Sunday, December 23, 2007

holiday cheer

Phil Kline's annual Unsilent Night is quite amazing, and it is an annual holiday tradition in New York City and other worldwide locations. I first experienced it in 2000 or 2001, during SantaCon. Enjoy the video; it is about 9 minutes long and worth watching, regardless of whether or not you've experienced an Unsilent Night firsthand.

As you may or may not know, I have a thing for birds. Seeing a hawk hanging out in Brooklyn would be a real holiday treat, and Brooklyn Hilary documented the momentous occasion, which happened today in Park Slope.

I'll be celebrating the holidays in AZ and CA. One of my new year's resolutions is to post more in 2008. Thanks for reading Urban Landscaped in 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

am New York: 'Endangered New York: 10 (more) to save'

Yesterday, am New York ran a two-page article titled 'Endangered New York: 10 (more) to save'. The sites mentioned were interesting (not quite what I expected), and professionally, one of the sites is one that my employer will have played a large part in demolishing. (I understand and am sympathetic to my employer's organizational decision, but it was good to hear the counterpoint, as little organizational context as it included.) There are several links and image slideshows related to the article; here is the link.

Of course, the images of Admiral's Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard are immediately viewed as beautiful and worthy of saving (aesthetically and historically), but three other mentioned locations resulted in a more personal introspection --

Modernist architecture

In the article, Peg Breen, president of the The New York Landmarks Conservancy, is quoted as saying "I think modern buildings aren't as easy to love sometimes...some...require a more intellectual understanding." Breen's statement hits the nail on the head.

Cited as examples in the article are The New York Public Library's Donnell Library Center, the Morris B. Sanders House in Turtle Bay, and the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. I find it difficult to aesthetically appreciate Donnell and the Bus Station, but intellectually I appreciate both structures. Is modernist architecture the first movement of architecture that this time period's population views as disposable? Is modernist architecture harder to take care of, therefore it looks more worn? Or is it simply underappreciated, and why? Many people immediately react positively to Art Deco buildings (which I don't personally like). Why is that? Is it the age, or do specific architectural elements identify with individuals interacting with the buildings?

St. Vincent's Hospital

I used to live near St. Vincent's Hospital, and I will never forget watching the Twin Towers burn from my vantage point across the street. I have been operated on at St. Vincent's, and I still routinely travel there for various tests. (Nothing serious; I love up-to-the-minute healthcare!) Nonetheless, St. Vincent's filed for bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so there are now financial/economic and architectural concerns. At a lunch I attended last month with Greenwich Village activisits/preservationists/concerned citizens, St. Vincent's was mentioned several times as being the biggest preservation issue that might affect living conditions in Greenwich Village.

The humble diner

Yes, the New York City diner is disappearing, and it's a shame. (New York magazine wrote about this in 2004, but it bears repeating.) One of the things I noticed when I moved to New York City in early 1996 was the prevalence of NYC diners. It made me happy. After I read this article yesterday, I went to lunch at a diner on Madison and 33rd and ordered sausage and eggs (over easy) with home fries and rye toast. Support your local diner!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

holiday book exchange (and I connect with Googie)

It's the holiday season, and for the last several years, that has included an annual holiday book exchange at my place of employment. To be truthful, I "got out of" the book exchange the first two years I was at the Library, but this year, there was no excuse.

After literally feeling several wrapped books and thinking about my choice for about 60 seconds longer than appropriate (I lingered at that table), I committed to a package from the pile of offerings. I lucked out with a fantastic treasure, Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture by Alan Hess!

Ah, Googie architecture! I've heard the term before but forgot it. Now, after spending a bit of time scanning Hess' book and searching online, "Googie architecture" (aka "doo wop" architecture) is part of my vocabulary.

Googie Redux, originally published in 1985 and re-published in an expanded version in 2004, focuses on the western United States (California, Nevada), but Wildwood, New Jersey is also a well-known Googie town. In the 1970s, my grandparents took my brother and I out to Wildwood every summer. We stayed at The Mariner, which I believe recently closed. Scanning Hess' book and seeing the icy sidewalks outside my window this evening, I'm drawn to the idea of a doo wop long weekend in Wildwood. It'll be interesting to find out about the architectural philosophy behind these expressionist, futurist buildings from the 1940s and 50s.

Since I worked as a waitress at various Denny's locations during college, I've also spent hours in a uniform and apron, behind the counter in Googie buildings. (It wasn't pretty, but it was life.) This last summer, I also photographed various Googie sites in Chicago ghettos.

[Photo by Brian Indrelunas and found on Flickr.]

I lived within a five-minute motorcycle ride from this Googie building for almost 10 years. It wasn't an Arizona State University Information Center back then; it was still a Valley National Bank branch.

More information about the former Valley National Bank building at Apache and Rural:

-- from The Tempe Historical Society's website
-- went inside the building.
-- Even better, documents the demolition of the building.

I'm going to make sure I drive by the intersection next week, in remembrance of the building...and also to see what monstrosity is being built there in its place.