A Current Project In Miniature

by Don Friedman on December 13, 2017

Another picture from the Botanical Gardens train show: Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Our project there, to restore the masonry and the wood pavilions, has recently gone to contractors for bids and should be in construction soon.

Belvedere is a unique structure, combining thick ashlar masonry walls, wrought-iron beams, and stone-slab floors. It was built before New York had a building code, which is just as well because there is no code that it could have met. It is one of the most prominent structures in the park and arguably the pinnacle – figuratively and literally – of the romantic design of the park. There is a small body of water – the Turtle Pond – with a hill nearby, and what could go on top of the hill but a castle folly?

I’ll be writing more about this project in the future, but for now: it’s an honor to work on the castle.

A Long-Overdue Designation

December 12, 2017

The IRT Powerhouse has been designated as a New York City landmark. First, as the pictures may make clear, this is a huge building that is quite visible: it fills the block between 58th and 59th Streets, and between 11th and 12th Avenues. In other words, it’s 200 feet wide and about 600 feet long. […]

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An Illustration of The Effect of Theory

December 11, 2017

Yesterday was my family’s annual pilgrimage to the New York Botanical Garden for the train show. The picture above shows a group of the model buildings that were highlighted by being placed in a fountain near the end of the show. (Click to enlarge.) That’s the Statue of Liberty and the main building at Ellis […]

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The Connection

December 4, 2017

Question: What do these blog posts have in common? See the purple numbers on the map above (click on the map to enlarge it) for the location of the pictures for all and the text for most. Blatant and Odd Fakery Then and Now – Pier A Arching Action, Too Brothers Bad Soil An Old […]

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Point and Counterpoint

December 3, 2017

In the recent discussion of wood skyscrapers (full disclosure: I think they’re a terrible idea) I have noticed any discussion of the extent of exterior maintenance necessary to prevent wood from acting like the biological material it is. A masonry curtain wall can go thirty years with no maintenance and not fail: a lot of […]

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The Machine Aesthetic

December 1, 2017

In one sense, all building materials are artificial. Even the wood we use as lumber is shaped into geometries not seen in nature: rectangular in cross-section, straight, and identical from one piece to the next. But somehow metal seems artificial in a way that masonry and wood do not. You can see artists struggling with […]

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Just Like Us

November 28, 2017

A theme I tend to return to again and again is that people in the past acted the same way we do. They used the tools they had, worried about cost, sometimes had great ideas, sometime made dumb mistakes. They looked for ways to do things cheaper and easier, like we do, and that sometimes […]

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Schematic Design

November 26, 2017

More mining of the NYPL’s digital archive…this one is from an article in Progressive Architecture on the Chrysler Building, showing the evolution of the spire/dome in early design. There are changes up and down the building, but the most dramatic ones are at the top. Had the first design on the far left been built, […]

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An Early Stage

November 25, 2017

I hadn’t seen this picture before. That’s the Woolworth Building under construction, looking northwest from the east side of Broadway, near Ann Street. The ornate building on the right is the old General Post Office. The low buildings on the left were part of the Astor Hotel and were replaced in the 1920s by the […]

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What’s Been Lost

November 20, 2017

The green glass-walled building straight ahead is 2 Broadway. It’s as close to a generic circa-1960 office high-rise as you can get. There’s nothing about it that’s inherently bad…except….it was built on the site formerly occupied by the Produce Exchange. Here’s the Exchange, designed in the 1880s by George Post: In short, we lost a […]

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