Category Archives: Architecture

New York/The Cooper Union


Cooper Union, Foundation Building — © Brian Rose

I have not previously weighed in on the controversy embroiling my alma mater The Cooper Union, one of the most prestigious and historic schools in America. I read the paper, I look at websites, and hear things, but I have no inside track on what is going on. What I do know is troubling, and I believe the school’s viability is in grave danger.

In a nutshell, Cooper was founded by the industrialist Peter Cooper as a school for art, architecture, and engineering that was affordable for all regardless of ability to pay. It was located, appropriately, on the edge of the teaming Lower East Side, and for decades it has been tuition free. One of the few all scholarship institutions of higher learning in the world. Many of its graduates are now leaders in their respective fields–and have a particularly important impact on New York City.

Due to hard economic times, mismanagement, and the growing cost of higher education, Cooper finds itself in financial trouble. The board of trustees is about to make a momentous decision on whether to charge tuition possibly ending the school’s unique charter as stated by Peter Cooper to be “open and free to all.”

With regard to the art school, should the board decide on charging tuition, Cooper will then have to compete head-to-head with several highly esteemed art schools in New York City, as well as many other fine schools around the country. Cooper’s strength has always been the quality of its students–astonishingly bright and talented–the best of the best chosen without regard to ability to pay. Cooper’s facilities, two architecturally outstanding buildings notwithstanding, are meagre compared to other art schools. Cooper, being a small school, has fewer course offerings than others, and its faculty, while outstanding, is equal to those who teach elsewhere, but not necessarily better.

Charging tuition will end the uniqueness of Cooper Union and place the school at a competitive disadvantage. It will no longer be the most sought after art school in the city. The best students will choose schools with more to offer for their money. The money raised from tuition on a mere 1,000 students will not ultimately solve other structural financial problems. A death spiral is possible, if not likely.

A way has to be found forward that will retain Cooper’s unique tuition free status. The principles espoused by Peter Cooper must be reestablished, and the school should embark on new fund raising efforts. Those of us who do not have much money to give, do have our work, which could be leveraged to raise money. The art alumni need to be engaged, not simply asked for pledges. While doing my Kickstarter campaign last year to fund my book, I thought about how Cooper might undertake a similar campaign, except on a much larger scale, using the work of alumni as rewards for donations. Forget phonathons and other outmoded fundraising models.

It’s not just about money–it’s about engagement. A sense of belonging and responsibility. Should the board choose for tuition, many alumni will walk away, and that will be the beginning of the end.



New York/Lower East Side

Brendan, my 14 year old son, at the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose

Last week my ICP class went to the area around the Manhattan Bridge on the Lower East Side. We were working off an iconic photograph by Berenice Abbott of Pike Slip looking toward one of the bridge towers. At the time her photograph was made, tenements crowded around the massive stone architecture and steel engineering that began near the Bowery and soared over the city before spanning the East River. The bridge continues to exert a dominant presence in the urban landscape, though most of the tenements have been torn down, replaced by housing projects, parks and ball fields. However, a part of Chinatown still borders the bridge with its hustle and bustle, and colorfully cluttered shopping malls have been constructed beneath the supports of the bridge. At Monroe Street, a there is an elaborate skatepark  hemmed between the massive stone piers of the bridge. It is a spectacular setting, a mecca for skateboarders and bmx’ers.

Yesterday, I took my 14 year old son with me for a photo walk around the bridge.


Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Under the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Park adjacent the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose


Under the Manhattan Bridge — © Brian Rose




New York/Tassafaronga Village/Oakland, CA

Tassafaronga Village, David Baker + Partners, Oakland, California — © Brian Rose

In today’s New York Times, architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reviews two mixed income housing projects in the San Francisco Bay Area designed by the architect David Baker. Although Baker’s work has been published in various professional magazines, his profile outside of the Bay Area has remained relatively low. Low, in spite of the fact that Baker has achieved something few others have even tried–to bring sophisticated design to the task of providing housing for low and middle income people.

© Brian Rose

Tassafaronga Village in Oakland, California is a large complex of mostly new buildings that replace a troubled housing project set in the middle of neighborhood of small houses, factories, and stacks and stacks of rail containers. It’s a tough area, lying in the shadow of Oakland Colosseum where the Athletics and Raiders play, and crime is high.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

There are several aspects to the project. One is a single building situated behind the undulating facade that you see above. It contains low income apartments grouped around a courtyard. Entry is through a spacious lobby, seen above. Some of the street side apartments have individual doorways.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

Throughout the project there are solar panels mounted on masts, and in the shot above, a green roof can just be seen in the foreground. Other parts of Tassfaronga Village include townhouses facing streets with courtyards and walkways within and between the groupings of houses. Large galvanized steel farm troughs are used as planters.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

While the houses do not attempt to mimic historic styles, they do evoke characteristics of Bay Area architecture, with bright yellows and reds punctuating the generally white, gray, and muted green palette.

© Brian Rose

There is limited parking on the street in the complex, but a bus loop connects to the nearby BART subway system.

© Brian Rose

An existing building–a former pasta factory–is integrated into the complex. Seen above, a sloping metallic mesh screens the windows along the south facing end of the building. The red door is a signature element found somewhere in almost of all of David Baker’s projects.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

The question asked, and perhaps answered, in Kimmelman’s positive Times piece, is whether good design can enhance quality of life and even dampen social ills. It would appear so with Baker’s projects–for a number of reasons. One important one, is that there is always an active engagement with the street and with public spaces. The interior courtyards, playgrounds, and gardens encourage use, and can be easily watched over by surrounding windows. Baker does not plop down alien looking, monolithic blocks into the fabric of existing neighborhoods. His buildings look like they belong. However, his eclectic architectural vocabulary, which is as likely to quote European influences as American, is bracing and new.

Baker has rewritten the rules for subsidized housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Working with knowledgeable developers, he has helped transform whole neighborhoods of San Francisco and Oakland, and he has demonstrated repeatedly that low income housing can be integrated into the urban landscape. Every day I walk out of my building here in New York and am confronted by the dispiriting brick wall and windows of a subsidized housing project, typical of what is done in this city and around the country. Tassafaronga Village, and other David Baker projects, shows another way forward.



New York/The Low Line

The Lowline exhibition

Underneath the street at the foot of the Williamsburg bridge is an abandoned underground trolley storage facility. Until recently, few knew about this hidden space.

From the New York Times:
James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, come to the project with prestigious résumés (Yale and NASA in Mr. Ramsey’s case, Cornell and Google for Mr. Barasch). They want to convert the space into a subterranean park, using fiber-optic technology to channel in natural light — enough light, in fact, to allow photosynthesis to occur and, as a result, for plants to thrive.

The proposal is called the Lowline, named  to echo the High Line, the elevated park built on the old rail viaduct slicing through Manhattan’s westside. Ramsey and Barasch and a host of other supporters and collaborators have put together an exhibition in a disused market building adjacent to the trolley site. In it they have built a prototype of the sun collectors and created a mini landscape comprised of a tree, ferns, and moss. I had been somewhat skeptical of the concept until seeing the exhibit–I imagined the lighting being indirect and dim. But the actual impression is of a shaft of sunlight penetrating the darkness. An array of these collectors would produce an underground world brightly illuminated by daylight.

There are a lot of  reasons for the Lowline to fail–the fact that the Metropolitan Transit Authority owns the space and wants to maximize the value of this otherwise dead space. The cost of building and maintaining such an elaborate piece of infrastructure. The bureaucratic red tape inherent in any New York City project, no matter how straight forward–and this would be anything but straight forward.

On the other hand, more than 10,000 people have passed through the Low Line exhibition in two weekends, an extraordinary number. The project has clearly seized the imagination of the city and beyond.

While visiting the exhibit yesterday I met briefly with Margaret Chin, Lower East Side city councilwoman, who is supporting the project, and then spoke with Dan Barasch. He was familiar with my book Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and I suggested that there might be a way I could support their project through my photography. I would love to be involved in some way.









New York/Buffalo

Manhatta Timeline, ArtSpace Buffalo — © Brian Rose

I am presently exhibiting work at ArtSpace Buffalo, a non-profit gallery, along with paintings and drawings by  J. Tim Raymond and Robert Harding. Tim, who is the organizer of the show, lives in Buffalo, and Bob Harding is a painter from New York City. The gallery is in an old factory buildings converted into artists lofts, and because of its immense size, I opted to show large pieces. The photographs are 40×50 inches and the mural, WTC, which I previously mounted on a sidewalk shed on East 4th Street in the East Village, is 4×28 feet.


Manhatta Timeline, ArtSpace Buffalo — © Brian Rose

The title of my part of the exhibition is Manhatta Timeline and takes its name from the short film made by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand in 1921 featuring images of New York City. The name is derived from the original Indian name for the island, Mannahatta, and the film includes quotes from the Walt Whitman poem of the same name. Timeline refers to the sequence of four images that begin at the north end of Manhattan in Inwood Park with the Hudson River and Palisades in the background. The sequence then moves down the Hudson to the World Trade Center in the 1980s, and concludes with a multi-layered urban scene from 2012 that includes a sign with the names of those killed on 9/11. The montage of WTC closeups is itself a visual yardstick with a searing strip of blue sky in the middle.

…I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships, an
island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, strong,
light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies…

from Mannahatta by Walt Whitman


Inwood Park (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


Hudson Heights (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


World Trade Center (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


Washington Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose




New York/Amsterdam

Amsterdam waterfront — © Brian Rose

The last photographs from my recent trip to Amsterdam. These were taken along the waterfront of the city on the Ij, once an inlet of the Zuider Zee, now an inland waterway connecting to the North Sea and the Rhein River. Although little new construction is underway in Amsterdam because of the economic crisis in Europe, there are major projects that are completed or near completion along the Ij. Above one can see Nemo, the science museum, designed by Renzo Piano, on the right. And to the left the new library/hotel/office complex adjacent to Central Station, partially finished. This picture was taken inside Arcam, the Amsterdam architecture center. I did not use my view camera on this walk–all were made with my point and shoot digital.


Eye film museum and Shell Building — © Brian Rose

Across the Ij (pronounced eye, more or less) is Eye, the new film museum of Amsterdam. It is designed by the Austrian firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects and does a wonderful architectural tango with the Shell Tower from 1966. The latter building is currently empty and for sale.


Ijdok complex and film museum — © Brian Rose

Nearing completion is the Ijdok, a multi-purpose complex including courts, hotel, offices and residences perched on a pier on the water. click here to see computer generated renderings of this fascinating ensemble of buildings.


Westerdoksdijk — © Brian Rose


Westerdokseiland — © Brian Rose

A narrow strip of land that previously served as a rail siding for the nearby Central Station is now a handsome row of apartment buildings with inner courtyards and pedestrian promenade along the water. This new neighborhood lies within a few steps of the old canal district of central Amsterdam.

New York/Amsterdam

On my last day in Amsterdam the weather improved and I was able to get out with the view camera. I picked up where I left off five years ago in Ijburg on the edge of the city. The view then was of mostly empty landfill–it is now densely built. But it still feels detached to me from the rest of the city, and during the day, somnolent, empty. I took one photograph of a residential street that leads to a row of commercial office buildings, and then crossed over a bridge to the Diemerzeedijk, a historic dike that once protected Amsterdam from the vicissitudes of the Zuider Zee. The area has been used as an industrial dumping ground and remains polluted, though now contained. It is being developed as parkland.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

In the distance one sees the  Enneüs Heerma Bridge designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, and following a bicycle path one crosses a busy shipping canal on a spectacular bridge, the Nesciobrug, designed by Jim Eyre. A long looping causeway  leads to the bridge allowing for a gradual incline. The Amsterdam Ring highway stands a short distance away with its billboards.


© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

All of these photographs were made with the 4×5 view camera as well as my pocket digital. The sun shone in and out through a broken deck of clouds, a striking phenomenon all afternoon. I feel both alienated and at home in these transitional areas of the city–places that are neither here nor there. It’s how I felt in general during the 15 years I lived in the Netherlands traveling back and forth to New York. I was an untethered agent caught between continents and cultures. Although I am now ensconced in New York City, I easily slide back to that state of uncertainty, in which the world appears new and strange. Even in my hometown.

New York/Amsterdam

Prinsengracht near the Noodermarkt, Amsterdam (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Almere, a suburb of Amsterdam (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I’ve been doing some renovation of my website portfolio. The two pictures above are from a major upgrade of my Amsterdam on Edge series.

From the accompanying text:

For 15 years I lived in the center of Amsterdam, the famous urban village of canals and bicycles. It was a great life style environment, but it did not interest me much as a subject for photography. What could I add or subtract from this idyll of urban seamlessness? Even the red light district appeared tame, and cozily contained. But I eventually found rougher edges of the city along stretches of the once bustling waterfront, and I discovered the new neighborhoods on the periphery, the playgrounds of Dutch planners and architects. This was clearly where the action was.

The first photograph was taken in the old canal district of Amsterdam and sets the stage for an exploration of the city that few visitors ever see. American tourists–especially–have a grossly distorted image of the city. It is both better and worse than the clichéd image most hold onto–infinitely more interesting and complex. Forget the drugs and prostitution meme. It’s tiresome, and blinds one to the what is really going on.

The second photo was taken in Almere, a new town in the polder, drained land, on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Although the landscape of the Netherlands is notably horizontal, punctuated by windmills and church spires, urban development tends to be vertical. Not tall as in skyscrapers, but narrow lots and skinny buildings standing shoulder to shoulder with exaggeratedly steep stairs, even in the newest houses. The Netherlands has plenty of planned sprawl, but it is denser than the typical American suburb. And although you see more historic architectural references these days, many of these communities flaunt their cutting edge design, theme parks of the new, as it were, even as they fulfill the most plebeian function as middle class shelter.

Amsterdam on Edge

New York/The High Line

We walked the High LIne on Christmas Day with relatives visiting from out of town. It was a relatively mild day with sun and clouds, the low slanting light of late December. The plantings on the High Line at this time of year are mostly brown with bits of color here and there, holly bushes and the like. As wonderful as the design of the elevated viaduct is, what interests me the most are the views of the city from it–the unique possibility of looking straight down cross streets, across the rooftops of warehouses and the hodgepodge of buildings in west Chelsea. This was once an industrial and distribution area serving the Hudson River docks. Today, it is the art gallery center of New York, and new apartment buildings have gone up throughout the neighborhood. The old warehouses are mostly occupied by businesses in the creative fields, and a media company occupies the striking Frank Gehry building located on the West Side Highway.

This is my Christmas walk up the High Line with two photographs made at ground level–a rendering of the future Hudson Yards development and a peek into the empty sun flecked Apple store back down on 14th Street with a bevy of strangely glowing screens.

The First $100,000 I Ever Made by John Baldessari — © Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

London Terrace apartments in the background — © Brian Rose

IAC/Frank Gehry on left, 100 11th by Jean Nouvel at center — © Brian Rose

Hotel Americano  by Enrique Norten at left, Starrett Lehigh building at rear — © Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

Rendering of future Hudson Yards development — © Brian Rose

Apple store, 14th Street — © Brian Rose

New York/WTC

Park Place — © Brian Rose

Friday evening I walked down to the World Trade Center with an invitation to the 48th floor of 7 WTC, the first completed structure in the rebuilding post 9/11. Silverstein Properties, the owner, has made the 48th floor available as an artists’ studio, though soon the occupants will have to make way for a paying tenant.

7 WTC, 48th Floor, painting by Marcus Robinson — © Brian Rose

The entire floor was unpartitioned and open with raw concrete floor, exposed fire proofed steel beams, and wrap around floor to ceiling windows with stunning views. At least four artists were on display including Marcus Robinson who is a painter and videographer. His time lapse images of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center were shown on a large video screen.

Paintings by Todd Stone — © Brian Rose

Another artist, Todd Stone, had a gallery-like exhibition of his paintings on one side of the floor documenting 9/11 as seen from his Tribeca studio. I usually don’t like to see images of the horror of 9/11 itself, but these were done as a spontaneous reaction to what was happening a short distance away, the paint somehow distancing the event while at the same time heightening the attention to it in a way that photographs do not.

View of 9/11 memorial — © Brian Rose

I took a few photographs through the windows, one looking down on the memorial–glass reflections unavoidable.  Stone has been doing paintings of the rebuilding, and he was working on one of the 1 WTC while I was there. I spoke with him for several minutes, and I traded one of my WTC books for one of his exhibition catalogues.

Painting by Todd Stone

Snow scene from the 48th floor with Diebenkorn-ish colors.

1 WTC model — © Brian Rose

A model of 1 WTC stood on the south end of the 48th floor adjacent to the real thing going up outside the window. The late afternoon sun just caught the translucent plastic of the model giving it a golden glow. The actual tower will never appear so crystalline I am afraid, despite its faceted exterior. But we shall see…



New York/The Bowery

ast Broadway/Catherine Street/The Bowery — © Brian Rose

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am presently photographing the Bowery, the historic street associated with New York low life from its early days as an entertainment district to its latter days as world famous skid row. The street runs only about a mile, so my intention is to photograph it in some detail. Since my studio is located just off the Bowery along the northern stretch of the street, it’s easy for me to start taking pictures and run out of film before I get very far. So, this morning I kept the camera backpack on my shoulders until I got down to Chinatown just below the Manhattan Bridge. I did a number of photographs with the 4×5 camera–these are from my pocket camera. It was a brilliantly clear morning, a little windy, but manageable.

Chatham Square and The Bowery — © Brian Rose

Looking south at Chatham Square one can see 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry tower with its wavy steel curtain wall rising above the squat brick building housing NYPD headquarters. The glass building at left is typical of the new construction going up all along the Bowery. And a recent decision to de-landmark a nearby early 19th century house is likely to increase the pressure on other properties. The Bowery has always been a hodgepodge of architectural styles built at various different times, so freezing it in the present is not necessarily appropriate or practical. But if you look at the Bowery, many of the structures are relatively small–some of them built as townhouses–but most are now used for commercial purposes. The temptation to knock them down and replace them with new hotels and other multi-use buildings is ever mounting. The way things are going, much of the Bowery’s historic character will be lost.

The Bowery and Pell Street — © Brian Rose

Above is an example of  a former townhouse now used as a bank office. Anything with a pitched roof, of which there are probably a dozen on the Bowery, was built in the first part of the 19th century. A few are hiding behind false fronts, and other have had their heads lopped off. The 19th century house between 5th and 6th Streets next to the Cooper Square Hotel, which I have photographed, was torn down a few months ago.

East Broadway — © Brian Rose

After using up my film, I made a quick visit to the post office on East Broadway and took the photograph above looking through the front window to the street.

New York/WTC

Broadway and Cedar Street — © Brian Rose

I went downtown yesterday to add more photographs to my ongoing WTC series. I took the 4×5 view camera, which now requires carrying individual holders for the film instead of the pre-packaged paper envelopes that I used for about 15 years. Both Fujifilm and Kodak have dropped those from the lineup, now that digital is pre-eminent, and Fuji has stopped making 4×5 film across the board.

I took the subway to Wall Street and walked a block or two up to Zuccotti Park, the primary location of Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement that has spawned similar actions in other cities across the country. I went with the intention of including the demonstration in some of my photographs, but not to attempt to document it per se. After all, the place is crawling with photojournalists and the media in general.  My approach, as usual, is more of a meta-documentation of events as they intersect with my main task, photographing around ground zero and the rising towers, particularly 1 WTC. More than once, other photographers looked at my equipment and referred to me as “a real photographer.”

From across Broadway I could readily see the police presence on the periphery of Zuccotti Park–various barriers and cones directed traffic on the street–which continued to flow unimpeded. Every few moments a double decker red tour bus would pass by the park and tourists’ heads would swivel in the direction of the demonstration. I set up my camera on Broadway and did a photograph looking toward the park with a brilliantly red Mark DiSuvero sculpture towering over it. The new glass buildings in the background reflected sky and each other creating a confusing constructivist composition. Red construction hoists slid up and down 4 WTC as if intended to complement the color scheme.

Trinity Place and Liberty Street — © Brian Rose

I only did three or four photographs in and around the park, but I was there about two hours, setting up the camera, and then waiting for things to happen. I talked to a number of people, some active participants, some tourists, others just passing through, but curious to see what was going on. As expected there are plenty of “professional activists,” the people who come to any and every march or protest aimed at established power. So, the casual observer might assume that the crowd is dominated by Marxist anti-U.S. fringe groups.

If this were actually the case, however, this demonstration would have been long over. It’s hard to get a handle on the composition of the crowd, but clearly, it is more diverse than usual for these kinds of things. At one point while I was there a contingent of union hard hats from the WTC construction site paraded through the park carrying an American flag. Another group of perhaps 20 marchers–young people, white and black–circled the park chanting “Stop, stop and frisk!” while almost the same number of NYPD blue shirts strolled along behind pied piper style. This was obviously an adjunct protest to the main Wall Street occupation demonstration. I talked briefly with a construction worker, a British tourist who was concerned about the economic future of Europe, and a person who had come specifically to see for himself what was going on. It’s the interest from outside the core group of demonstrators that seems to give  this rolling event momentum and importance.

I set my camera in the northwest quadrant of the park facing Liberty and Trinity Place with demonstrators and the curious in the foreground, and the sky filled with glass skyscrapers in the background. It was particularly satisfying to put my tripod down right at this spot where I had been accosted by security guards a few years ago who informed me that Zucotti Park–while open to the public 24 hours a day– was, in fact, a private park, and tripods were not allowed. The park–really a paved public square–is the product of  one of these zoning deals New York City is so fond of. Developers get more height or floor area in exchange for creating a public amenity, often of dubious merit. In this case, the park is definitely a welcome amenity among the forest of skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, and the city sees it as a win-win, since they do not have to take care of it–Brookfield, the owner, maintains the space. So, we have a public square which must be open to everyone round the clock, in which tripods are not usually allowed, now occupied by 500 demonstrators and their NYPD chaperones. The irony of it all is delicious.

Cedar Street — © Brian Rose

Speaking of ironies. The crowd in Zuccotti Park is comprised largely of local New Yorkers, many of whom are undoubtedly Jewish as evidenced by a portable Sukkah to honor the current holiday set up among various other tents and tarps. The right wing talking point that Occupy Wall Street is anti-semitic is laughable. The reason they link a Wall Street protest to Jews is because they are under the mistaken notion that the nation’s banks are run by Jews, which is demonstrably untrue–Goldman Sachs not withstanding.

Cedar Street — Brian Rose

From Zucotti Park I walked a short distance down Cedar Street and came to Greenwich with its sweeping view of the construction of the WTC. Dozens of visitors were lined up to enter the 9/11 memorial–which requires obtaining a ticket. I had a long chat with a police officer, a young Asian cop assigned to the WTC who was interested in my project. I did a few photos here before finishing for the day. One World Trade Center is now at least 2/3 of the way up.

New York/Williamsburg

Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

If you’re building your own sukkah, here are the basic materials you will need:

The Walls: The walls of a sukkah can be made of any material, provided that they are sturdy enough that they do not move in a normal wind. You can use wood or fiberglass panels, waterproof fabrics attached to a metal frame, etc. You can also use pre-existing walls (i.e, the exterior walls of your home, patio or garage) as one or more of the sukkah walls. An existing structure that is roofless or has a removable roof can also be made into a sukkah by covering it with proper sechach.

The Roof Covering: The sukkah needs to be covered with sechach—raw, unfinished vegetable matter. Common sukkah roof-coverings are: bamboo poles, evergreen branches, reeds, corn stalks, narrow strips (1×1 or 1×2) of unfinished lumber, or special sechach mats.




New York/Newark, New Jersey

Rutgers University, Newark campus — © Brian Rose

Friday I was on assignment in Newark photographing a couple of renovated classrooms at Rutgers University. The campus, adjacent to downtown is a hodgepodge of different architectural styles built at different times, but the central campus was constructed in the late 60s/early 70s in what is commonly referred to as brutalism. I’ve written about brutalism before with regards to a Robert Geddes building at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a sublime example of a much maligned architectural movement.

It can be a hard to love architecture in that it typically utilizes raw concrete poured into wooden forms–beton brut is the original French term–and many people find it cold, even forbidding. But some of the great architects of the 20th century worked in this idiom including Corbusier and Louis Kahn.

The Rutgers campus in Newark isn’t likely to be compared to Kahn’s Salk Institute, but it is, nevertheless, a fine example of brutalism used to create a sensitively scaled urban environment. Alas, I cannot find a single reference to the architecture of the campus on the internet other than in passing references to urban renewal and the racial tensions present in Newark at the time.

I will ask around and hopefully report back with the  name of the architect or firm that did the project. If anyone knows, by all means speak up. The photo above shows only one of the buildings (Boyden Hall), taken as I was leaving the job, which fronts on University Avenue.


I’ve been able to find out at least partial information about the Rutgers Newark campus. I read online that Grad and Grad (later the Grad Partnership) had proposed high rises for the urban renewal area that became the campus. That plan was apparently scuttled, but Grad continued to play a role in the project designing various buildings including the Robeson Campus Center.

According to David Nelson, an architect who emailed me earlier today, “Boyden and Conklin Halls, and the Dana Library, were designed by Kelly & Gruzen (now Gruzen Samton), with offices in New York and Maplewood, NJ. The drawings are dated 1964.” Gruzen has been a leading architectural firm in NYC for many years.

Up above I praised a building by Robert Geddes on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and sure enough, Hill Hall, one of the most interesting of the Rutgers structures is by Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham–the same Geddes. I still don’t know who was responsible for the master plan, but I am pleased to discover that the individual buildings were designed by some of the leading architects of the 1960s. It is a time period in architectural history that is often undervalued, and accordingly, the Rutgers Newark campus deserves more appreciation. If I get back there again, I’ll take some more photographs.