Sources And Discussion

by Don Friedman on March 16, 2018

Some of our blog posts are obviously self-referential, discussing what’s going on with our office or what we’re working on. Some are based on current discussion elsewhere. And some are me trawling through a few favorite sources for photos that show some point that I think is important at the moment.

There are plenty of sources of old photos these days. I prefer public domain photographs, and the strange rules of U.S. copyright mean that those can be hard to find. This Curbed post discusses a number of Instagram accounts that are making good use of photos regardless of copyright status. I agree with the selection: all of those accounts are worth at least a look, and several are worth repeat visits.

My problem with them is not them, but rather with Instagram. I’m not going to trash the service, especially since we have an account where some of the photos that appear in this blog are reposted. Monday through Friday, I try to keep some serious discussion going here of issues related to our work, whether written by me or by someone else in the office. Saturday and Sunday I may just post pretty or amusing pictures, but that’s not the purpose of this blog. Instagram is a picture service, and while you can put up some text with the pictures, that’s not its purpose. For better or worse, when I see the kinds of pictures in those Instagram accounts, I want more discussion than they get there.

Long story short: expect my posts here to continue to be discussions of obscure built environment history.

An Existential Question

March 15, 2018

In the last year or so, people in the A/E/C community have had the all-too-rare pleasure of watching a new critic come into her own. Kate Wagner began with McMansion Hell, a web site devoted to making fun of the excess of pointlessly large and horribly undersigned houses, but has branched out into other forms […]

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Breathless Reporting

March 14, 2018

A weakness of mine is expecting reporting about buildings and related issues to make sense. It seems like it should, in that physical objects are easier to describe than ideas, but that distinction is an over-simplification. There’s no way to discuss buildings without discussing intangible concepts, and that’s where inaccuracies are likely to arise. This […]

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Two Postcards

March 11, 2018

Two views of Belvedere Castle from the Souvenir Postcard Company in 1905. The first commercial color-photograph plates weren’t available for another couple of years and ordinary color film for another 25, which tells us that the color version was hand-tinted. If you look closely, you can see that the artist did more than tint – […]

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Chalets In Mid-Air

March 9, 2018

One more time, an example of architectural templates. In this case, the building type is just about gone: the headhouses of elevated train stations. A typical elevated station – like the ones on the demolished Second, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenue Elevateds, the above-ground portions of the subway system, or similar systems elsewhere, like the […]

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Medieval Architecture and Steel Trusses

March 8, 2018

Yesterday’s post on the repetitive architectural design of public schools got me thinking about other templated building types around the city. I want to discuss one of the less common but distinctive types: the armory. There are some 24 of these buildings still in existence in the city, with many having been demolished as the […]

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Architectural Templates

March 7, 2018

If you need proof of how much the world has changed, there was apparently once enough of a demand that someone produced a postcard of a high school on Staten Island. In any case, Curtis High was built by the New York Board of Education at the time when C.B.J. Snyder was in charge of […]

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The Name Is The Same

March 3, 2018

I happened to be at the Schwab House this past week. Not the mansion at 73rd and Riverside Drive in the photo above, but the 1950 apartment house that replaced it and is named after it. C’est la vie.

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Site Visits Require Fast Decisions

February 24, 2018
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What Made It Possible

February 24, 2018

That’s the frame of the Dime Savings Bank in Detroit, visible during construction. Biggerer here.

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