Archive for February, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Rockefeller Center Architecture Tour

Recently, OHNY staff had the opportunity to attend a tour of Rockefeller Center, with a focus on the architecture and history of this New York City landmark. Everyone knows Rockefeller Center for their Christmas Tree and skating rink, but our tour focused on the extensive artwork and architectural details throughout the 14 building complex, as well as the history of the Rockefeller family.

Opened in 1933, Rockefeller Center is unique in that the complex was one of the first to incorporate artwork throughout, highlighting the progress of man and new frontiers. Rockefeller Center features over 100 major sculptures, murals, metalwork and enamels. The facade is made of Indiana limestone and many of the artworks reflects the Art Deco style. As our tour guide pointed out during our tour, the artist Lee Lawrie’s work is very prominently featured throughout Rockefeller Center, both interior murals and exterior bas reliefs and sculptures.

Lee Lawrie relief

The murals that cover the walls of the expansive lobby at 30 Rockefeller Center were completed by Frank Brangwyn, Jose Maria Sert and Diego Rivera, who were selected by competition. The sepia tint of the murals give them an almost unfinished feeling, but they all have very grandiose titles, such as “Man’s Intellectual Mastery of the Material Universe,” and “Man’s Conquest of the Material World.”


Diego Rivera mural

The story behind these murals was one of the most interesting parts of the tour — Rivera, a Communist, had been suggested for the competition by John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s son, Nelson, whose mother had previously commissioned portraits from the artist. When it was discovered that Rivera’s mural, “Man at the Crossroads Looking with Uncertainty but with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a Course Heading to a New and Better Future,” featured a laborer who looked a lot like Lenin, Rivera was dismissed from the project. The mural was destroyed and never unveiled to the public, instead it was replaced by Sert’s “Man’s Conquests.”

Lawrie's Atlas

One of the last stops on the tour was Lawrie’s Atlas statue, located in the entrance court of the International Building facing St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Although all of us had been to Rockefeller Center many times before, it was nice to stop and actually look at the many artistic and architectural details this time. Many thanks to Tishman Speyer, for arranging our tour!

Rockefeller Center
1250 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY


Place Setting: At Home with Donald Judd

Place Setting: At Home with Donald Judd

Thursday, March 11, 2010

6 – 8:30pm

Donald Judd Home and Studio, 101 Spring Street

Purchase tickets

Join openhousenewyork for an exclusive tour of Donald Judd’s New York residence and studio in celebration of Judd’s investigations into art and architecture.

This unique event is an opportunity to experience Judd’s astute sensibility, his vision for living and his manner of entertaining family, friends and fellow artists. Months before the building’s major restoration efforts begin, the Judd Foundation and chefs Nils Norén and Christina Wang of the French Culinary Institute will co-host the evening with signature cocktails and a fusion of Mexican and Swedish hors d’oeuvres, reflecting Judd’s favorite cuisines.

One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Judd carefully designed and arranged his minimalist residence from his artwork and modernist furniture to the stainless steel sinks and radiators (or lack there of). He purchased 101 Spring Street, a 5-story cast-iron building designed by Nicholas Whyte in 1870, in 1968 for under $70,000. Today, the building is one of the founding sites in the program of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is the only intact, single-use cast-iron building remaining in SoHo. 101 Spring Street is currently closed to the public and will undergo restoration efforts starting this June.

(From left to right, images courtesy of The Judd Foundation and The French Culinary Institute.)

Field Trip Friday: City Winery Tour

Last Friday, the OHNY staff headed down to the City Winery in SoHo to tour NYC’s very first fully operational winery.  Founded by Michael Dorf who is a passionate wine maker and connoisseur himself, the City Winery not only provides a unique urban wine-making experience but also functions as a live music venue and restaurant (specializing in, of course, wine pairings). The tour led us into the room where (during the season) New Yorkers are invited to participate in the wine making process and concluded downstairs in the cellar, where privately owned barrels were aging.

An interesting fact — City Winery has adapted the MTA transit system to a good use, where the vibration from the subway trains help churn and ferment the grapes in the barrels!

City Winery interior

Wine making


Wine barrels


City Winery
155 Varick Street, New York, NY

Save the Date: OHNY Annual Benefit 2010


OHNY Annual Benefit

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Honoring Richard Meier for his lifetime commitment to excellence in architecture

The American Academy of Arts and Letters

Honoree Reception with Private Tour 6 – 7 pm

Benefit Reception 7 – 9 pm

Purchase tickets

Join openhousenewyork for an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and auction at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, honoring Richard Meier, a member since 1983, recipient of the Academy’s 2008 gold medal in architecture and strong supporter of OHNY.

The Academy is opening up its private spaces to OHNY guests, offering us a rare opportunity to visit and tour the Academy’s grand beaux-arts buildings, with special access to the founding members’ room, the portrait gallery, the private library, its large terrace-level exhibition space, and a truly breath-taking 730-seat auditorium designed by Cass Gilbert. The gala includes a silent auction featuring works by contemporary artists and designers as well as private tours of several New York iconic landmarks.

(From left to right, images courtesy of Cody Upton, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Cervin Robinson.)

Field Trip Friday: Atop Petrova Gora, Croatia

This week’s field trip takes us to the nation of Croatia, where Jacob, our newest intern, recently spent some time. After a steep, cramped and bouncy ride in the back seat of a friend’s Yugo, Jacob and his Croatian counterparts found themselves facing a strikingly odd mirrored structure – dilapidated yet dignified – overgrown with weeds.

They were standing in front of the Petrova Gora Partisan Monument, the focal point of a memorial complex dedicated to the partisan fighters who used the mountain as a field hospital and hideout during Yugoslavia’s resistance in World War II. In the late 1970’s, Tito, Yugoslavia’s President, commissioned fellow countrymen Vojnin Bakić (sculptor) and Berislav Šerbetić (architect) to create the monument. What they completed in 1981 was a building unlike anything many Croats had seen before.

Entirely shrouded in 3’x20’ stainless steel panels, the reinforced concrete structure is made up of six external parts, organically shaped, devoid of openings, and quite baffling to the eye. On first glance, one might be reminded of a Gehry-inspired design, something deconstructivist, expressive, and full of questions. Since its creation, it has had quite a history…

Petrova Gora existed as a “functioning” monument from 1981 until 1991 when the area fell into Serbian control in the Croatian War of Independence. Atop one of the highest ridges in the region, the monument was used as a military base where (supposedly) rockets had been fired into nearby cities. By 1995, the Croatian army had regained control of the region, and the monument was utilized as a field hospital for wounded soldiers. Following the end of the conflict, the monument received very limited attention and continued a gradual decline.

At the time of Jacob’s visit, the building was facing serious neglect and disrepair. Many of the large stainless panels had been removed, either by wind or by human hand, and the recent past was still very much present inside. Floors that once welcomed families into a history museum were littered with military jackets, stretchers, and decaying medical supplies.

Today it sits as a mysterious, haunting object; a reflective shell sans function (albeit the television and mobile transmitters atop the roof).

Another Gangsters Tour in March

Gangsters: Birth of Organized Crime in America
Sunday, March 7, 2010

Due to overwhelming demand, OHNY and the Lower East Side History Project will offer another tour, covering 150 years of crime and vice in NYC. Trace the steps of criminal legends like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel–who earned their criminal stripes on the streets of the Lower East Side–and explore the roots of organized crime in America.

Dissect the myths and learn about how the Italian Mafia was established; visit the sites of Black Hand headquarters, Prohibition era speakeasies, shootouts and assassination attempts, and the homes and headquarters of some of the most powerful and infamous criminals in American history.

Led by Eric Ferrara, executive director of the Lower East Side History Project and the East Village Visitors Center and author of A Guide to Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdos of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Don’t miss out, purchase your tickets now!

(Image courtesy of Eric Ferrara.)