Category Archives: World Trade Center

New York/World Trade Center


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

Another image from my walk around the WTC site/ground zero a few weeks ago. The fire truck is answering a call from Ten House, the fire station located on the corner. In the center of the photograph is 1 WTC under construction. To the right is WTC 7, which replaced the tower that collapsed on 9/11 due to collateral damage from the falling Twin Towers. It was the first major building rebuilt on the site.

To the left of 1 WTC is a sliver of the Verizon Building, an Art Deco tower heavily damaged during 9/11, now restored. To the left of that is the new Goldman Sachs headquarters, also a post 9/11 development. To the left of Goldman are older World Financial Center buildings. On the far right is WTC 4, under construction.

New York/World Trade Center

1 WTC, West Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I finally got my film developed from a few weeks ago. An afternoon walking around the World Trade Center site with the 4×5 view camera. This is a view of 1 WTC, previously known as Freedom Tower, which is well underway, looks like more than 20 stories up. The lower part of the building has a dense network of steel to support the height of the tower as well as provide protection. The horizontal structure is a walkway carrying pedestrian across West Street to the World Financial Center.

New York/Another Memorial


General Slocum memorial, 1980 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose and Ed Fausty

From Time and Space on the Lower East Side:

The General Slocum

In 1904 over 1,300 members of the  St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church located on East 6th Street,  mostly women and children of the German immigrant community known as Kleindeutschland, set out for their annual picnic trip on the vessel the General Slocum. A fire broke out while steaming up the East River approaching Hell Gate near the present location of the Triborough Bridge.

The ship quickly became engulfed in flames, and over a thousand perished–burned to death or drowned in the swift current of the river. The loss of life, and subsequent drama surrounding the investigation of the event, was unprecedented. The German community of the Lower East Side was decimated, never to recover. It was the worst disaster in the city’s history until the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

The Slocum memorial in Tompkins Square Park is astonshingly modest given the scale of the calamity, especially in comparison to the complex being constructed on the World Trade Center site. When Ed Fausty and I photographed it in 1980 it was covered in grafitti making its inscription almost unreadable. At that time, despite living in a building directly across the street from one that had housed four of the victims, I had never heard of the General Slocum.

New York/World Trade Center


Henry Street, 1980 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose and Ed Fausty

In my periodic visits to the World Trade Center–ground zero as it still called–it has been evident to me that some visitors to the site appear involved in something more than casually ogling the impressive rebuilding of the area. As downtown New Yorkers rush to appointments, dodge the construction clutter, and brush by the meandering clusters of tourists, they are making a pilgrimage to a hallowed place.

Less than a year after September 11, while the debris and the remains of 2,750 people were still being sifted through, I took part in Listening to the City at the Javits Center where more than 4,000 citizens expressed their opinions on how to honor the dead and to rebuild. There were some who wanted the site to lie fallow, as a park or purely as a memorial. But the majority present that day wanted a reclaimed skyline, a memorial that preserved the footprints of the Twin Towers, and space for cultural activities. New Yorkers, while still in shock and grief, were beginning to do what this city is famous for–move forward.


Holocaust Memorial, Berlin (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

The selection of a site plan and its implementation has been far from an ideal process. The buildings presently rising on and around the site are less inspiring than they might have been, and the memorial and accompanying museum may or may not strike the right notes–time will tell. I am reminded of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, which as vast as it is, and as serious as its intent, somehow fails to encompass the scope of what it memorializes. As tourists caper about the stone monoliths and pose for snapshots, the monument’s finely conceived architecture somehow civilizes what was the opposite–one of the darkest, most violent events in human history.

The act of remembering is ultimately a private experience, but successful memorials allow for the collective sharing of memories by providing a tangible icon or by preserving a particular place. A memorial can be as modest as a plaque or the planting of a tree, and although I believe that 9/11 deserves something on a larger scale,  I am skeptical of the motives that demand memorials as massive as the one in Berlin or the one under construction at ground zero. Both are political statements–Berlin being about ritualized atonement. And the unfinished 9/11 memorial–I don’t know–the battle over its meaning is just beginning. But seeing the tourists milling about reverently, and witnessing the recent hue and cry over the proposed Islamic cultural center a few blocks away from ground zero, greatly worries me.

New York is arguably the most diverse city in the world–in any number of aspects–diversity of origin, language, and of religious faith. It is a city where the rich and poor bump up against each other daily. It has been that way since the Dutch settled on the Hudson and created a center of trade for the West India Company. Those who know New York well understand that it is a city of micro neighborhoods, of blocks, and of myriad groups that occupy limited space cheek by jowl. That an Islamic center should be located in Tribeca a few blocks from the World Trade Center is of little significance to most people who live and work here.


Union Square Park one week after 9/11 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

The shrill voices against the “mosque,” calling it a desecration of ground zero, are coming mostly from outside New York. They have every right, of course, to yell as loud as they want. But they show no respect for those of us who live here, who witnessed the collapse of the towers, who lost family or friends, who cringe at every glimpse of videos or photos of the falling towers. They have no personal connection to this town–to that place, that block. They see ground zero only in abstract political terms, even as they claim to speak for the families of those killed, and their motives are fueled by fear, intolerance, and victimhood.

New Yorkers have moved on. We were badly damaged, but we are not victims. We are proud of this city for how it has pulled itself together since 9/11, proud of the diversity that defines us, and proud to be both Americans and citizens of the world’s greatest metropolis.

You got a problem with that?

UPDATE

The American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Pamela Geller, a prominent right-wing blogger is planning an ad campaign for New York City buses showing the Twin Towers on fire with a plane about to hit. A rendering of the proposed mosque (which will actually be several blocks away) will be shown with the words “why here?”

From the Times:

Asked if she was concerned that the image of the flaming twin towers might upset some New Yorkers, Ms. Geller, in a brief interview on Monday, replied: “Not at all. It’s part of American history.”

As I was saying in my post above, these people do not care about New Yorkers nor do they care about the families of the victims. Their message is hatred, pure and simple.


New York/Lower East Side


From the Williamsburg Bridge, 1980 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose and Ed Fausty

There are several 1980 photographs from Time and Space on the Lower East Side that were not included in the original exhibition, either because they were overlooked or had technical problems. The photo above was difficult to print, the dark foreground and relatively bright sky, a bit of camera shake from the vibrating bridge.  In Photoshop, however, I was able to solve most of the problems, though the slight shake remains, just barely noticeable when enlarged.

Stan Banos of Reciprocity Failure went through all the entries in the Blurb Photography Book Now contest, and came up with five stand outs, including his own book, Small Rewards. I trolled through the 2,000 plus books myself–rather randomly–it would take hours to see them all. And I’m not sure whether I feel uplifted by the incredible energy that went into them, or depressed by how few are really special. I’m pleased, however, to be included as one of Stan’s picks.

Reciprocity Failure (Blurb contest picks)
Reciprocity Failure (earlier post)

Other blogs:

EV Grieve, 1st post
EV Grieve, 2nd post
City Room, the New York Times

New York/WTC


Ground Zero construction — © Brian Rose

The weather broke yesterday after days of temps in the 90s, so I decided to go down to the World Trade Center site for another round of photographs. This is my fourth or fifth visit with the view camera. The biggest difficulty for me is that there are few vantage points available for making photographs with a camera on a tripod. A small army of security guards working for various property owners and institutions enforces the one firm rule governing photography on “private” property–no tripods. Private is in quotations because there are so many areas that are ambiguous public/private realms with no signs or the signs that are there clearly state that the public is welcome. The public may be welcome. A hundred people could be simultaneously taking snapshots, but put a tripod down and you’re kicked out. It’s gotten so ridiculous that I usually just work quickly, get a shot or two off, and then leave once the nearest rent-a-cop springs into action. God help us if something really serious were to happen–these guys are useless.


Liberty and Greenwich Sreet — © Brian Rose

Construction is in full swing across the site with 1 World Trade Center up 20 or more floors, and Tower 4 is also well above ground. The Calatrava designed transportation center is still mostly below grade, and the memorial waterfalls are not visible unless you go to a higher viewing level.


Cortlandt and Church Street — © Brian Rose

Tourist wander aimlessly about dodging construction equipment, navigating sidewalks to nowhere, reading a forest of contradictory signage, all the while attempting to see and understand what is going on.


The Winter Garden, World Financial Center — © Brian Rose

The best place to see the whole site, though still not high enough, is from behind the glass wall at the top of the stairs in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center. I did a photograph of tourists looking out from the Winter Garden–just managed get off one 4×5 image before being ordered to vamoose.


West Broadway and Warren Street — © Brian Rose

An unofficial Twin Towers memorial just to the north of ground zero. I was all packed up by the time I reached this spot, so I only shot it with my digital camera. But I will come back with the 4×5 in the future. Despite the difficulties of working around the WTC, I am getting good stuff. The idea is to come back from time to time, slowing building a series of photographs that documents the rebuilding and captures some of the craziness of the ground zero atmosphere. I have no doubt that when the memorial is completed there will be a ban on tripods, and I will be one of the last view camera photographers left.

New York/Coney Island


WTC memorial at KeySpan Park in Coney Island — © Brian Rose

Got invited to a minor league baseball game–the Brooklyn Cyclones–who play at KeySpan Park located near the boardwalk, just beneath the landmarked parachute jump, with the Cyclone roller coaster visible beyond the scoreboard in left field.


KeySpan Park, Coney Island — © Brian Rose


KeySpan Park, Coney Island — © Brian Rose


Carlos Beltran, #15, on deck — © Brian Rose

Big crowd on hand as word had gotten out that Carlos Beltran, the injured Mets all star centerfielder, would be emerging from rehab to play with the Cyclones. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and single. Hit a line drive to the warning track that was caught, got picked off at first base (bad call by the ump), and struck out awkwardly in his last at bat. Read more here.

New York/WTC imagery


Astor Hair Stylist, Astor Place — © Brian Rose

It’s been more than 7 years since the World Trade Center attack, but images of the Twin Towers remain present in the city, if not ubiquitous. These are generally pictures of the towers before 9/11. Fortunately, at least for me, graphic images of the collapsing and burning buildings are rare.

New York/Seven Years


The World Trade Center • 1982 (4×5 film)
© Brian Rose

In 1974 when the WTC was just being completed, Philippe Petit, a French street performer strung a cable between the Twin Towers and proceeded to tightrope walk back and forth 6 or 8 times. Thousands watched in amazement from below. Eventually he surrendered to the waiting arms of the police. In the end, public sentiment ruled in his favor, and charges were dropped in exchange for a performance by Petit for children in Central Park. His breathtaking walk between the Twin Towers has become part of the folklore of New York, made all the more poignant by the horror of 9/11–seven years ago.


The World Trade Center • Phillipe Petit’s signature (4×5 film)
© Brian Rose

In the early ’80s I did a series of photographs of Lower Manhattan, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, back when there was still NEA support for individual artists. Shortly after the destruction of the Trade Center, I sifted through my archive for photographs that included the WTC. They can be seen here. On of the pictures I came across was taken from the observation deck on Tower 2. I did a high resolution scan of the 4×5 negative and discovered something unseen in normal prints of the image, Philippe Petit’s scratched signature and tightrope icon.

New York/Reconnaissance


Red Hook, New York

There’s an article in the Guardian from a few days ago linking the increasing harassment of photographers to the general fear of terrorism. I think there’s some truth to that. The author also relates it to movie plots in which terrorists seem always to be casing the joint with a camera.

I think the latter point is a bit overstated, but I do believe that there is an increased climate of distrust in the air–certainly post-911–but I believe it started before that. Photographers have become psychological scapegoats, the victims of heightened vigilance, even paranoia. Ironically, this climate has emerged at the same that photography has been greatly democratized by digital cameras, websites, flickr, and other online means of disseminating images. The world is awash in pictures; yet we fear the power of photographs more than ever.


Red Hook, Brooklyn

As one who has experienced first hand what it’s like to try taking pictures in a communist country, I greatly sympathize with the quote below posted on the blog the Online Photographer.

I remember reading an article about East Germany in _National Geographic_ back in the early ’70s, in which the author describes being harassed by the Volkspolizei for having taken a photograph of something he “shouldn’t” have–a bridge or some other public edifice, as I recall. I remember thinking “Boy, I’m sure glad that sort of thing can’t happen in the USA!”

Just a few years ago, some colleagues of mine from Germany were taking in the sights along the Mall in Washington DC, taking pictures of the grand public edifices. Apparently they took a photograph of something they “shouldn’t” have, as they were stopped and questioned twice by police, and were obliged to delete several shots from their digital cameras.

It was a nice country, while it lasted. Perhaps it isn’t too late to take it back.

New York/WTC


Ground Zero/WTC (digital)

Made another walk with my view camera down to Ground Zero/WTC. Construction continues mostly below ground focused especially on the transportation infrastructure. WTC 7 is the only finished building that replaces anything lost on 9/11, but eventually new towers will rise from what is still a giant hole in the ground.


Pedestrian bridge over the West Side Highway (digital)

There is still no good place for tourists and visitors to advantageously view the entire WTC site. As a result, people wander about picking their way through a maze of fences and barriers. The ill-fated Deutsche Bank building remains shrouded in netting, but is slowly coming down.

Note: Thanks to Blogger being down again for uploading to ftp blog sites, I accidentally overwrote my last post. I’ll try to re-up those photos later. Blogger’s poor performance has greatly tarnished my previously high esteem for Google, the company that offers the service.

New York/Green-Wood Cemetery


Main Gate, Green-Wood Cemetery (Richard Upjohn, architect)

Today, I continued working on a series of photographs of Civil War monuments in Brooklyn–specifically Green-Wood Cemetery. There are a number of memorials here of celebrated generals, but also many of the unsung who died on the battlefield. There are many other famous New Yorkers buried here as well. As I was setting up a shot of the Civil War Soldiers’ Monument, I looked down and saw, at my feet, the grave of Leonard Bernstein, the conductor and composer.

Clouds moved in during the afternoon, and as I was packing up my camera I spotted a diminutive stone fireman surrounded by flags and flowers. The first line of the inscription read: On September 11, 2001, the rescuers at the World Trade Center not only saved over 25,000 lives – they saved America.


Green-Wood Cemetery

The fireman was depicted almost as a doll-like figure despite the detailed uniform and equipment. Less a hero, more a huggable object. It’s a curious need, to fetishize these heroes of 9/11 who were doing their jobs. Who acted as heroes as they did every day when confronted by burning buildings or other dangers. I was struck, however, by the face of the real firefighter in the laminated photos hung around the statue’s neck, his vitality a rebuke to the awkward carving and grandiose prose etched in stone.

New York/Photo Permits

The city of New York has proposed requiring permits for photography and film making in the street.

The Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting, which coordinates film and television production and issues permits around the five boroughs, is considering rules that could potentially severely restrict the ability of even amateur photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City. The NY Times reports that the city’s tentative rules include requiring any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour (including setup and breakdown time) to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. The regulation would also apply to any group of five or more people who would be using a tripod for more than ten minutes, including setup and breakdown time.

-(Excerpted from the Gothamist)


Film by Jem Cohen

Jem Cohen, an independent filmmaker, whom I’ve met, writes the following:

Unfortunately, we believe we must see the proposed regulations not only as a blow against New York as a city that welcomes and inspires art-making (and historical documentation), but as part of a continuum of broader attacks against civil liberties and free expression.

I couldn’t agree more. An organization called Picture New York – without pictures of New York is leading the opposition against the city’s proposal. If you want to know more, or would like to help, please sign the petition on the site.

PictureNY.org

As a photographer who has, to a great extent, built a career on photographing the streets and parks of New York, I feel it is my responsibility to speak out on this issue. Those of us who express ourselves using a camera are the eyes of the city. Whether we operate as commercial artists, fine artists, documentarists, bloggers, or journalists, we present the image of the city to the world. Our efforts should be encouraged, not suppressed.


Father Duffy Square (Times Square), Lee Friedlander

Imagine New York without Walker Evans, Berenice Abbot, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Ezra Stoller, Diane Arbus, Joel Meyerowitz, Cindy Sherman, Len Jenshel, Jan Staller, Joel Sternfeld, Philip Lorca DiCorcia, and on and on. These are artists who have freely wielded their still cameras in this city. A similar list of filmmakers could as easily be compiled.


Ground Zero – 2007

Photography = free speech.

New York/Ground Zero/Potsdamer Platz


InfoBox and Berlin Wall, 1996 (4×5 film)

In the previous post I compared Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and ground zero (WTC) in New York. Both are historically sensitive places in which rebuilding symbolizes attempts at reclaiming loss. Both entail large commercial development, and both include memorials, either at the heart of the effort as in New York, or nearby as in Berlin. In Berlin the millions of tourists who came to view the vast rebuilding site were welcomed at the InfoBox, a temporary structure housing models, renderings and multimedia presentations, and on the roof, a deck for surveying the new architecture rising on the skyline.


InfoBox and Potsdamer Platz, 1996 (4×5 film)

The InfoBox was designed by Schneider + Schumacher, an architecture firm based in Frankfurt. From their website:

The commission for the InfoBox was the outcome of an invited competition in 1994. The aim was to design a building which would reflect the worldwide interest in the building activities on Potsdamer Platz in the recently re-united Berlin.

The box was concise and easily identified, hovering on stilts above the surrounding chaos, at the time the largest construction site in Europe. It was a simple yet powerful gesture.

In October 1995 the InfoBox opened and in very short time attracted a large audience, welcoming its four millionth visitor in February 1998. In january 2001 this temporary building was disassembled according to plan.

There is no comparable facility in the works for the World Trade Center site. Tourists wander aimlessly trying to grasp the scope of what was and what is to come. There is a small museum, nicely designed, but inadequate to the task. There are photos bolted up high on the metal grating around the Path station–though those are now coming down to make way for the relocation of the station. At the present, most visitors are interested in views into the bathtub, the pit formed by the foundation walls left after the site was cleared of debris that contained the remains of those who died there. There are a few places that afford views: an area under the sidewalk shelter in front of the Deutsche Bank building, which is now being torn down. The pedestrian bridges spanning West Street–very awkward places to stand. The glass wall at the back of the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center–good for an overall vista, but not high enough or close enough to see into the bathtub. That’s basically it.


Steel fence in front of Deutche Bank building, (4×5 film)

Ground zero is in great need of an InfoBox of its own, a structure built well above street level with an outdoor viewing promenade. It should contain the models and multimedia now available only on the various websites relating to the WTC. Even on the Internet there is no single clearing house of reliable information. The Port Authority has a website. Larry Silverstein, the developer, has one, and the Lower Manhattan Development Company (LMDC) has two including an informational site called LowerManhattan.info. There are others.


Under the InfoBox, 1999 (4×5 film)


InfoBox, 1999, (4×5 film)

This lack of focus and scatter-shot approach to disseminating information is, of course, evidence of the chaos created by competing agendas, financial interests, and governmental agencies plagueing the whole project. But despite all of that, it would seem possible for the city, state, Port Authority, and Larry Silverstein, to come together to create an Infobox-like center on the site. There is more than enough space for such an elevated temporary structure. Even as the 9/11 memorial takes shape, it will be years before the spiral of buildings that loosely follow the original Libeskind plan will be completed. During that construction period, millions of tourists from around the world need to be accomodated. Ultimately, an information center/observation deck would do more than that. It would help demonstrate that the city is looking to the future with confidence in the wake of the attacks on 9/11.

New York/Ground Zero/Potsdamer Platz


Wall fragments at Potsdamer Platz, 1990 (4×5 film)

As I wrote in an earlier post, ground zero (the World Trade Center site) reminds me of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin during the great wave of construction that occurred in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although the circumstances leading to the two rebuilding efforts are obviously different, both were and are of intense interest to the public.

The reclamation of Potsdamer Platz was not just about the unification of Germany. It represented a new beginning reaching back to the zero hour (Stunde Null) at the end of World War II with its landscape of destruction. This no man’s land at the center of the city lay in limbo through the Cold War years, bisected by the Wall, and symbolized the unreconciled issues concerning the destiny of Germany and Europe, the Holocaust, and the role of Berlin as the historical metropolis at the crossroads of east and west.

The destruction of the World Trade Center and the death of nearly 3,000, while uniquely horrific, pales in comparison to the losses of World War II. Nevertheless, it created a trauma in human and political terms that cannot be underestimated for New York and the rest of the world.


Ground zero seen from Broadway two weeks after the attack, 2001 (4×5 film)

In both Berlin and New York, the erasure of important symbols led to an immediate desire to rebuild. I won’t debate here the merits of the impulse to reclaim the image of the Twin Towers, or the wish of some to treat all of the WTC site as hallowed, therefore untouchable, ground. But there can be little doubt, that the public favored some combination of memorialization and the restoration of a heroic icon on the city’s skyline. With great fanfare a plan was selected, and despite all the compromises–some crippling–construction is now taking place. In fact, WTC 7 has aleady been rebuilt, an elegant glass tower, hovering over a vast chaotic tableau of yet unrealized plans.

In Berlin millions came to witness the rebuilding of Potsdamer Platz, and participate in the debate surrounding the plans of the architects who became household names in Germany and abroad. Many of the architects who were active at that time in Berlin–Libeskind, Piano, Rogers, Foster, Calatrava–are now similarly employed in New York affirming a post-9/11 recognition of the role of architecture in civic life.


Potsdamer Platz construction with red InfoBox, 1996 (4×5 film)

The public’s passion for the rebuilding of Potsdamer Platz was properly understood in Berlin, and a temporary structure was erected in the midst of the site housing the models, drawings, and videos. The InfoBox, as it was called, also featured an elevated deck for surveying the surrounding urban forest of construction cranes. The InfoBox became the destination for the droves of tourists who otherwise would have wandered aimlessly about the site looking for views while trying to make sense of what was going on.


Ground zero visitors and commuters, 2007 (4×5 film)

This, alas, is the present situation at ground zero in New York.

To be continued…

New York/Ground Zero


Ground Zero/WTC


Ground Zero/WTC

I took an exploratory walk with my view camera around the World Trade Center site today. It was in the mid-20s and icy underfoot, but the air was clear and sharp. I hadn’t been down there with my camera since just after 9/11, on Broadway, the first day they let people get that close. It was rough going that day trying to set up a view camera among thousands of jostling people–all with cameras, of course– but I got a couple of good photographs.


Broadway, September 2001 (4×5 film)

At one point I stepped off Broadway onto a side street away from the crush of gawkers. A man walked up carrying a single digital camera, no camera bag as I recall, and he asked me if I was a documentary photographer. I said yes, more or less. I looked at him more intently, and then said, you’re James Nachtwey aren’t you. He said yes. Later that week I saw his extraodinary pictures of the scene in Time magazine.


Ground Zero/WTC

After that, Joel Meyerowitz got access to Ground Zero and made the photographs that are now published in an oversized book called Aftermath. I had no press pass or special access, so I left the subject alone except peripherally in images made in other places. Now that the big boys have left for other photographic battlefields, maybe it’s time for me to do what I have always tried to do–take a longer, more patient, view of history.

Amsterdam/New York

Back in New York, an overnight two day shoot of interiors at a golf club in the Hamptons. Then scans, color correcting, and delivery to the client. A busy week. Monday, of course, marked the fifth year since the destruction of the World Trade Center, and I was happy, in a way, to be busy with other things. I did, however, take the time to post a picture of the Twin Towers taken in the 1980s that when enlarged in Photoshop revealed the scratched signature of Phillipe Petit the French street performer who tightrope walked between the towers in 1974. It’s currently in the Outtakes section of my homepage.


My son gave me the this drawing a while ago depicting the Twin Towers and me with my camera. He was too young to have any memory of 9/11, but much to my amazement he seems acutely aware of the importance of the event, and its importance to me personally.

Here are some more digital pictures of the Haarlemerbuurt (neighborhood around the Haarlemerdijk in Amsterdam) taken last week. Scroll down for earlier pictures.


Haarlemmerdijk


Moroccan food store, Haarlmmerdijk


Haarlemmerdijk


Bickerseiland

New York/Hudson River Park

Since the heat wave of two or three weeks ago, the weather has been mostly beautiful in New York. On one particularly fine day I took a stroll with my family along the Hudson River Park. We walked from City Hall past the WTC site, the newly completed 7 WTC, and the Barclay-Vesey Building on West Street. The latter building is considered the first art deco skyscraper and was designed by Ralph Walker of McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin. Completed in 1926, it is a masterpiece of great formal strength, and at the same time, exhibits delicately carved stone work. The vaulted arcades at ground level are, perhaps, what most people know of the building. Despite the immensity of the World Trade Center and Battery Park City complexes nearby, the Barclay-Vesey remained a strong presence on the skyline.

When the WTC towers fell, much damage was done to surrounding buildings including the Barclay-Vesey. It has since been restored to its former glory. Rising next door is the new 7 WTC by David Childs of SOM with its crystalline curtain wall providing an almost transparent glass backdrop to Barclay-Vesey’s brick and stone. I took the picture below with my digital camera just in front of the BPC cinemas where the Goldman Sachs headquarters is under construction. This view will be gone once that skyscraper is completed.


Barclay-Vesey Building and 7 WTC

Further up the river in Chelsea I took a few snapshots of the IAC building designed by Frank Gehry. It is—unbelievably, at this late date–Gehry’s first structure in New York, although many more are now in the pipeline. When the first glass panels of the curtain wall went up, opinions on the blogs and bulletin boards were mixed, to say the least. Some suggested that the smokey white glass was better suited to a suburban office park.


IAC building designed by Frank Gehry

I think the skin of this relatively restrained Gehry building is gorgeous against the pleated armature beneath, looking not unlike a majestic tall ship in full sail on the Hudson River. It will be even better once the street level scaffolding is gone and the glass touches the sidewalk.


IAC building designed by Frank Gehry

Hudson River Park is still a work-in-progress, but significant stretches of it are finished. On a mild day like this one thousands of people were walking and bicycling the promenade, or sunbathing on the grass. On our way uptown we stopped to rest, and I took this picture of my son Brendan and my wife Renée.


Brendan and Renée, Hudson River Park