Known mostly through the images like those prominently on display at the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” the secret hideaway of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been glimpsed by a few curious New Yorkers looping around on the #6 train at Brooklyn Bridge Station and explored by a lucky handful of (mostly) New York Transit Museum members. On 06.05.14, presidents and members of AIA’s local New York chapters boarded an empty #6 train and toured the abandoned City Hall Station. Led by the MTA’s affable Frank Klimasz, the tour proved the aphorism “not all subway stations are created equal” correct.
When City Hall Station opened in 1904, the southern terminus of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was the crown jewel of the nascent system. The nontraditional curved platform is bedecked in tiled green and white archways, once-sparkling chandeliers, and intricate glass skylights that dramatically light the underground space. The plaques that commemorate the construction of the underground train system honor architects Heins & LaFarge of St. John the Divine fame, but omit Rafael Guastavino, MCNY’s unsung hero and the true mastermind behind the station’s design (and, coincidentally, the cathedral’s 12-story vaults). Walking through the station, the collective feeling was one of nostalgia: “Why don’t we have spaces like this anymore?” Continue reading “Behold City Hall Station”
Energized by a love of “anonymous architecture” – and unfazed by the New York Public Library’s recent decision to return his firm’s redesign of the 42nd Street main library to the drawing board – Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA (also known, since his elevation to the peerage in 1999, as Lord Foster of Thames Bank), gave an overflow audience a persuasive manifesto in the guise of a set of personal recollections. His discussion combined an homage to the structural-tile wizards Rafael Guastavino Sr. and Jr. – treasured among architects, particularly those familiar with the scholarship of MIT’s self-described “Guastafarian” John Ochsendorf, but largely unknown outside this community – with a broader salute to some of his design heroes. These often-under-recognized figures in architecture, engineering, and product design have inspired Foster’s work, from his working-class boyhood in Manchester, before he was even aware the profession of architecture existed, to his current position among its globally recognized leaders. Together with Foster + Partners engineer Roger Ridsdill Smith, who elaborated on the remarkably energy- and materially-efficient properties of shells and related double-curved forms, Foster made a convincing case for the combined functionality and beauty of geometries that “do more with less.” Continue reading “Foster Introduces Undersung Pioneers to the Public”
On the evening of 03.25.14, the celebration of Catalan architecture in the city continued with the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) tremendously well-attended exhibition opening for “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile.”
If you enter a Beaux Arts building constructed between 1881 and 1962 and look up, there is a good chance that you will see a tiled, herringbone-patterned vault designed by the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company. Guastavino resides in the subconscious of New Yorkers, but his name often goes unnoticed, over-shadowed by the famous firms that commissioned his work. Continue reading “Master Mason, Architect, Engineer, Guastavino Emerges from the Shadows”