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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

“Despite a six-day-a-week work schedule, Derr always makes time to take pictures. His images of DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Brooklyn Heights can be seen on Flickr — and purchased through Imagekind — and have appeared in the Gothamist, the New York Times, and Brooklyn Heights blog. They’ve also been published on dumbonyc.com and used in the promotional materials of Arts at St. Ann’s and the DUMBO Neighborhood Association. . . .

“‘DUMBO was rough when I arrived,’ he begins. ‘There is a building complex on Sand Street that is owned by The Watchtower where about 900 staff live. When I first moved in, the area was not as refined as it is now, with galleries, shops, and brand name stores. Before, there were art collectives and there was more of an artist presence in the community. Right up the street there was the Between the Bridges Bar, which looked like a dive. I guess something was lost, and something gained.’

“Among the losses, Derr says, is DUMBO’s once-gritty feel—the abandoned warehouses and factories, broken concrete, and glass shards that used to litter the ground. He is saddened, he says, by the destruction of numerous art deco structures, one of which, the Purchase Building, was knocked down to create a parking lot that now houses the Brooklyn Flea each Sunday.” (more @ The Brooklyn Rail, via Dumbo NYC)

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dock_street_two_trees“The City Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly to support a controversial tower next to the Brooklyn Bridge — though the building’s 18-story wing will be shaved by one story.

“In addition, Jed Walentas’s 325-unit Dock Street proposal — which features a ‘green’ design, plus 65 below-market-rate rentals and a public middle school — would lose two to three stories from the part [sic] its 10-story wing closest to the bridge.

“The vote to rezone Walentas’s lot from manufacturing to residential was 11-2, but despite the landslide, Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden described the proposal as ‘the most difficult to come before the commission in many years.’ . . .

“In ordering a height reduction and the cut-out section from the mid-rise portion of the building, the Commission seemed to at least be partially swayed by a late push by Brooklyn Bridge historian David McCullough, who visited the fabled span this month to call for the Walentas proposal to not only be halted, but for other buildings around the bridge to be demolished for a national park.” (more @ The Brooklyn Paper)

Even so, celebrity opposition to the project continues to grow. Dumbo NYC reports:

“We received word from [Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance (DNA)] that in addition to David McCullough, several celebrities will be starring in supporting roles in their grass roots campaign. Gabriel Byrne of The Usual Suspects and HBO’s In Treatment, Helen Hunt of As Good as It Gets and Mad About You, Gary Sinise of The Green Mile and Forrest Gump, Ana Gasteyer of  Saturday Night Live and Mean Girls, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns of Brooklyn Bridge and The Civil War fame and Skipp Sudduth of Third Watch and Law & Order have all added their support to the opposition of the proposed 18-story building.” (more @ Dumbo NYC)

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“During the late Thirties, some of Britain’s most distinguished architects, artists, musicians, film-makers and others, many of them Jewish, arrived on our shores with their meagre belongings having escaped from the Nazi threat in continental Europe. Many of them made their homes here and went on to leave a lasting mark on our intellectual and cultural life. Britain reaped a rich reward for its tolerance. . . .

“Among them were two refugees from Vienna, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang. . . .

“They met in London during the war, fell in love, and in 1949, 60 years ago, they pooled their passions, and set up a new art publishing imprint that would straddle the Atlantic.

“They named it Thames & Hudson, after the rivers of London and New York, and their aim was to publish reasonably priced books on art, sculpture and architecture, in which words and pictures were integrated and accessible to all. They wanted their books to educate, inform and entertain as a ‘museum without walls’. . . .

“Setting out to rebuild British culture Thames & Hudson has grown into a hugely successful company, and it remains one of Britain’s last family-held publishing dynasties.” (more @ Times Online)

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alhambra“One of Spain’s most enduring historical mysteries is close to being solved as experts decipher and translate more than 10,000 Arabic inscriptions adorning the walls of the Alhambra palace in Granada.

“The intricate Arabic inscriptions carved into the ceilings, columns and walls inside the imposing hill-top fortress have long fascinated visitors. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, pious wishes and boastful slogans.

“There are so many of them, however, that nobody has ever managed to study each and every one. Now a team of researchers armed with 3D laser scanners and digital imaging software is slowly working its way around the complex recording, transcribing and translating every inscription.

“‘There is probably no other place in the world where studying walls, columns and fountains is so similar to turning the pages of a book,’ said Juan Castilla, of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), who heads the team.” (cont’d @ Guardian UK)

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“In the latest chapter of a hot dispute over the building of a proposed tower near the Brooklyn Bridge, the historian and Brooklyn Bridge expert David McCullough is voicing his opposition to the plan.

“At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. McCullough spoke to a crowd of more than 50 local advocates and politicians about why he opposed plans by the developer Two Trees Management to construct a tower called Dock Street Dumbo, so close to the Brooklyn Bridge.

“While Mr. McCullough lives in Maine, he used to live near the bridge, and also spent extensive amounts of time near the site of the bridge when researching the Battle of Brooklyn for his book ‘1776′ and the bridge itself for ‘The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.’ He also worked with Ken Burns on a documentary of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“‘It’s one of the most important structures in our country,’ he said. The construction of the proposed tower is ‘upstaging what should not be upstaged. The magic of the bridge’s image is diminished. It’s wrecked.'” (more @ NY Times)

letter from McCullough to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz opposing the Dock Street Project, penned in January, 2009, can be found here. 

A video of McCullough calling for a halt to construction plans near the Brooklyn Bridge, which he says would obscure the monument and damage a forgotten historical site nearby, can be found here.

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I’ll not be posting to the NSRG this weekend when I’ll be visiting Washington, D.C. in order to view, in advance of my May trip to Naples, the exhibition, “Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of Naples,” at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition, which includes recent discoveries on view in the United States for the first time, as well as finds from excavations dating to the mid-18th century, closes this Sunday. 

The New York Times review of the exhibition can be found here.

A slideshow, “The Treasures of Pompeii,” can be found here.

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Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, on New York’s two new baseball stadiums, “the first time that two major-league stadiums have opened in the same city at the same time”:

“A stadium is a stage set as sure as anything on Broadway, and it determines the tone of the dramas within. Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own. Yankee Stadium, however, reflects an organization that is in the business of being admired, and is built to serve as a backdrop for the image of the Yankees, at once connected to the city and rising grandly above it.” (more @ The New Yorker)

RelatedTwo New Baseball Palaces, One Stoic, One Scrappy

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“For the best part of a decade, the heirs of German writer and Nobel prize laureate Heinrich Böll worked on hammering out a deal with the city of Cologne over the transfer of his private papers to the state archives.

“Three weeks ago, city officials held a special ceremony to mark the historic handover: for €800,000 (£712,000), the Cologne archives took possession of hundreds of boxes containing items ranging from Böll’s school reports to scripts of his radio plays, novels and essays by Germany’s most popular post-second world war writer, who died in 1985 at the age of 67.

“But his papers and unpublished works may have been lost for ever after the collapse of the archives building this week. . . .

“The Böll documents are just a small part of the losses to the archives which contained almost 30km of files, including articles written by Karl Marx, letters by Georg Hegel, writings by composer Jacques Offenbach and edicts issued by Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as the minutes of city council meetings going back to 1376, which offer a fascinating portrait of medieval Cologne.” (more @ The Guardian)

A video of the post collapse excavations can be viewed here. (via Books, Inq.)

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dumbodockstreet“The Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, has jumped into a contentious debate over a proposed development near the Brooklyn Bridge, saying that he supports the project but would like to see it modified.

“In a letter to the Department of City Planning, Mr. Markowitz wrote that he supported the proposed tower, called Dock Street Dumbo, which would include shops, rental apartments and a new middle school, but wants to make sure that the tower did not affect the public views of the bridge.” (via NY Times)

The New York Times article, which was posted on DumboNYC.com, also reported that Markowitz suggested the developer, Two Trees Management Company, make the tower taller — 25 stories instead of 18 — but Markowitz contacted the Dumbo blogger to correct the record, noting that his recommendation is not necessarily to build higher, but that as of right, Two Trees can build up to 25 stories on the site.

Markowitz’s office released a statement recommending that the City Planning Commission and the City Council support the multi-use concept proposed by Two Trees Management while rejecting the building as currently configured. Markowitz’s full statement can be found here (.pdf).

[It has not escaped notice by Dumbo locals that just last night, the borough president kicked off his re-election campaign at an art space in Dumbo owned by the Dock Street developer. Presumably cake was served at the event, which Markowitz worked hard both to have and eat.]

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From today’s New York Times, Allison Arieff on San Francisco bookseller, collector and architectural book publisher William Stout and the old-fashioned pleasures of hunting in the stacks:

“Stores like Stout’s (not to mention people like Stout!) are a rare breed these days: there are two floors bursting with over 200,000 books on everything from the sustainable houses of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt to Czech graphic designer Vitezslav Nezval’s ‘Alphabet’ from 1926 to the last sketchbook of Jackson Pollock to William Wegman’s whimsical ‘Dogs on Rocks.’ Some books are shelved in an orderly fashion, others are piled high, begging for the serendipity of accidental discovery. . . .

“I love the tangents an afternoon spent searching the Internet can generate: a search for this leads to a blog on that which might lead to a book I’d not heard of or a film I want to see. But I realize as well that it’s contributing to a sort of collective ADD that makes ambling through aisles of a place like Stout Books feel that much more special, requiring an altogether different commitment of time, care and attention.”

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As reported in a New York Magazine article still much-discussed by DUMBO locals, Steven Kaplan, a Professor of European History at Cornell University and the “world’s preeminent French-bread scholar,” after a blind tasting of 13 of New York City’s finest baguettes, chose Almondine Bakery‘s eponymous baguette as the city’s best.

Scoring a 14.65 (on a scale of 21), the Almondine baguette, said Kaplan, “has a nice look, nice resonance, and a nice song . . . It has a little bit of fruit, a peachy, buttery quality in its nose . . . [and] achieves a good marriage of crust and crumb.”

almondineBut before Almondine’s now famous dough could rise, the abandoned four-story warehouse and pepper factory now occupied by the bakery had to be gutted, rehabilitated and adapted for commercial and residential use.  In 2003, Bob Vila, late of the This Old House home improvement and repair television series, devoted the entire season of his Home Again series to the transformation of this c. 1850s building unused since the 1950s.  

More than just a chronicle of a single restoration project, the videos from the DUMBO series (clips from all 13 episodes can be found here) offer some of the best footage available of the development of the Brooklyn neighborhood that in the past several years has become a must-see destination on the New York City tourist circuit.

Update: Best of New York: Eating: Best Bakery (via “2009 Best of New York” issue of New York Magazine)

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savethebrooklynbridge1In a recent editorial, “A Con Grows In B’klyn,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, like The Brooklyn Paper before it, voiced its support for the controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school that opponents argue will forever block views of the historic Brooklyn Bridge.  But unlike The Brooklyn Paper, which published a measured, point-by-point rebuttal to critics of the project, Post writer Steve Cuozzo reveled in denouncing what he called the “farcical arguments” and “blatantly bogus claims” of the “cranky opposition.”

Singled out for particular abuse were City Councilman David Yassky, the New York Times, and the organization “Save the Brooklyn Bridge” which Cuozzo accused of printing and distributing misleading and “fake” images of the planned tower.

[The best and most up-to-date chronicling of the DUMBO Dock Street Project, including local opinion (pro and con), can be found at DumboNYC.com.]

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Tenement building, with ghosts of former occupants, in former Jewish Ghetto, Warsaw, Poland, May 2008

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Trompe l’oeil window, Siena, Italy, September, 2004.

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Reflections of Chartres Cathedral, August, 2005

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While the completion of the final 670-mile stretch of security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to be slowed by political and engineering issues, across the more than 600 miles of fence already completed (“a hodge-podge of metal panels, wire mesh and steel posts”) “drug smugglers . . . continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs. The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.”

Teddy Cruz, reporting for “The Nation,” writes that “no matter how high and long the post-9/11 border wall becomes, it will never stop the migrating populations and the relentless flows of goods and services back and forth across the formidable barrier that seeks to exclude them.” Yet from the southward flow of materials something remarkable is being created – “while human flow mobilizes northbound in search of dollars, the urban waste of San Diego moves in the opposite direction . . . The leftover parts of San Diego’s older subdivisions — standard framing, joists, connectors, plywood, aluminum windows, garage doors — are being disassembled and recombined just across the border. A few miles south, in Tijuana, new informal suburbs — some call them slums — spring up from one day to another. This river of urban waste flows across the Tijuana-San Diego [sic] to make something dramatically new.”

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dockstreetrendering“Opponents of a controversial residential tower proposed to rise next to the Brooklyn Bridge brought their case to Borough President Markowitz on Tuesday night, bitterly describing developer Jed Walentas’s project as bad public policy and a disastrous way to treat the fabled and legendary span.” (via The Brooklyn Paper

[Notable among the opposition was two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough whose 1972 history of the Brooklyn Bridge, “The Great Bridge,” remains, alongside Alan Trachtenberg’s “Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol” one of the essential texts for understanding the cultural context of the bridge’s construction. A letter from McCullough was read by a representative from the Simon & Schuster publishing house.]

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In the years since the felling of the World Trade Center towers, the Brooklyn Bridge has taken on an increasing symbolic importance to New Yorkers. The bridge is now used as a backdrop for almost every local television news broadcast while the adjacent state and city parks along the East River in DUMBO, Brooklyn are regularly used as settings for fashion and other advertising photography and for television shows of various stripes. The relationship between developers, preservationists and those favoring the construction of a new middle school, is a contentious one that likely won’t be resolved any time soon. Even if the proposed development gains the necessary approvals, it is not clear when, or if, the project will ever be completed. One need look no further than the oft-delayed and scaled-back plans for the Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn to know that the battle to preserve the sanctity of the Brooklyn Bridge will be a long one.

Wondering if a New School in Brooklyn Is Worth Blocking the View (via New York Times)

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