An analysis of functional, nonfunctional and funky architectural design.
An analysis of functional, nonfunctional and funky architectural design.
A photo of Adele at the VMAs caught my eye today. She was wearing a black dress with a collar of triangles and squares. See her in the dress at a link here.
The dress struck me as reminiscent of Art Deco styling. In fact, the shapes were very similar to a light in the Empire State Building:
Certainly not everything with bold, geometric shapes is reminiscent of Art Deco—otherwise, I would have to post hundreds of photos clothing from the late 1980s and early 1990s. But because Adele’s dress is sleek and black, and very sophisticated, the geometric shapes appear bold and strong, just as the detailing in Art Deco bears the strength of the then-glorious steel and manufacturing industries.
Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art fulfilled my lifelong dream of seeing one of America’s greatest museums. At the top of my to-do list was stopping in at the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit.
As part of its series of historic rooms, the Met exhibits the living room from the Little House in Wayzata, Minnesota. This particular room does a good job of representing Wright because it contains many characteristics common to Wright’s homes.
Wright’s greatest influence may have been the Japanese exhibits he saw at the Chicago World’s Fair. Wright’s homes, unlike what was commonly built during the early 1900s, feature lower ceilings, and wider rooms. Wright’s rooms interact with the outside using walls of windows, just as Japanese homes were very much interconnected with the outside.
The Little House living room hosts the same walls of windows found in other Wright homes, as well as shorter ceilings. The room still feels open because Wright used horizontal space. The Met strategically placed the exhibit so the windows opened out to Central Park, giving a similar impression from what could have been seen from the actual house—except with different foliage. The ceiling includes recessed lighting comparable to what I saw at Fallingwater.
When inside a Frank Lloyd Wright house I can understand the beauty of his work, but after I return to the outside world, I can’t help but dislike the influence he had on American homes. Wright was a genius, and paid attention to every detail in his homes—some of the intricately detailed furniture from the house is included in the exhibit, and windows and other pieces designed by Wright are on display nearby. Unfortunately, in the rush to produce homes for profit, builders of the Wright-inspired “ranch house” kept features like the low ceilings, but cut costs by eliminating the clever details (such as the horizontal wood accent cutting through the Little House living room) and placed fewer windows.
Coming out from the Wright exhibit, visitors have to walk through a three-story, skylighted atrium. Stepping out into the open, airy atrium, I realized how brilliant Wright must have been to create rooms that felt as homey as an English cottage, yet as spacious as a grand, glass-walled room.
A backstage tour of the Apollo Theater provides excellent insight into one of the must influential stages in America. The Apollo, which is located on W 125th Street in Harlem, housed burlesque shows until an uptight New York City mayor outlawed burlesque in the 1930s. The theater then made a transition to African American entertainment—which fit in with the overall transition of Harlem from Western European to African American residents.
A little over a decade ago, the theater made a transition from privately-owned to state owned, as New York purchased the theater to declare it historic in an arrangement that allowed a nonprofit group to “rent” the theater for $1 per year for 99 years. At this time, the theater underwent several renovations.
The theater group chose to add modern dressing rooms, but wisely spared the original dressing rooms used by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Paul McCartney and the Temptations. Mr. Billy Mitchell, our tour guide who worked his way up the ranks to theater manager over the course of his life, says artists who have visited since the renovations are offered the new, larger dressing rooms located beneath the stage, but usually turn them down and instead like to sit in the same seats in front of the mirrors used by their idols.
Elsewhere, the theater struggles to continue renovations. The auditorium has red cloth covering murals because the environment is wearing away at the paint. The group decided to repaint the “gold leaf” carved wood. Unfortunately, work had to be halted in the middle of the first segment when the sponsor of the multi-million dollar project—Lehman Brothers—ceased to exist. Now, one section shines much brighter than the rest while a fundraising groups attempts to find another sponsor or a grant to pay for the rest of the auditorium.
The struggles of the Apollo Theater’s attempts to modernize while retaining historic integrity parallel that of many theater groups.
I visited The New Museum, located in the Bowery on Manhattan. I had seen photos of the museum before our tour, and I was skeptical about the building because I have seen numerous buildings with “innovative” modern architectural designs destroy neighborhoods with cement walls or an overbearing scale.
From about a block away my concerns grew as I saw the stacked boxes of the museum grow into the sky. The shiny metal face of the museum appeared stark against the older brick buildings in the Bowery—a perfect representational fit for the innovative art housed at the New Museum.
Once on the sidewalk outside the entrance, I found that the museum worked seamlessly into the neighborhood from street level. The front wall was almost entirely glass, with a section set aside for a window display (which was being set up during my visit). The first floor sat flush to the sidewalk, so no ramps or stairs separated the inside visitors from the outside.
Visitors were thus able to flow freely into the first level of the building—which the museum charges no admission for. The glass windows provided a level of visual interactivity that worked with the museum’s current running
The exhibit focused on visitor’s senses through interactive exhibits like televisions that blinked in succession, a vial of human pheromones and empty pill capsules (with accompanying water for those who needed it). Visitors could whoosh down a two-story slide, float naked in a pool of body-temperature salt water and ride a mirrored Italian trapeze.
The walls in the interior of the building were painted a pure white, like many museums, and very few architectural details were visible. Instead of creating a cold space, the bare design allowed the curator to place the focus on the experience exhibition, and even included details like a television of floating bubbles in the elevator that gave off a weird sense of movement as they changed speed as you rode to a different floor.
In addition to inviting visitors in, the open facade of the building gave museum-goers an ethereal experience. Standing beneath a 6-foot mushroom and looking out into Manhattan? Even the Willy Wonka would find this unusual.
Unlike the creation of other urban parks, New York City’s High Line retained historic elements while creating comfortable public space and incorporating natural elements.
The group turned the rail into a raised walkway with a collection of plants representative of the city and the railway’s history.
The walkway includes numerous benches for lounging and incredible views of the city.
Artistic birdhouses draw animals up to the High Line.
The city also ensured the walkway would be accessible to all citizens by including elevators from street level to the park.
The city even included a public restroom.
The revival and reuse of the High Line represents New York City’s life cycle. Buildings surrounding the High Line show their past histories through small details like bricked-in windows.
Today the High Line is one of the most popular parks in New York City. The effective reuse of the High Line shows the importance of rejuvenating cities through renovation and preserving history rather than demolishing “blighted” areas.