Archive for December, 2010

Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

Continuing our stories behind the winning photos from the 2010 Focus on Architecture competition, today’s photo was taken by Timothy Vogel at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and was selected as a winner in the Details category.  The judges liked unique view of the lighting on the digester eggs, which are illuminated by blue light in the evenings.

Having viewed the Newtown Creek plant’s digester eggs countless times from above, across the water, and just walking down the street, it was a real treat to finally see them up close. What was most amazing from the OHNY visit, however, was everything else on site. The DEP staff were friendly, chock full of knowledge, and happy to be showing the public where they spend their workhours. The visitors’ center (open to the public all through the year) was quite a surprise … the winding walkways, staircases, and fountains give it an Escher-esque look. They squeezed a LOT of people in during the Weekend, and have my thanks.

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A Place That Still Inspires Wonder

2008 Woolworth Building event, courtesy of Jeffrey Donenfeld

Dear Friends of openhousenewyork,

As the principal of an elementary music school, I feel architecture and design have been the roads not taken for me. OHNY has provided me with an opportunities to stay engaged with architects and designers and speak with them about their work in New York and around
the world.

Over these past eight years, I have been able to see so many wonderful, dream-like places through OHNY from the Gothic tower of the Jefferson Market Library to the glittering grand staircase of Diane von Furstenberg’s studio in the Meatpacking District.

In addition, there are so many institutions that I discovered through OHNY’s listings that I experience throughout the year, such as the Institute of Classical Architecture on 44th Street and the public programs at the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights.

I donate every year because we want to continue to support something that is more than an annual event — it is an ongoing shared experience that makes thousands of New Yorkers feel every day that we live in place that still inspires wonder.

OHNY opens doors for people like you and me, from all backgrounds– and they need your help. Please join me in supporting openhousenewyork and the work that they do and make your gift today.

Thank you,

Franklin Headley

Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

This week’s Focus on Architecture feature photo was taken by Michael Riccio at the AVAC Underground Garbage Disposal Facility on Roosevelt Island and was selected as a winner in the Interiors category. The judges enjoyed the futuristic, Fifth Element appeal to the photograph.

This waste facility is a very efficient use of space and it is also very automated. So much so, that when you walk into the building on the ground floor, you just see dumpsters, and it isn’t till you look up that you see the glass walled engineers room perched above it all. We would later learn that the red tubes that are fitted above the room are the end pipes of the vacuum waste system that stretches throughout the island. After a mechanized sorting, the garbage is then pushed into the dumpsters and trucked off. I took this particular shot as we were leaving, showing the nexus of this unique system that is overseen by just a handful of people operating out of this modernist glass-walled floating box.

Field Trip Friday: Church of St. Francis Xavier

Last month, OHNY staffers Jessica and Hae-In took a tour of the Church of Saint Francis Xavier, one of the new sites in this past October’s OHNY Weekend. The elaborate Neo-Baroque style church is located nearby the OHNY office in Chelsea, on West 16th Street.

New glass on the high altar

Patrick Brewis, Director of Stewardship, led the tour as well as the capital campaign to renovate and restore the Church, whose parish dates back to 1847. The campaign began in 2001 and EverGreene Architectural Arts and Thomas A. Fenniman Architect completed this extensive restoration project in 2010. Fenniman was recently internationally honored by Faith & Form: The Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art and Architecture, whose jurors commented: “This is a colossal restoration, an incredible undertaking. It is ambitious yet respectful. Every detail has been lavished with attention.”

Ceiling with restored murals and coffers

The restoration architect and artists worked on the conservation of the church’s 47 colorful murals, the restoration of its 35 plaster statues of saints, extensive stone and marble cleaning and repair, and on-site architectural paint conservation and decorative painting, including gold leaf lettering. Throughout the church, one particular theme is carried through the many carvings, moldings, glassworks and marble and that is the lily, the symbol of Christ’s resurrection and promise of eternal life.

In 1847, the Jesuit community in the village of Fordham, then part of Westchester County, established a school and church in Manhattan. After a few years, they built a simple, classical-style church on West 16th Street and named it St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier outgrew the space and in 1882 the new granite sanctuary was created. It was designed by the Irish-born architect Patrick Charles Keely, who designed hundreds of Roman Catholic churches.

New doors and stenciling for the entry portico

The interior follows the plan of many Roman Catholic churches, a Latin cross with a high domed crossing and carved plaster ornament and scene paintings depicting the life of Jesus. The stained glass windows, however, feature pure geometric shapes in brilliant colors instead of religious imagery which is more common. These were all cleaned and re-leaded as part of the restoration process, allowing for light to really illuminate the sanctuary again.

Evidence of the restoration

Before the tour, Patrick showed the staff many ‘before’ images, showing the damage to the plaster and murals that had become barely visible. On the tour, Patrick pointed out all the restored and renovated elements throughout the space and described their transformation in detail, including the moving of the former high altar, which was moved forward; new and improved accessibility ramps; a new Baptismal Font and Confessional Room; repairing and refinishing all the wooden pews; cleaning the interior, including the Italian marble and terrazzo floors; and restoring the murals and reinstalling historic lighting.

Lighting from the upper level helps showcase the murals

He also took the staff to the upper gallery running around the sanctuary, where the refurbished organ and pipes were relocated. The balcony used to be accessed by Jesuit priests and students in the school next door via a second-floor catwalk so that they could participate in private Masses, separate from the public. Overlooking the interior space below, new modern lighting was also added on this level to better highlight the murals and detail.

Church apse

A multi-million dollar project, the result of all this extensive work can now be enjoyed their 3,000 parishioners and Patrick is currently working on putting together a documentary about the entire process, which will premier in April 2011. In addition, OHNY will be offering a year-round program tour of the space in early February of next year, so stay tuned for that!

Church of St. Francis Xavier
46 West 16th Street, New York, NY

Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

Today’s winning photo, one of many from the 2010 Focus on Architecture competition, was taken by Julia Mehoke at UrbanGlass glass working studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn and was selected as a winner in the People category. The judges enjoyed the way Julia captured the feeling of heat emanating from the furnace as well as the behind-the-scenes look, which is what OHNY Weekend is all about.

This was my first year attending Open House New York and I spent a lot of time researching the many participating sites and making a list of all the places I wanted to visit, to make sure I wouldn’t leave any out. I ended up going to three. The first was Urban Glass – I was impressed by how effortlessly they worked with such a fragile material and thought the bright furnaces in the industrial setting made for a great photo opportunity. Hopefully next year I’ll make it around to see a few other places.

Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

Continuing our stories behind the winning photos from the 2010 Focus on Architecture competition, today’s photo was taken by Laura Manzari at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and was selected as a winner in the People category.  The judges liked the birds-eye view of OHNY’s volunteers at the Visitor’s Center and how the volunteer all the way on the left is pointing off-screen.

2010 OHNY weekend was great as usual.  This year I got to go to the top of the digester eggs that you see from the LIE at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant for unique views of the city.  The tour began at the Visitor’s Center where a DEP engineer provided an interesting and humorous presentation about New York City’s water supply.  While waiting for the presentation I noticed an overhead view of the water sculpture by Vito Acconci at the center.  I liked the way people looked walking around the shapes of the fountains as well as the lines on the path and the movement of the water.  As soon as one of the people raised an arm I took the photo.  It was a bit of a challenge to capture it all in the low light.

Field Trip Friday: 69th Regiment Armory

A few weeks ago, OHNY staffers Jessica and Hae-In went on a tour of the 69th Regiment Armory, located at 68 Lexington Avenue and completed in 1906. The three-story brick building takes up a full block and is topped by a two-story mansard roof. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Armory contains and displays the 69th Regiment’s lineage, history, honors and traditions. Sergeant First Class Carrasquillo led an informative and extensive tour of the space, highlighting their history and tradition.

69th Regiment Armory

SFC Carrasquillo started with the background of the regiment and its ties to the New York Irish community. Irish patriots in New York believed they needed to form an Irish Brigade to help free Ireland from British control. By mid 1849, the First Irish Regiment had formed and it is to this regiment that the 69th traces its earliest lineage. On December 21, 1849 the First Irish Regiment was adopted by the State, which is the officially recognized date of organization for the 69th Regiment. And since 1851, the 69th Regiment has been the military escort for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Bull Run to Baghdahd exhibit

The unit is often referred to as the “Fighting 69th,” a nickname given by General Robert E. Lee and is also said to be the original owner of “Fighting Irish” nickname, which the University of Notre Dame inherited via chaplains who served with the unit during the Civil War. The regiment can trace roots back to the American Revolution. The regiment has seen combat in five wars: the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. It has also participated in 23 campaigns.

SFC Carrasquillo speaks about the Congressional medals of honor

Seven men from the 69th Regiment have been awarded the Medal of Honor and the Armory has five of these medals displayed. This is a high number for a National Guard regiment, and notably all of them survived the actions in which they were awarded. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military decoration for gallantry and the Regiment’s earliest medal was issued in 1867 and most recently in 1947. You can find more information about the individuals who were awarded here.

Regiment Crest

Many of the unit’s traditions and symbols are derived from its Irish heritage, including the regimental crest which depicts the 1861 Regimental dress cap device braced by two Irish Wolfhounds and the red shamrock of the First Division of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War. These separated by a rainbow depicting the units service as a founding regiment of the 42nd Rainbow Division in World War I. The green background is unique to their unit–most are blue– as a nod to their Irish roots.

WPA mural in the basement

Downstairs in the basement, the walls of one room are covered in colorful WPA murals of scenes from the history of American warfare, including the battles of the Civil War, the Spanish American War and getting ready to leave for World War I.

Father Duffy's last rites set

Father Francis Patrick Duffy, a Roman Catholic priest and the most celebrated U.S. Army chaplain in the Great War, is memorialized throughout the Armory. Appointed chaplain of the 69th Infantry Regiment in 1914, he traveled with the unit first-aid station, providing physical and spiritual care to the wounded and performing last rites for the dying. His presence on the battlefield meant exposing himself to constant danger and his bravery made him a legendary figure.

Garryowen Bar

The tour also included the Garryowen bar, which is decorated with a lot of photos and memorabilia. The Regiment also has a Regimental Cocktail, which is prepared for toasting at all regimental affairs. The cocktail is made with one part Irish whiskey to three parts champagne. The cocktail was first consumed by General Thomas Francis Meagher when Meagher could not obtain Vichy water (similar to tonic) in Fredericksburg, Virginia during the Civil War. General Meagher sent a soldier to get Vichy water to mix with his whiskey but the soldier could not find any so he brought back champagne instead and thus the cocktail was born.

Fireplace of Garryowen Bar

The 69th Regiment Armory still serves its original function as the headquarters of and training center for the National Guard and lends its drill hall for exhibition purposes. Most famously, it housed the 1913 Armory Show where America was introduced to Modern Art. They also hosted some New York Knicks home games from 1946 to 1960. And after the September 11 attacks, the Armory served as a counseling center for the victims and families. Most recently, the Armory was host to The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last month.

69th Regiment Armory
68 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010


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