Concrete and Reliquaries

January 16, 2018

9781780236551

I have been reading this book because I am fascinated by medieval art, and I see a lot of reliquaries.  The book is sort of rambling, and it jumps around thematically, but it has focused my attention on these objects lately, so I took another trip to The Cloisters to see a few.  I drove in, and decided to park and walk around Washington Heights with my camera a bit before going to the museum.

First off, again, the Port Authority Bus Terminal with that fantastic reinforced concrete roof by Pier Luigi Nervi.  I was struck by this view from my car, and walked back to capture it.  It conveys, for me, the creepily attractive monumental and oppressive nature of some modernist architecture.  The tower in the background, one of two known to traffic alert listeners simply as “The Towers,” gives the view a Futurist look.

felling futuristic.png

Once in the museum, I went to see the three little ladies, reliquaries purportedly containing the skulls of martyred women, three of the 11,000 killed with Saint Ursula.

IMG_4193.JPG

Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but it made me think of this final scene from Mystery of the Organism.vlcsnap-694373

Advertisements

Lower Manhattan Jaunt

January 8, 2018

pa-178th-st-a-e1515466731195.jpg

On my Lower Manhattan jaunt I took two pinhole cameras:  a coffee can model; and a rectangular box type.  My photo journey began uptown, of course, at the 178th Street Port Authority Bus Terminal.  The building’s roof was designed by Nervi was designed in the early 1960s, and I just love the trapezoidal-shaped columns resting on a massive steel rocker.  This was shot with a rectangular box pinhole.

As usual  with my interior pinhole shots, I had trouble getting the exposure right.  Actually, getting the exposure right is always a problem, but it’s harder indoors.  Considering the overcast skies, this one came out pretty well, but I have been finding that my low-light outdoor shots are often over exposed because I have been relying on an iPad light meter app.  According to the reciprocity law rigmarole, long exposures calculated “by hand” are too low and need to be increased.  I don’t know what the “rule” is for light meters that include very large f-stops, or maybe there isn’t one.   I should probably rely on rule of thumb and experience and dump the meter!

calatrava 1a

This coffee can shot of the plaza outside of the $4 billion luxury shopping mall otherwise known at The Oculus or Transit Hub by Calatrava shows the exposure problems.  It is also a roughed up image, showing the effects of my clumsy field handling of the cameras in my darkroom bag.  Haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

calatrava 2a

This interior shot of the structure was also taken with a coffee can pinhole, and it turned out pretty well.  The building is more impressive in this image that it is in fact, but I could go on about this for a long time…

I found relief from the contemplation of the Port Authority’s pharaonic waste at The Rubin Museum on 17th Street which contains fantastic collections of Tibetan art.6961121A-0102-4239-8DC0-1C428BC2955B

After my visit, on my way to the subway to get back to Nervi’s place, I captured this little scene, so typical of Manhattan, with my coffee can pinhole.

Manhattan Snow a


Upper Manhattan Jaunt

January 7, 2018

I revisited one of my favorite buildings in Manhattan; the multi-storey sub-basement of an old apartment building in Washington Heights, amidst the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Complex.

Upper Lower Dungeon

It really does seem like a dungeon to me.

Let me out

It’s barely visible from this perspective amidst the hospital behemoths that recall to my mind the fantasies of Saint Elia.

StElia

futurism-architectural-drawings.jpg

Manhattan Schist, so it’s called, is prominent up here, and from such soil, great structures grow.

Growth

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, we had barely two seasons:  I love the winter!love winter II

After all this gawking at icy splendor, I retreated to The Cloisters.

IMG_4158

Son of Clovis?

IMG_4148

Saint Lawrence Being Roasted:  The story goes that after grilling for a while, he declared, “I’m well-done, turn me over!”  Thus, he is the patron saint of cooks.

IMG_4146


On the Turnpike

December 6, 2017

IMG_3899

This is my first attempt at a roadside panorama of the New Jersey Turnpike.  The noise and wind from the traffic, fairly light at that hour, were terrific, and made it difficult for me to concentrate.  Hoping to visit again on a nicer day for some better shots.  Here is a link to the full-sized image.

The view is looking southeast, to my beloved Pulaski Skyway, and then due east, right across the Jersey wetlands with Manhattan in the distance.  The tallest building is the new World Trade Center tower, at the site of the former Twin Towers.

compositeII


Krazy Architecture Critic

February 8, 2010

click image for full strip

From it’s completion in 1913 until about 1930, the Woolworth Building, funded by all those drugstore nickels and dimes across the country, was the world’s tallest.  A “cathedral of commerce” it was promptly dubbed, and a monument it truly is.  The entire facade is clad in white terracotta, intricately sculpted in a dizzying array of ornamental shapes.  The lobby is a stunning melange of gothic and byzantine sytles, with gorgeous gold and azure blue mosaics.  Every little piece of architectural furninture is created with brilliant gothic detail.

The structure was built quickly, and paid for in cash.  Click on the drawing here, from The Building of Manhattan by Donald MacKay, to get a detailed view of the innovative foundations that hold it all up.  (I heartily recommend this book for any urban infrastructure fanatics.)  The topmost surface of the bedrock in Manhattan is not on an even plane; it dips and rises in folds.  To some extent, this subsurface geology is responsible for the clustering of high-rises in midtown and downtown, with a relative slough in between.  The bedrock on the Woolworth site was said to be deep, too deep to excavate the entire pit down that far, so the caisson tubes were sunk instead.  Well, deep is a relative term, and what was deep in 1913 might not pose a problem today.  Thus, I daily watch over the huge “bathtub” of the World Trade Center site, excavated down to bedrock.  (See this post for a video a bedrock blast.)

Here are two views of the tower from the conference room where I work.  Nowadays, here in the United States of Fear, you can no longer visit the lobby of this great building.  Since 9/11, a sign posted on the sidewalk warns away tourists, and guards won’t let you in the door.  Yep, I’m sure those Islamic terrorists are busy scouring the AIA Guide to NYC for landmarks to target.

The golden ball on a pedestal is on the top of the AT&T Building, the lobby of which is shown below.  The building was erected in stages:  in 1927 the Broadway portion, faced in white, severe and enormous Doric columns was finished.  The entry is a vast space with the feel of a temple, and includes a memorial to the dead of WWI.  The contrast with the Woolworth Building, just across the street,  is extreme

And while we’re at it, here’s a Krazy Kat strip illustrating the need for gun control.


Children of The Grid

January 27, 2010

Manhattan is a grid of streets, and the pretentious provincialism of its chauvinistic inhabitants has been ridiculed, lovingly by many, most famously by Saul Steinberg.  I encounter the grid tribesmen occasionally, I mean those who see themselves as such, or at least a segment of that population:  white,  professional, more or less liberal.  (In Europe, perhaps they would be called bourgeois.)  Their company makes me uneasy – I feel as if I’m struggling for breath in an airless room if I’m with more than two at a time.  Bunuel makes me laugh at it.

It’s the suffocating atmosphere of caste.  I guess I am with Groucho Marx who quipped that he didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member.   I have a bit of envy of people who can so strongly link themselves to a place and a scene, like a barnacle that’s found a home, but I also find it upleasantly restrictive. Nostalgia is not an emotion I feel very much.

It’s all very personal:  When I meet people like this, I sometimes feel as if they are checking me out unconsciously and automatically, seeking to determine if I know the secret handshake or eye movment that signifies that I am of the tribe.   Intelligent?  Went to a “good” school?  Lives in what neighborhood..?  Politics okay, check!”   “Oh hell, just tell me what you think, if you think!”

I guess I’m a wee bit oversensitive, but you see, I come from the antipodes of The Grid.  I am from The Valley.

These photos are from a high school classmate, c. 1975.  That decor, those colors, that landscape, the plush pointless comfortable mentality of it all…how I loathed it.  To move east to attend a university was my dream and my escape.  Those were the thoughts of a silly teenager – it was hardly hell on earth.  And as I learned, the urban sophisticates of the east could be equally boring and trivial, not to mention pretentious.


I am not crazy!!

February 21, 2009

lenny

In an earlier post, Have YOU Heard It?, I commented on the weird phenomenon of the west side IRT “humming” the opening notes of the West Side Story ballad, “There’s a Place for Us.”  In case you missed it, or thought I was nuts, the NYTimes has finally taken note of it with this story:  Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein.