuer. The prestigious museum denied every single admission since they perceived it as too American and unrefined. Because of this she made her own gallery, giving herself and her students the validity that they deserved. She celebrated American art, deeming it uniquely beautiful and important while everyone else thought differently.

It’s quite surprising to know that when the Whitney Museum outgrew this space as it did with the others, The Metropolitan art gallery is what occupied Breuer’s brutalist masterpiece that once housed the pieces that they denied as art.

Tune in next week to see the last installment of the Whitney Museum of American Art as we explore its latest home.

Marcel Breuer’s Bench specifically made for this project.

The First Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

The concept of the Whitney Museum was birthed by a woman by the name of Gertrude Vanderbilt, aunt and adoptive mother of Gloria Vanderbilt who is the mother of Anderson Cooper. She was born into fame on January 9, 1875. With her lavish life, she financially wanted for nothing. But as she grew, she fell in love for the first time; with art. She loved sculptures and began to make her own. But a woman sculpting three-dimensional human figures was a radical concept in that era. Regardless of popular conception she studied at the Art Students League of New York, which was a prominent school for artists, in order to further develop her sculptural technique.

She married her Husband, Harry Whitney, on August 25, 1896. She was only 21 years old at the time. She wanted to marry someone that came from a wealthy family since that was the only way she would be certain that her spouse was not only in the relationship for her money. Harry Whitney was a descendant to Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. He was also a lawyer, horse-breeder, and heir to his family’s estate. The Whitney’s eventually had three children, biologically, within their time together until he unfortunately died in 1930; he was only 58 years old.

In 1914 the Whitney’s bought a studio which now resides in Greenwich Village. She, along with other artists, worked on their art and lived within those walls. The Rowhouses were built in the year of 1838 and then renovated into one big studio/residence by Auguste L. Noel. They commissioned him to merge three town-homes into one, giving respective spaces to each artist. In 1918 they also commissioned Robert Winthrop Chanler to redesign the interior of the building. He was responsible for a very artistic approach to a studio that had stained glass adorning the windows, a fireplace that was blazoned with bronze wispy flames that crept 20 feet up the wall touching the ceiling which was filled with mystical characters. It was a part of the Greenwich Village Historic District which was established in 1969 and it was later acknowledged as a National Historical Landmark in 1992 which ultimately saved it from being demolished.

The Whitney Museum moved four times in the concept’s lifetime, consecutively outgrowing itself. Tune in next week to see the next home that housed this beautiful and innovative idea of Art.

The ceiling in one of the studios. One can see deer and other creatures in this photograph.

A fireplace sculpted to resemble fire. The twirls and fury of the flames creep all the way up the chimney and extinguishes onto the ceiling.

The art selection is from the later works of artist, Wilbur Niewald.

The High Line

The High Line, many people know about it and some of its history but it’s more than an old railroad, it’s an elevated public park overlooking Manhattan’s gems of the city. Apart from that amazing futuristic outlook of space, it is also very ecologically sustainable since it is essentially a recycled use of space which is the most eco-friendly aspect of the entire park. Since Manhattan is severely structurally dense the thought of having a public park elevated using air space instead of land space is a simple and clever way to resourcefully utilize New York City’s space.

In the year of 1929 the idea of a central railroad on the west side of Manhattan along with the West Side highway was proposed by Robert Moses. The costly project was carried out and by 1934 freight trains began to use the railway. The route was essentially tailored for heavy deliveries to major factories and such; like the NABISCO factory (which is now Chelsea Market, that I had mentioned last week). By the mid 1980’s, trains stopped using the railway entirely; it had served its purpose for 46 years, throughout the depression and the departure of the NABISCO company (also as I stated last week). At this point in time, the High Line faced the risk of being demolished; it wasn’t being used anymore and was a waste of much needed space. In 1999 the Friends of the High Line formed and started fundraising to rebuild the line as a park; its purpose became apparent as drought-resistant weeds and other plants began to sprout, taking over the railroad. After getting the railway disconnected from the main railroad, they began landscaping it in 2006 with the help of James Corner’s Field Operations, re-building it with help from architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and garden design from Piet Oudolf. Many more helped with this project as it opened in parts; Phase I opened in 2009, Phase II opened in 2011, and Phase III opened in 2014, the High Line in entirety opened in 2015.

Currently the park sustains different parts of life in New York City; it contributes as homes for animals and other nature, it is a tourist attraction, and the park’s infamous qualities and heavy foot traffic easily makes it the focal point of establishments or residential housing that reside alongside the railway. Along the way I saw a plethora of cafes, hotels, and other eateries advertising themselves with the High Line; like Highline Pizzeria, Underline Coffee, and The High Line Hotel. There are also major architectural developments that are taking and have taken place juxtaposed the High Line, giving the people inside the building a view of the High Line and the park-goers a view inside the architectural world of that person’s office or dwelling. If you have been on the High Line, you’ve probably seen the Neil Denari apartment building; through the windows you can see how the residents made the apartment a home by decorating the windows with “kid drawings”.  Another new structure that is in the process of being built is a building by infamous female architect, Zaha Hadid. Seeing it in person for the first time shocked me. I had forgotten about the construction of her first residential building in New York City. The building is very close to being completed. Although, Hadid will not be able to see it due to her unfortunate death last year, I feel like it enriches the High Line and vice versa.

If you are ever up for a 1.5 mile walk try out the High Line. Take in the nature and the surroundings; green space is highly valued in New York City since we rarely see it.

Neil Denari’s Residence building is framed within other buildings (pictured towards the back).

Zaha Hadid’s High Line Condominium

Chelsea Market

Located in the Meat-Packing district of Manhattan resides a foodie’s paradise. It stands on a large plot of land that stretches from west 16th street-west 15th street and 9th avenue-10th avenue; if you have ever walked throughout New York City, you know how long avenues can be. It seems to extend very far while walking inside the market but it also is an extremely enjoyable method of walking an avenue. Although it is a major tourist attraction, us locals can still enjoy the market on the regular basis since there is always new things to try from the vendors and recently added seating arrangements, leaving plenty of great places to relax, reflect, and recharge.

Seeing all the people walk and lounge throughout the market makes it hard to see what it used to be, a factory for NABISCO (aka National Biscuit Company). NABISCO started in 1898 by a lawyer/businessman named Adolphus Green in Chicago. He curated a merger plan of 40 small mid-western bakeries and 6 small bakeries from the New York Biscuit Company (created by William Moore). In 1906 the headquarters was moved from Chicago to Manhattan (what is now Chelsea Market) and was labeled the world’s largest bakery of its time. The very popular Oreo cookie was first manufactured between those walls, changing milk for kids nationwide. NABISCO left the building in the 1940’s and left behind the factory space. It is now home to many vendors after complete renovations had been done on the space by Vandeburg Architects in 1998. They stripped the space to its brick facades and utilized recycled industrial objects throughout the market, in a way making the remodel eco-friendly while giving it more of a grungy industrial essence. The market is not only a holding space for stores it’s so much more; it’s a indoor park, cafe, art gallery, historical museum, etc. Just think of getting your coffee, cheese, bread, books, or baking supplies from the same address that used to make your childhood’s favorite dunk-able cookies and infamous crackers that were crumbled over many bowls of soup.

Every time I go into an establishment or a public space I always tend to put it in my own mental category of what I would do there, in my opinion this place is perfect for reading, sketching, writing, or catching up with a friend. Try it out and visit the Chelsea Market or visit it again; if you haven’t been there in the last year ,like me, you will probably see newly added stores and exhibits. Nonetheless, it’s always a fun and exciting 800 foot walk, as you weave through the stores.

Uneeda Biscuit Boy

Wishing well collects spare change and gives it to the Salvation Army.