New York City’s architecture and design month is almost here. “Archtober” is 31 days of architecture and design events, including talks, tours, receptions, and festivals. There are dozens of events for you to check out, but we’ve hand-picked ten that will give you a well-rounded and memorable Archtober.
Image courtesy of MNCY
Long considered the capital of Jewish America, this overpoweringly cramped neighborhood was considered by many to be the greatest concentration of Jewish life in nearly 2,000 years.
Between 1880 and 1924, 2.5 million mostly-impoverished Ashkenazi Jews came to the US and nearly 75 percent took up residence on the Lower East Side. According to the Library of Congress, by 1900, more than 700 people per acre were settling in a neighborhood lined with tenements and factories. And as quickly as they descended on the streets, all sharing a common language (mostly Yiddish) and most certainly, similar backgrounds, they quickly established synagogues as early as 1865 (the landmarked Bialystoker Synagogue, whose congregants were mostly Polish immigrants from Bailystok), small shops, pushcarts teeming with goods, social clubs and even financial-aid societies.
By 1910, the Lower East Side’s population was well over the five million mark, but sadly, such congestion habitually caused havoc.
Gaudi’s proposed building in the New York skyline, as imagined by the TV show “Fringe.” Image © FringeTelevision.com
Atoni Gaudí was a brilliant and polarizing architect. Whereas most architects will see their works compared and contrasted against others in their field, even the most knowledgeable architectural critics will look at Gaudí’s work and throw up their hands and say it must be something alien. The organic curves and mounds of Gaudí’s designs look hundreds of years ahead of their time. But Gaudí worked mostly around his home region of Catalonia, and the businesslike skyscrapers of Manhattan have never looked anything like the the architect’s designs. However, there was a time when a Gaudí NYC skyscraper almost came to be.
Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we get word that there’s a Cold War-era bomb shelter hidden under the Brooklyn Bridge, amid the landmark’s many secret passageways and forgotten rooms.
The nuclear bunker is inside one of the massive stone arches below the bridge’s main entrance on the Manhattan side, and it’s chock full of supplies, including medication like Dextran (used to treat shock), water drums, paper blankets, and 352,000 calorie-packed crackers (that may be still be edible, in fact).
The newest apartment houses, be it now or some 150 years ago has always been of great interest to New York buyers and renters. And like today, their appeal make sell-outs as easy as pie. From Manhattan’s very first apartment building to those that followed a decade or so later, those initial projects continue to remain the city’s most coveted digs—not to mention the city’s most expensive. But what stands out among these famous buildings as the years passed was the introduction of not-yet-available services—ranging from running water and elevators to electricity and communal amenities. Whether we are talking about the Dakota or the luxurious the Osborne Flats, learn why these century-plus-old buildings continue to enchant the rich, the famous, and the rest of us.
Many wonder why such a prolific and famous architect as Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t have more buildings in New York City. It’s safe to say he wasn’t a huge fan of urban density, but how could one possibly create something as iconic as the Guggenheim’s spirals without getting any other work in the city? As we showed in a previous post, two Wright designs have actually been demolished. Now, we will look at the two buildings Wright intended for the New York area which were never fully realized—at least, not in Manhattan.
Image credit: MAAP
The Fraunces Tavern Museum at 54 Pearl Street in FiDi has a long history of use, changing hands and purpose countless times since it was constructed back in the 18th century. What started as a simple rental home was later turned into a dance studio, eventually finding itself as a popular tavern-slash-boarding-home-slash-community center throughout and after the Revolutionary War. The building even had a stint as the first offices of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War and Treasury. But it wasn’t until 1904 that The Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York, Inc. took over and decided to restore and preserve the historic building as a museum and restaurant. Our friends over at Find Everything Historic recently sat down with the Fraunces Tavern Museum’s executive director Jessica Baldwin Phillips to chat about what it’s like to maintain a storied building in a constantly changing city.
The Rembrandt at 152 West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was built as Manhattan’s first co-op in 1881. Apartment ownership was already in fashion across the pond, particularly in France and Britain, but the concept of a resident-owned building was still an unknown to most of us. Developed by a syndicate led by Jared B. Flagg, a clergyman with an avid interest in real estate, and built by the notable architectural firm of Hubert & Pirsson, the group had come to the conclusion that potential buyers would be drawn to a building where they would have control over expenses. For instance, buying coal and ice in bulk in order to keep prices down, and hiring a full-time communal staff to take care of the owners’ laundry, cooking and the running the elevators.
Built as a brick and brownstone building with terra-cotta trim and jerkin-head gable windows at the top, the unit mix—a result of an interlocking system of staggered floor heights to allow for very tall art studio spaces—included a few duplex apartments with as many as 12 rooms. Original brochure prices reportedly ranged between $4,000 and $5,000, with monthly maintenance as low as $50. Confident in the ultimate success of co-operative living, Mr. Flagg with Hubert & Pirsson continued to develop another six co-op projects that very same year.
After nearly four decades of sitting vacant, the majestic Loew’s Kings Theatre in Flatbush will reopen. It was announced in 2010 that the 1920s movie palace would be restored to its former gilded glory thanks to a $70 million renovation, and now it’s been revealed that the reopening will take place in January 2015.
The theatre closed in 1977, but according to a press release, the new Loew’s Kings Theatre “will serve as both a cultural and economic cornerstone for the Brooklyn community, presenting more than 200 performances annually—including music, dance, theatre, and comedy—providing a resource to foster and support creativity in the area, creating jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to the neighborhood.” It will also have 3,000 seats, making it the largest theatre in Brooklyn.
We often think of the street grid as New York’s greatest “master plan.” Officially known as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, this put in place the original, gridded street pattern that we still know today. But there have been several other master plans that took shape on a smaller scale within the linear configuration of Manhattan. These planned communities were largely conceived to transform blighted or underutilized areas into suburban enclaves or peaceful oases within the big city. And just like the neighborhoods that grew organically among the street grid, these master-planned areas each have a unique character. They’ve also influenced a new crop of developments, currently under construction on the West Side and in Brooklyn.