Aug 2, 2011

New York New York: Sim's Little Architecture Adventure

I imagine New York would be a happy place for architecture students - the gothic baroqueness of Chrysler Building to the Greek-and-Roman inspired Rockefeller Center. For people with nil architecture knowledge like me, we just gawk in amazement and take photographs of everything. However, Manhattan being a more crowded place than most other parts of the world, a lot of these intricate designs or decorations won't fit into a camera lens on street level. What I got were mainly cliché at its extreme and some accidental stumble in an unlikely neighborhood, no intermediates in between.
Same thing with the arts, I invite you to sample New York's architecture by eyes and not through a camera lens. Starting to appreciate lines, colors, and space now that I'm stuck in Taipei's thousand hues of grey and grimy facade.

My tour starts at Wall Street, where the subway station is noticeably less gritty compared to others.

The intersection between Broadway and Wall Street is where the nation's most expensive real estate lies, currently occupied by Bank of New York. The "wall" for Wall Street originates from the Dutch, which built wooden barriers along this southerly end to defend New Amsterdam back then. Little do they know the humble wooden walls would translate to the most prestigious financial center less than a century later.

Touristy me.

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where as many dreams were made for as many broken. The coincidental stars and stripes is, to me, embodied the American dream in this place of unimaginable wealth and overnight bankruptcy. Interestingly, when I Googled NYSE, "stealing democracy, one billion dollars at a time" mindlessly popped up...

Federal Hall is just opposite NYSE with George Washington guarding the main entrance. Bailouts anyone?

Look for your own skyscraper shot along the way

Continue along Broadway and you'll be greeted by the new building at WTC. Due completion by early September 2011, the temporary memorial site and St. Paul's Chapel is worth a visit, just to pay respect to the 2977 souls who innocently passed and the day that changed everything.

A stone's throw away at City Hall, an exhibition of contemporary structure blends in surrounding classicism, including...

Tweed Courthouse, funded by the corrupt "Boss" Tweed constructed between 1861-72.

And Municipal Building, where Mayor Bloomberg works.

Just east of City Hall, the 19th century Brooklyn Bridge, once the longest suspension bridge in the world at nearly 2km, is the hallmark of optimism and hope, inspiring Kerouac, Marianne Moore and Bloom, which immortalizes the bridge with its explosive opening of "To Brooklyn Bridge":
"O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,--
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms."

The United States Court House and a very important engraved message - the true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.

City Council and State of New York along the way to...

Chinatown - where newly-arrived Chinese immigrants lived along the Italians at Little Italy, just a few blocks away.

SoHo - once the place to be for free and artsy souls. Now lined with high-end galleries and retail.

NYU has no campus. Or literally, a collection of inconsistent building blocks all marked by the violet torch.

My other favorite aside Strand Books, Shakespeare & Co. Needless to say they have a vast collection of plays by Mr. Shakes, and second-hand books at bargain prices too!

My host kept on telling me how NYU is not a university in truth but an urban campus. I didn't quite take it to heart until she showed me around Columbia.
Occupying the northwest corner of Manhattan, Columbia indeed has a breathtaking campus and Alma Mater sitting in front of her library.

Back to our final stops of the architecture tour. Radio City Music Hall is one of the many gems of the Rockefeller family that had become synonymous with performing arts in the US and around the world.

Rockefeller Center. "If you come during Christmas, there will be a HUGE Christmas tree at the center of the square and Josh Groban singing underneath it," my host said. There and then I decided to return in Christmas even if I fail medical school and had to smuggle myself in the cargo section of the airplane.

Finally, if you still have the energy to walk up north, Bethesda Fountain in Central Park is celebrated in "Angles in America" as a symbol of eternal health. Regardless, it is the first public art project awarded to a lady, and a true marvel of a sculpture with the serene face and wings just about to take flight.