Archive for the ‘Takes’ Category

Architecture Meets Science Fiction at 41 Cooper Square

Friday, December 4th, 2009


Thom Mayne’s new academic building for Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square, is the Pritzker Prize winning architect’s first building in New York. Sensual, jarring and willfully strange, it’s unlike anything else in the city. New Yorkers won’t find a meaningful introduction to Mayne or his building anywhere in the popular press

Fifteen years ago, a Progressive Architecture editorial by Thomas Fisher titled “A House Divided” lamented the state of writing about architecture. Fisher saw a choice between “unquestioning description” by architectural journalists and “obscure, jargon-filled analysis” by academic critics. “What is rare, on either side,” Fisher wrote, “are critics who can address the underlying ideas and larger meanings of architecture and who can convey them clearly and concisely to the public and the profession.” What’s been written so far about Thom Mayne’s new academic building for Cooper Union shows how true this remains.  (more…)

Here Was My City

Thursday, September 10th, 2009


A sketch of the Brooklyn Bridge by Lewis Mumford

On the eve of another 9/11, a love letter to New York from Lewis Mumford comes to mind.  His autobiography, Sketches From Life, describes a youthful walk across the Brooklyn Bridge when he caught ”a fleeting glimpse of the utmost possibilities life may hold for man.”

Yes: I loved the great bridges and walked back and forth over them, year after year. But as often happens with repeated experiences, one memory stands out above all others: a twilight hour in early spring – it was March, I think – when starting from the Brooklyn end, I faced into the west wind sweeping over the rivers from New Jersey. The ragged, slate-blue cumulus clouds that gathered over the horizon left open patches for the light of the waning sun to shine through, and finally, as I reached the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, the sunlight spread across the sky, forming a halo around the jagged mountain of skyscrapers, with the darkened loft buildings and warehouses huddling below in the foreground. The towers, topped by the golden pinnacles of the new Woolworth Building, still caught the light even as it began to ebb away. Three-quarters of the way across the Bridge I saw the skyscrapers in the deepening darkness become slowly honeycombed with lights until, before I reached the Manhattan end, these buildings piled up in a dazzling mass against an indigo sky.  (more…)