Jean Nouvel’s “Vision Machine”

Jean Nouvel's 100 11th Avenue is all about the windows. Make what you like of the fact that only the west and south facades are clad in the iconic windows and that the neighbor to the north is a women's correctional facility (hey, this is NYC, what do you expect?). You can't help but notice that despite the criticism, the place shines like a diamond. I like this new addition to what is fast becoming starchitect row (Gehry, Ban, Selldorf)--I just hope the window washers get a little extra coin for their work on this one.


Iphone: Rush Hour at Penn Station

I hit Penn with a little time to spare this evening. Oh how I wish my train left from Grand Central instead! Shot and processed with the Iphone.


High Line: Rail's End

Leading edge of High Line Section 2 construction, just north of 29th Street.

Where the completed High Line Section 1 meets the under-construction Section 2 at 20th Street.

I was looking over some recent High Line shots and these two stood out to me. They're not remarkably stunning photographs, but their interest lies in what they show. Refer to the captions for descriptions.

At top, you can see how the High Line walkway is put together, one hunk of concrete after the next. Each individual piece has a location designation and they fit together like puzzle pieces. Electrical conduit runs beneath and there is a drain at right. The worker is walking on the repaired/replaced main structural slab, which has been waterproofed. Once all the pavers and rails are set at this high elevation drainage/root barrier will be laid on top of the slab, soil will be infilled to the bottoms of the rails, and finally plantings will be placed.

At bottom, you can see the stark difference between the completed section of the High Line and the ongoing construction. Of course, as this is the High Line, a rail runs through it providing continuity.



Here are a few NYC minis to get you through the week. Enjoy!


Michael Schmidt, Photographer and Friend

The only known existing photo of Timothy Schenck, by Michael Schmidt.

My good friend, LA-based photographer Michael Schmidt has been chosen by the wise people from Hasselblad to be part of a really great "viral" promotion for the new H4D-40. Mike has been given their new wundercamera for a month and has been tasked with putting it through its paces. During his allotted time, he will be shoot, blog, tweet, flickr, FB, and post to a Hasselblad site about working with the H4D-40.

Congratulations Mike! Sounds a lot like the experience I had with the Nikon D80. Unlike my experience (where I got to keep my D80 as part of the deal), Mike will have to shoot the lights out and beat out a number of other photographers from across the country in order to earn the right to keep the H4D-40 (they're only giving away one).

Mike is not an easy photographer to classify. He shoots mostly fashion during the day but he lives the art of photography and you're just as likely to see his work peppered with landscapes, motorcycles, and architecture as you are the latest styles from Paris. Anyway, please do go to HassyLA, check out his work with the H4D-40, and leave him some pithy comments or interesting questions. If you want to see more of his work go to his website or his blog.


Antony Gormley's Event Horizon, NYC

If you live in New York City or will be visiting before August 15, 2010, I highly recommend that you get your Shake Shack on and check out Antony Gormley's Event Horizon. Event Horizon, sponsored by the Madison Square Park Conservancy and the City of New York is one of those rare public art projects that's actually engaging and fun for the entire family. 31 life-size body forms of the artist are scattered throughout the park and the surrounding neighborhood. They are on the sidewalks and the tops of buildings. While in Madison Square park, you can see dozens of the figures if you scan your environment. Try to find all 31 figures. I found this guy (above) watching over the area northeast of the Empire State Building. The public's reaction to the installation has varied across the spectrum of emotion, ranging from outrage to joy. I personally found the figures to be both inspiring and strangely ominous. Go see this installation and decide for yourself.


Walls and Windows

Flat-on framing...check, nice clean wall...check, window...check, AC/awning/light fixture/something else protruding from the wall...check, 45 degree sun angle...check. OK, release shutter--instant eye candy!


Iphone: Ode to Saul

"I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learned to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything.” --Saul LeiterShot and processed with the Iphone.


Restoration of Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse

Stoneworkers clean and paint a corner steel column prior to re-attaching stone.

Construction lighting in the basement.

New plumbing and stacked CMU waiting to be installed in the basement.

Members of the design team examine a foundation condition.

Existing doors and other hardware ("historic fabric") are stored on an upper floor.

Cass Gilbert was born in Zanesville, Ohio on November 24, 1859. His parents were Samuel Gilbert and Elizabeth Wheeler Gilbert. He was named for a very prominent unlce, U.S. Senator Lewis Cass.

In 1868, when Cass was nine years old the family left Ohio to join his father, who was working as a surveyor in St. Paul, Minnesota. Samuel Gilbert died soon after the family’s arrival in Minnesota.

Elizabeth Gilbert made sure Cass and his two brothers would complete the schooling they had begun in Ohio. In 1876, Cass entered an apprenticeship as draftsman in the office of Abraham Radcliffe, a St. Paul architect. This is where he began his long friendship with fellow architect Clarence Johnston, Sr.

In 1878, Cass entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture under William Robert Ware. He completed one year of the two-year program. In the summer of 1879, he worked as a surveyor to earn money for his “Grand Tour” of Europe.

On January 3, 1880, Cass Gilbert left New York City for Liverpool, England, with $420.00. For almost a year he made his way through the countrysides and cities of picturesque England, France, and Italy. He sketched architectural features that he would later use in many of his designs.

Disappointed that he could not secure employment in London, Cass Gilbert returned to New York in September 1880 and went to work for the prestigious architecture firm of McKim, Mead and White, serving as Stanford White’s assistant.

In 1882, he returned to St. Paul, Minnesota. He represented the interests of McKim, Mead and White in the West and began his Minnesota architecture career. He kept offices in the Gilfillan Block, the same building as his boyhood friends Clarence Johnston and James Knox Taylor who had also returned to St. Paul from New York City.

In 1883, Gilbert completed his first residential work in St. Paul- his mother’s house at 471 Ashland Avenue.

In 1885, he formed a partnership with James Knox Taylor. Together their office would build residences, churches, office buildings, railroad stations and commercial buildings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Montana.

In 1891, Gilbert and Knox dissolved their partnership. Gilbert went out on his own and continued his St. Paul work.

In 1895, Cass Gilbert was selected to design the new state capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gilbert knew this would be the job to bring him national attention and would make his architectural career.

In 1899, Gilbert won the commission for the U.S. Custom House in New York. He opened his New York office and moved there the same year. His St. Paul office would remain open until 1910.

Gilbert would go on to build many buildings in New York including the West Street Building, the New York Life Insurance Company Building, the New York County Lawyers Association Building, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the U.S. Courthouse.

In 1913, Gilbert completed the Woolworth Building in New York City. It would stand as the world’s tallest building for over a decade. His career continued all over America. He worked on the capitol in Arkansas, and he designed the West Virginia Capitol. His last building was the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.

--From The Cass Gilbert Society


NYC Girls

I'm a big fan of street art. Some people think it's rubbish, but I think it is part of what makes a city alive and human. Here are some street art girls I've come across in my travels throughout this great city.


Wee Paris

I shoot a lot when I travel. Why? Firstly because I relish being a photographer in new and exciting environments and secondly because you really never know when or if you will return to your destination.

These two photos didn't really stand out when I returned to New York from an April 2009 visit to Paris. It took a year and a reorganization of my archives for me to see their full potential. They were just typical cityscapes taken from the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower respectively. They waited quietly and patiently, dormant until that first warm day--the day they were reborn as minis!


TWA Terminal: Part 2

As Promised, Part 2 of the TWA terminal restoration photographs.

Abba Tor speaks deliberately, and with a hint of nostalgia, about his long career as an engineer. He matter-of-factly mentions former colleagues and architectural icons like Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen, Charles Correa, and Kevin Roche and former projects like the Yale Mellon Center for British Studies, the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. As Tor’s story unfolds, it becomes evident that he lives for a challenge, which might explain why he gravitated towards architects who consistently pushed the boundaries of their craft and demanded an engineer who could help them accomplish their vision.
Tor’s first major challenge came in 1957 when he began work on the TWA Terminal as an engineer with the Amman and Whitney team; he was 33 years old. He had never worked with the project’s designer, Eero Saarinen, before, but he knew of his work.

“Saarinen was a shape-giver,” Tor recalls. “He was always searching for the right form for the building involved…and sometimes the structural aspects of his work did not easily fall into logical engineering solutions. You had to kind of argue your way into it; so there was always a certain element of tension, but it was the kind of tension that brought out the possibility of creative solutions and compromises.”

One of the particularly important “compromises” occurred in the project’s early stages. Saarinen’s original design called for the entire roof—all 1.4 acres of it—to be one continuous undulating shape; a design concept often referred to irreverently by some as the “flying brassiere.”

“We had to convince him and his people that the roof needed joints and separation because it was not possible to have such a large area of concrete poured without the concrete shrinking, which would lead to cracking later on,” Tor explains. Tor proposed that joints be introduced between the shells. This was done and the joints served as another function as the building’s three-foot-wide skylights.

While the skylights were an example of the creative solutions developed for the building, Tor recalls that there were certain times where Saarinen’s “form-giving” overrode engineering considerations. “As a designer, Saarinen was very honest about his vision for a building. [So I found that] the way [to work] with him was to tell him that the following design features have such-and-such implications and then leave the decision to him,” notes Tor. “One had to be honest both ways. He had to be honest with me and I had to be honest with him.”

This honesty and professional respect resulted in the wing-like roof and the swooping concrete vaults of the TWA Terminal. Tor remembers the day after all of the formwork and scaffolding were removed and the 1.4 acre roof was freed to rest on its four supports: “I was standing with Saarinen under the roof and as he looked up he turned to me and said, ‘Mr. Tor, if this roof were to fall on my head now, I would die a happy man.” It is evident from the smile that can be heard across the phone line that this is a compliment Tor holds dear.

“This project was a launch for me. Once I [finished the TWA Terminal] I felt that I could tackle anything; it gave me a lot of confidence. I was a fairly young engineer then and I don’t know if I would have had the gall or the courage to tackle the project if I was older,” Tor muses; and he was correct because TWA was just the beginning. Tor went on to work with Saarinen on the Deere and Company Administrative Center and the Vivian Beaumont Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Saarinen’s office in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan also ended up being something of a matchmaker between Tor and his future business partner Henry Pfisterer. In 1964, Tor was looking to move on from Amman and Whitney whose focus was shifting from architecture to civil work for major defense projects—as Tor describes it, “lots of concrete being poured into lots of big holes.” At the suggestion of John Dinkeloo, Tor contacted Pfisterer, who had worked with Saarinen on Yale University’s Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges and the North Christian Church. The “match” resulted in the founding of the engineering firm Pfisterer, Tor & Associates. As a partner of in that firm, Tor continued his impressive career working with some of the 20th century’s iconic designers. Tor laughs as he remembers his collaborations with one of these icons: Louis Kahn. “It was a pleasure to work with [Kahn] because he had an uncanny way of getting the most out of you by pushing you and making you feel good about being pushed. I worked with him and I took all kinds of abuse willingly!”

Today, Tor is an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. He co-teaches a course called Advanced Building Systems, which he describes as an “introduction to the real world.” The studio course gives students a defined project scope, including the building’s footprint, function, height, etc., and asks them to develop, up to a certain level, the technological aspects of the building, i.e. the structure, air-handling systems, and curtainwall. Tor explains that the course is meant to teach architects to think along with the consulting engineer, a skill that he has certainly mastered.

During a project with Kahn, Tor came to the defense of his craft after Kahn, in a moment of exasperation at being told what he could or could not do, had declared "you engineers are all the same; you are like sausage cutters!" "I said to him, 'Lou, we are not sausage cutters, we are more like the male dancers in a classical ballet. Sometimes we jump and soar, and other times we stand there firmly on the stage and when we see the ballerina take the big leap we catch her in mid-air, we turn her around, and we make sure that she lands gracefully and doesn’t fall on her face.'" And as you look at the TWA Terminal you can see exactly what he means.

--From The National Building Museum

Take a look at Part 1.