Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Trump card

In a previous post I briefly alluded to my dislike of the Gwathmey building at Astor Place (445 Lafayette) by expressing a desire that we don’t see anything more of its ilk in my neighborhood. And even though much has been written about it, I will throw my own rant into the conversation because the building offends me daily (don’t forget, anyone who suggests therapy, will get punched in the neck).

I wrote about it in one of my SVA MFA application essays that explored why some buildings in NoHo work and some do not. This building does not. I will reprint part of the essay here:

"It struts arrogantly out of nowhere, so inconsistent to the vibe of the neighborhood that it seems as though the building is screaming an obscenity at it. It is defiant and has no reason to be. As I watched it go up, I experienced actual anger. Noho is a very inclusive and welcoming neighborhood. All this building ever said to me is “You don’t belong here. You can’t afford it. We don’t want you”.

I have heard it compared to a swimming pool because of the shape and the blue glass of its construction resembling water. I prefer to think of it as an amoeba. However neither a swimming pool nor an amoeba work as a door to the neighborhood. When a piece of modern architecture is situated side-by-side with handsome 19th century buildings it must be majestic, soaring, inspirational. It must lead. Paul Goldberger called the Gwathmey building “an elf prancing among men” with a “garishly reflective” fa├žade channeling not Mies but Trump. (The New Yorker May 2005)

Mr. Gwathmey said, “This design is about the facets reflecting what is there” - that it reflected the neighborhood without it bowing down to the late 19th century environment. Because of the curve and the single glass frames, it appears we are looking at the building through the lens of his favorite toy (NYT, May 2004), the teleidoscope, rendering the reflection cubistic and not at all like the neighborhood.

On the ground floor of the Gwathmey building resides another urban blight: a bank, adding to the recent spate of bank branches on every corner. While this is technically a public space, it adds nothing to the public space. Pamela Puchalski, who created the Center for Architecture, told me that “architecture IS the public so it absolutely has a responsibility to a community beyond the individual - be it the owner who developed the building or the occupant” - that it needs to provide a nice experience for the people who are walking by. Sadly, the bank simply retains the coldness of the rest of the building and does not provide a nice experience. Ms. Puchalsky did dig more deeply into environmental and economic responsibility but those topics are for a wider discussion.

I have been in two of the apartments and they are cold, impersonal. The windows offer no privacy (much to the surprise of DS and DS). The rooms ramble on. There is no center. No core. No heart. The materials for the walls, doors, windows, drawer pulls, and doorknobs seem shabby."

Part of the offense lies in the time in which it was built. Had it been built in the financially aggressive (and finally destructive) 80’s, there may have been more applause for it. But in 2004, that sort of excess in New York belonged to the vulgarity of a Trump building and had no place in NoHo.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Run faster, jump higher

How cool is the Keds company? They commissioned Jenny Holzer to design some sneaks as part of the kedswhitney collection.

I should have waited cuz I just got these last week.

Is there harm in having more than one pair? Especially since what I want says "PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT".

Ay, a conundrum.


Friday, June 25, 2010

The sea, the sea...

Who would have thought that this:

could inspire this:

Actually, I am sure it didn't, I have just been reading a lot about Sealand lately.
(Uncorporate Identity)

Anyhoo, here is more on the Marina Sands Skypark in Singapore.

Oh yeah, I can do this....

Watermelon carving from Vid Nikolic on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This doesn't have anything to do with the scope of this blog except that I like it.
(oh and its for a good cause)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are a lot of changes going on in my neighborhood.

We moved to Noho 13 or 14 years ago when the ‘hood was still slightly dicey at night. On Bowery there were many SRO’s (single room occupancy) which gave gents a place to sleep for $5 or $6 a night. This particular street had a long history of being a place where men whose circumstances spiraled downward, came to live. There is a great book called “Flophouse: Life on the Bowery”, that tells the stories of some of these residents. Many of them depressed, most of them alcoholics. The photographs of their faces reveal the tolls their hard lives took and the conditions under which they lived.

Most of the flophouses are gone.

(The White House Hotel does remain open and is listed as a hostel for European travelers. You can imagine what these kids think when they see that the “ceiling” of the room is merely chicken wire).

Because we had two of the friendliest dogs, we were as familiar with our neighbors as we were with many of the local homeless guys. An older gent, Teddy, we nicknamed “the philosopher” because he conducted most of our conversations about current events with a historical perspective and from a philosophical point of view. He wasn’t really local; he just knew where the money was (one early morning, I saw him get into a cab to go home). Tee hee. Teddy knew I liked to read so he always brought me books. If we didn’t see him around for a while we (and I mean the entire neighborhood) asked other “homeless” guys if they knew where he was. Having severe asthma, he was often in the hospital.

From the perspective of Jane Jacobs, the community activist, Teddy was one of our “eyes” of the neighborhood. A person, a bar, a restaurant or a church also keeps an eye on the neighborhood, thereby making it safer. The "eyes" may not actively be watching for crime; the simple presence of their eyes will deter misdeeds. And woe to the driver who ignored Teddy’s parking advice.

Our tenant, the crabby owner of Plantworks, keeps an "eye" on the neighborhood during the daytime. For one thing, he seems to know more about NYU’s slithering intentions than anyone on the Community Board. Popular bars, such as Swift Bar, which is about 4 doors away, act as a policing agent at night. Any city street that is busy with walking traffic is safer than one that is desolate.

Because of the economic downturn, we watched many nearby businesses close. On the right (or wrong-grey and blustery) night, one could feel the potential for the desolation to return. So when a certain unnamed community organization does everything in its power to make sure there are no new bars and very few restaurants opening up by asking the question: “Do we really need another bar in Noho?” I always say yes. And I don’t even go to bars.

The owners of the bars, restaurants and shops have an interest in keeping the neighborhood safe. The building uses in this neighborhood are important so I will continue to protest the possibility of NYU being given permission to put classrooms and dormitories in the 'hood. Any vacant lot that becomes a classroom will be empty of people at night. Any torn-down building that becomes a dormitory will house thousands of transients who have no vested interest in the neighborhood. We have quite a few vacant lots and former SRO's waiting for some type of conversion and we all know that NYU has all the money in the world. At least the Swift regulars are regulars. And the homeless guys were always watching too.

We live on the second floor of our building and we often hear the drunks leaving Swift bar late at night. We put up double hung windows and actually are charmed by the Irish accents even when they are arguing (“Ah Bridget, why’d ya have to go and kiss ‘im?")

We haven’t seen Teddy in quite a few years and assume the worst. But perhaps he found a better neighborhood.

I want to go to there

I will be fascinated to see what they do here

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Funny types

This font wants to tell you something...

Thanks, NK, for this.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scary things

Many things scare me: like color, clutter, and wallpaper. Color because I have to figure out what to wear instead of black, clutter because I prefer chaos to stay in my head, and wallpaper because, well, it is just just scary.

But I was looking through an interior design magazine (Met Home I think) and found something that took by breath away. It was wallpaper.

I must have this wallpaper. Originally I thought to put it on one wall in a guest bedroom at the humble cottage but because of its expense, JT thought it would be better in our bedroom so that we could see it more often. And because we plan to blow out the ceiling of the bedroom, we will be giving the attic space to that room’s ceiling height. These birds could flutter up to 14 feet. Fantastico.

Trove Wallpaper is designed by Randall Buck and Jee Levin. To get to see the products you need to make an appointment. I was given the grand tour of the showroom by Randall Buck (the nicest man). I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and power of their designs that I almost started to cry. I know I started to shake. Beautiful things do that to me. There were so many choices that I wanted wallpaper on at least one wall in each of the private rooms.

To further complicate the decision-making process, each design comes in many different colorways. I was absolutely set on the pure black and white bird pattern but started to gravitate toward the black tinged with a faint pale pink.

I was also drawn to this pattern because of how real the insects seem. Randall suggested going with one full wall of pure black in a bathroom. I LOVE that idea.

Unfortunately the renovation at the cottage is on hold for awhile. And by the way, I am not really afraid of very many things. DD, on the other hand, is very happy that we are choosing to put the birds in our bedroom and not the guest bedroom.

Monday, June 14, 2010

That crazy stefan

I do like this chair but it belongs in a museum or gallery setting rather than a home. Basel is a perfect place for it.

I like the idea of peeling off the worn or used prints however it would call too much attention to itself if placed in a home. Unless, of course, your home is a home to museum pieces and then I probably would need to leave and get a drink after a few hours.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We are the village green preservation society...

Recently our little section of Noho received its landmark status, which was great news. Basically it means that the exterior of all the buildings in the designated area cannot be altered nor can they be torn down. Therefore the aesthetic and historic nature of the neighborhood might be preserved. Woo-hoo, right? What types of businesses that can move into those buildings is far less regulated. For example, a Subway sandwich shop is now located on Bowery between E. 4th St. and Great Jones. A Subway? Really? But at least NYU is still unable to bring classrooms or dorms into the neighborhood. By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate NYU? Probably not. More on that later.

Curiously, though, is where the designated area stops and starts. Take a look at the little map here. We are in red.

What is going on on the northern and southern corners of East 4th and Bowery, the northern and southern corners of Great Jones and Bowery, the southern corner of Bond St. and Bowery (all in white)? Hmmmmmmm these corners (or gateways to the neighborhood) did not make it into the landmarked district. “Why is that?” we asked...


Really? Really?!? Really?!?!

Oh gee, ya couldn’t have made the non-landmarked area start, oh say, across the street on the east side of Bowery. No, that would make too much sense to keep the designated area within its street-imposed grid. Instead, leaving the gateways (and please read “super attractive corner lots in a hot little ‘hood”) to the neighborhood open to developers who might possibly give little thought about building height, materials, aesthetics and that little problem of fitting into an historic district. And let’s not stop with the physical aspect of what makes a building fit in down here. There is a vibe, that when taking all the physical aspects into consideration, when added up, gives a neighborhood it’s feel.

When I get off the subway,I do my absolute best to stay off Broadway and head over to Lafayette with its wide sidewalks,

The Public Theater,

Colonnade Row,

and the Devinne Press building. The list goes on. It is one of the most peaceful walking experiences in New York. When I was working and taking the subway home, it was always that particular short walk which diffused the tensions of my day.

I am not suggesting that each new building be on the respectful level of the Bowery Hotel but please let’s not tolerate the architectural ego of the Gwathmey building at Astor Place.

(by the way, we did gain a little more landmarking on the north side of east 4th st. but it ends still short of the corner where a 15-story rental unit has gone up. the material seems a little shabby but it could have been worse. oh and some of the apartments rent for $20,000 per month. yikes!)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The spiderman cometh

The ultimate office prank.

It sure beats taping up the entrance to a co-worker's cubicle and filling it with packing peanuts. Or attaching blank Post-It notes to every square inch of her cubicle. Or simply turning each piece of furniture upside-down.

Thanks to NK for this.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Time for an intervention


From the daily what:

"Street Art of the Day: In this short show reel dubbed “STOP POP and ROLL,” urban interventionist Aakash Nihalani takes his familiar geometric tape art to a stop sign at the corner of Bridge and Water in DUMBO.

Keep an eye out for street art Easter Eggs from Banksy, BNE, C215, Cahil Muraghu, Cash4, Eric Burke, KH1, NEVS, Spector, and others.

[thanks aakash!]"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This mess we're in

I am a sucker for design. And just so you know I am not as pretentious as all that, I can be a sucker to a fault.

While we were renovating our newly purchased cottage on the North Fork, I needed to get a few items to tide us over until the big move when we pulled our real stuff out of storage. One was a vacuum cleaner. I just needed to get something to suck up stuff like plaster and dog hair, nothing too elaborate.
Went to Target ( first time. fell in love.)

Anyhoo, I went for something that we did not have in storage: a cordless stick vacuum cleaner. Lo and behold there was a Dirt Devil designed by Karim Rashid.

And let me tell you it sucks. Or rather it doesn’t. One of the worst products ever. I trusted the Dirt Devil brand and was pleased that it looked so cool and space-age. I am sure there are better looking ones out there but this was the best looking that Target had to offer.

Got it home and was first disappointed by the cheapness of the material. I definitely do not know my plastics grades but this had to be one of the flimsiest, the drinking straw being one grade less. Well, no matter if it worked well. I plugged it in and let it do its requisite charge for 24 hours.

Not only did it leave trails of plaster and dog hair, the charge lasted about 7 minutes (or less, I can’t picture me vacuuming for any longer than 5 minutes)

But I did hear this one works REALLY well.

Don't worry, NK, I won't buy it.