This building sits on a quiet block on the bluffs of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Designed by the firm that has brought so much bright and thoughtful design to New York City over the last few decades, Diller Scofidio+ Renfro, this building literally pushes the envelop with its overt emphasis on sculptural expression linked to interior configuration and functionality.
Life in New York, like many other cities, has the compelling quality and richness it does due to the energy of the street, due to the mingling of people, cars, buses, due to the activity of the street merchants and the window shoppers, diners at cafes, dog walkers, traffic police giving tickets, workers off to work, students off to school, parents pushing strollers, street sweepers sweeping.
The streets of a great city are the veins, the canyons, the trails, the collectors and channelers of life. Cities work best, achieving the highest levels of civility, when the streets are the vibrant common space of citizens and visitors alike. As the 21st century moves along, we must think carefully about the evolution of our cities. Will the street be the reinforced primary public space of the city, or will it be diminished or replaced by some new system? Should private vehicles continue to dominate, or should higher densities coincide with increased pedestrian orientation and accommodation?
Artists have marveled at the humanity of life in the street, of the compression of people on foot and people in vehicles, all vying for space, but all expressive of life lived with intensity.
So often, the city of the future seems to discount the critical role of streets, and the very existence of pedestrian movement.
Gordon Bunshaft's library stands dramatically in a court defined by a neo-classical "L" shaped hall and the collegiate gothic colleges across the road. The building's structure is bold, with the exterior envelope primarily supported on four corner piers, which become modern sculptural analogues to the Corinthian columns next door. The dark metal entrance projects as a half cylinder from the dark glass and metal transparent wall at the building's undercroft, offering a mysterious and tentative access point to the stunning interior.
Downtown Brooklyn has many stark contrasts of character and scale, intimacy and intimidation. St. Ann's provides a sensory enrichment for Brooklyn Height's main street, seeming to exist precisely to catch the winter light as a hopeful beacon for warmer days in spring. The Kings County Supreme Court presents a wall of intimidation and relentless dullness.
An afternoon at the New York City Ballet reinforces that some of the highest achievements of mid-century modernism in the US were achieved by Balanchine and Robbins. In addition to the sophisticated merging of the human form, movement, and music on stage, Philip Johnson's elegant State Theater provides a serene and majestic space for reflecting and recharging during intermissions.