Archive for the 'Field Trip Friday' Category

Field Trip Friday: 5 Beekman Street

The staff at OHNY got a lucky treat yesterday afternoon. They were given special access to 5 Beekman Street near City Hall. Rushed through the space, they only had about 10 minutes to explore the space inside. But, what they found was amazing!

Abandoned for years, this building was built originally to house law offices.

The view when you first step in is of a wide open public space leading to the elevators. A huge amount of natural light fills the space and when you walk in further and look up you see why.

The building has a 9-story atrium with delicate iron work along each of the floor balconies.

Through the glass ceiling, you get great view of of the surrounding buildings.

Here is a gorgeous view of the Woolworth Building and on the other side, you can get a peak of Frank Gehry’s new residential tower.

It is impressive how well the atrium and building details have be preserved over the years since parts of it were shuttered back in the 1940s.

From the eighth floor down, you find more ornate details with iron work and ceiling panels that line the walkways around the atrium balconies.

The tile in the building is all original and in some parts it so well preserved that it has been covered in order to protect it for later use.

OHNY originally learned about this building from the blog Scouting New York. You can see the original blog post from November 2010 here.

OHNY is proud to have 5 Beekman Street as part of this year’s  OHNY Weekend that takes place this October 15 & 16. It will be a reservation only site and a lucky group of people will also be given access to this amazing abandoned treasure. Stay tuned for more details. Hopefully, this tour will last a little longer than 10 minutes!

5 Beekman Street

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Field Trip Friday: Vitra Design Museum

While living in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2008, OHNY program coordinator, Jailee Rychen, took a trip to the Vitra Design Museum. Located just outside of the Swiss city of Basel in Weil am Rhein, Germany, the museum is situated outside of a major city in a quiet setting that is also the location of the Vitra factory campus.

Vitra Desgin Museum main building

The main building of the museum was design by Frank Gehry and finished in 1989. It was his first building in Europe and its unconventional design became a focus of interest in the international architecture community. The Vitra’s campus includes a number of buildings all designed by the top names in architecture including Zara Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Herzog & De Meuron, etc. The museum offers architectural tours of the entire campus.

Charles Eames Strasse

The museum was founded and is funded by the Vitra Corporation whose intention was to document the history of the company and to showcase its large collection of furniture by designers such as George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto, and Jean Prouvé. The museum is located on Charles Eames Straße.

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

Outside of the museum is a sculpture titled Balancing Tolls by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen (1984). The tools are the tools of a furniture maker. This sculpture was given to Willi Fehlbaum, Vitra’s founder, on his 70th birthday.

George Nelson clocks

During Jailee’s visit there was an exhibition of the design of George Nelson who was known for his unique wall clock designs, many of which New York’s might recognize from the MoMA design store or in other design boutiques around the city.

George Nelson Marshmellow Sofa

Another signature design of Nelson’s is his Marshmellow Sofa that comes in a variety of colors from simple white to multicolored.

Vitra Design Museum exterior

The design of Gehry’s building is an artwork and design masterpiece in itself. It is whimsical and daring, like most of Gehry’s other buildings. If you ever find yourself in Basel, Switzerland, it is worth a bus trip to see the Vitra Design Museum and factory campus. Take a take a tour of the architectural marvels and enjoy a museum dedicated masters of design excellence.

Vitra designs are sold in a number is retail locations in New York City. They also have a design store on 29th Ninth Ave.

Vitra Design Museum

Charles-Eames-Str. 1
79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany

Field Trip Friday: Austrian Cultural Forum

Back in late May, OHNY’s program coordinator, Jailee headed over to the Austrian Cultural Forum to view the exhibition Fünf Räume (on view until September 5th). It can be easy to pass by the Austrian Cultural Forum building without noticing it since it sits among all the other tall buildings in Midtown. However, if you are across the street and happen to glance up the building’s unique design and verticality is very striking. The building, occupying a space of 25 feet wide by 81 feet deep and consisting of 24 floors, is tall and thin. It was designed by Austrian-born American architect, Raimund Abraham.

Austrian Cultural Forum Exterior

The concept of the current exhibition is focused on the unique architecture of the Forum’s gallery spaces. Five contemporary Austrian artists were invited to produce a new piece of art in a particular space, or room (Fünf Räume literally means 5 rooms or spaces in German). The artists chosen have had success in their native country but have yet to gain recognition in the U.S. Their work displays how space can be altered in a most unassuming yet powerful way. Even the entry space of the Forum has been turned into a work of art by Esther Stocker, who has two installations in the exhibition.

Esther Stocker

Esther Stocker, Untitled (2011)

As you walk up to the upper galleries, you encounter a work be Clemens Hollerer that evokes the idea of barriers and boundaries as his color choice is much like the colors used for police barriers.

Clemens Hollerer, On the Other Side (2011)

In the upper gallery is another installation by Esther Stocker that visitors can walk through if careful. It is interesting to see how the work changes as you move throughout the room.

Esther Stocker, Untitled (2011)

As you walk down into the lower mezzanine gallery, you find Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer’s The Empty Mirror, 2011. This piece using only mirrors, chairs and words, creates a somber and slightly menacing aura. The 16 chairs represent the pawns of a chess game and allude to the important yet inferior role that the pawn plays in the game of chess and, ultimately, in the game of life.

Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer, The Empty Mirror (2011)

Daniel Domig’s piece in the lower gallery is a cage like structure featuring the only figurative work in the exhibition, featuring haunting paintings of figures that are hung on the exterior of the structure.

Daniel Domig, The Eyes are not Here, There are no Eyes Here (2011)

The exhibition Fünf Räume will be up through Labor Day Weekend and is free and open to the public daily from 10am-6pm. The Austrian Cultural Forum hosts a number of concerts, event and exhibitions. See their calendar of events for more details. They will also be participating in this year’s OHNY on Oct 15 & 16. Tours of the building will available on demand.

All Photos by David Plakke

Austrian Cultural Forum
11 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022

Field Trip Friday: United Nations Headquarters

Last week the OHNY staff (all three of us!) stepped outside the boundaries of the U.S. and entered into international territory to visit the United Nations Headquarters located in Turtle Bay. If you walk inside the boundaries of the U. N. (between 1st Ave and the East River from 42nd Street up to 48th Street) you are, in fact, walking in an area governed not by the United States, but by the U.N., which has its own police and fire department and its own postal service. As you enter the U.N. Visitors Center, you pass an impressive line of flags, 193 in all, representing all of the member countries. They are laid out in alphabetical order starting with Afghanistan and finishing with Zimbabwe. Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s anti-gun sculpture titled Non-Violence sits outside as a symbol of international peace.

Outside the U.N.

Non-violence sculpture, donated to the U.N. by Luxemburg

The NY Headquarters, built in 1952, consist of four buildings: the Secretariat building, the General Assembly building, the Conference building and the Dag Hammarskjold Library, which was added in 1961. Rather than holding a competition for the buildings, the United Nations Board of Design was created, an international committee of architects that included Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and Wallace K. Harrison, among others.

U.N. General Assembly building atrium

U.N. General Assembly building atrium

The tour of the building started in the impressive Security Council, with its iconic circular wood table, a gift of Norway. The primary purpose of the Security Council is to promote peace and to discuss and defuse international conflicts. The Presidency of the Security Council rotates each month; each member country getting a turn.

U.N. Security Council

The other main highlight of the tour was the General Assembly, the main conference hall where all 193 member States of the U.N. meet to discuss international issues. It features a large golden wall that sits just behind the podium and upper booth areas that are reserved for the official translators (as seen in the movie The Translator with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn).

U.N. General Assembly

Along the tour, there are also a number of exhibits that represent the three main goals of the U.N. – peacekeeping and security, upholding and maintaining human rights, and social and economical development. Other exhibits serve as reminders of the international catastrophes that have taken place in the past due to war and conflict. You can see a status of St. Agnes that was found face-down in the ruins after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Also on view is the official document of the U.N. rejecting the denial of the holocaust.

St. Agnes statue

The tour is a great way to get an intimate view of how the U.N. functions and how it conducts international business on a daily basis. It also provides a sense of hope and solidarity, knowing that right here in New York, the U.N. is working to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

The U.N. buildings are currently undergoing their first renovation since they were built. It is an extensive renovation that started 2009 and is scheduled to finish in 2013. Only the infrastructure of the buildings are being updated; the buildings, for the most part, will remain unaltered in honor of the international style and symbolic nature of the U.N. Headquarters. Access to the visitors center is free and open to the public daily from 9:00am – 5:30pm. Public tours will continue through the renovation and are now being conducted from the General Assembly building. For more information about tours prices and times click here.

The U.N. will also be conducting architectural tours during the 9th Annual OHNY Weekend taking place on October 15 &16. Stay tuned to find out more details soon!

Field Trip Friday: Brooklyn Grange

Last week our new program coordinator, Jailee Rychen, took an afternoon break from the office world of computers and ringing phones and headed out to Brooklyn Grange, a commercial organic rooftop farm located in Long Island City.

full view of Brooklyn Grange

From below, on the street, a passerby would never suspect that up above fruits and vegetables of all types (including 40 varietals of tomatoes, their biggest crop) are being grown and harvested from the 7th floor rooftop of the building.

a view of the Manhattan skyline from the farm

This is not your average city garden, this is a real farm. The experience of visiting Brooklyn Grange, especially for those who believe that the words “urban” and “farming” were never meant to go together,  will alter anyone’s previous notions of the divide between the urban and the rural.  As the farmers on the rooftop tend to their crops, they can also enjoy magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline.

flowering okra plants

Some interesting facts about the farm:

-It is a full acre (40,000 square feet) in size.

-It is made of 1.2 million pounds of ground soil.

-Underneath the soil is a green roof system that prevents the roots of the plants from penetrating the building and also has a system for catching and re-using access water from heavy rain.

-The farm is located in Queens (despite its name) because the location was determined only after the establishment of an LLC.

-They farm 9 months out of the year and in winter they grow cover crops such as rye, buckwheat and clover.

-They also have a chicken coop.

the chicken coop

Brooklyn Grange is also very dedicated to engaging with the local community and providing educational programs for school children, volunteers and others that are interested in learning about urban food production. They sell their produce to the public at multiple farm stands throughout the city (see their blog for information on specific locations) and supply a number of NYC restaurants. The farm also has a composting program that accepts organic waste scraps from the community; you can drop your waste with them at any of their farm stands.

Managing partner and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange, Anastasia Plakias,  gave Jailee a full tour of the farm (and few nibbles along the way). Being up on the rooftop farm is a peaceful experience in an otherwise chaotic urban landscape. It reminds you that even though we live in NYC, it is still possible to find fresh, local produce that has been cultivated and grown right amongst the concrete and skyscrapers of the city.

Brooklyn Grange is open to the public on Wednesdays from 1pm – 6pm.

Brooklyn Grange

37-18 Northern Boulevard

Long Island City

Field Trip Friday: The Griswold Inn

Should you ever find yourself in Connecticut on a Monday night, it is in your best interest to stop whatever you are doing and head to the small town of Essex.   There, in a centuries-old establishment, you will find one of best traditions in New England alive and well: the sea chantey.

As heralded by the giant flag over their porch, Monday night at the Griswold Inn in Essex is Sea Chantey Night.  Last week OHNY intern Ted headed out to the Gris to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday with some beer and some old sailors’ songs.

If you arrive at 8:30pm on a Monday, the Jovial Crew should be just getting started on their first set in the Tap Room.  Flanked by dozens upon dozens of nautical paintings and led by Cliff Haslam, the Crew usually delivers three sets of chanteys, each more irreverent than the last.

The songs are exactly what you might expect to find in the repertoire of an 19th century mariner.  There are songs to be sung while rigging a ship, boozing on shore, pining for women, and remembering legendary ships of old.

The first set is largely kid-friendly, but after a short intermission the second set starts up and the songs are a bit saltier.  Also, it should be noted, audience participation is not so much encouraged as demanded, and the crowd is always more than willing to join in.

If the infamous Birthday Song at the end of the second set doesn’t offend your delicate sensibilities, you’ll love the third and final set.  Here you’ll be regaled with songs that don’t hesitate to make joyful use of innuendo, euphemism, and puns, and yet others that skip the pageantry altogether and cut right to the chase.

Fun Tip:  Bring an unsuspecting friend on their birthday and don’t warn them about the vulgarity of the Birthday Song.

When you visit, don’t be afraid to take some time between sets to explore the rest of the Gris.  While the upstairs is, in fact, an inn and bed & breakfast, the first floor boasts a vast assemblage of maritime art and historical artifacts.

Amongst the dozens of paintings of ships you’ll find banners and posters from the Prohibition Era warning of the dangers of alcohol, as well as an impressive collection of firearms.


If you’re feeling particularly bold, you might ask one of the waitresses to show you the wine bar room with its moving mural.

The Jovial Crew tries to wrap things up around 11pm, usually closing with a classic like “Rolling Home” or “The Parting Glass.”   Afterwards, as the tabs are settled and the band breaks down their equipment, the lingering crowd often continues the festivities on their own.

Somehow the Jovial Crew manages to be historically authentic without coming off as kitschy.  This weekly event is less a performance or an act than it is a continuation of a proud and storied maritime tradition.  As has always been the case, songs are being constantly tweaked and new verses written, and the fluid art of the sea chantey is kept alive and well.

The Griswold Inn

36 Main Street

Essex, CT 06426

Field Trip Friday: Pleasure Beach

Last year OHNY intern Ted traveled to Bridgeport, Conn. to explore Pleasure Beach, a former seaside attraction and seasonal community. What he found was a glimpse of Bridgeport’s past, and a reminder of its current state of abandonment.

An abandoned sofa sits in the surf on Pleasure Beach

Unless you have a boat, the only way to visit Pleasure Beach today is to hike out across a mile long sand bar that connects the island to the neighboring town of Stratford.  The isthmus was built in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers to help protect the wetlands just north of Long Island Sound.

When you arrive on the island, what you encounter is a ghost town.  Abandoned cottages line an unkempt street that stretches west towards two gigantic radio towers.  Further on, the skyline of Bridgeport can be seen behind tractor trailers and the rush hour traffic of I-95.

Many of the houses had been deserted long ago: wooden boards and planks that once barred the doors and covered the windows had since been ripped off or destroyed.  Plants and graffiti cover everything, what was once clearly a cozy beach neighborhood is now completely empty.

Plants slowly reclaim a porch on Pleasure Beach

Every so often along the street there was a vacant, rubble-strewn lot between the houses.  The trees on these plots were leafless and scorched, casualties of the arson that destroyed whatever house used to stand there.  All over the island there were signs of fire.

In fact, on the morning of our visit there were some freshly burned ruins of a cottage, the charred debris still smoldering and hot.  Elsewhere trees were blackened, and what used to be a grand carousel is now collapsed, reduced to a heap of blackened timber and ornate wooden flourishes.

A burnt tree stands next to the ruins of a cottage

At the far end of the island you find the remnants of its largest and most devastating fire, the swinging bridge fire.  On Father’s Day 1996, a careless motorist tossed a lit cigarette onto the bridge while crossing, igniting the creosote used to waterproof the timber and stranding hundreds of visitors and residents on the island.  Large iron nails stood in long rows along the burnt beams, exposed by the blaze.

When the bridge burned, it was widely assumed that it would be rebuilt quickly.  Unfortunately, the predicted price of a new bridge climbed rapidly into the millions of dollars and Bridgeport, the largest and most impoverished of Connecticut’s cities, was unable to afford it.

The seasonal residents were stalwart, and for a time many returned by boat summer after summer.  At the close of each season they would padlock their doors and board up their windows, their only defense against vandals and looters.  Every year, though, fewer residents would return.

A bicycle stands on the overgrown road

Everywhere you go on the island you can see the telltale signs of a forgotten seaside community.  Paperback books litter a yard, a bicycle stands rusting in the road, a baseball diamond is barely discernible amid heavy vegetation.

Next to the remains of the carousel stands a summer theater, its interior trashed and vandalized but still recognizable.  A visitor pavilion sits in front of a wooden boardwalk, ovens and refrigerators rusting away inside its kitchens.

The interior of the Polka Dot Playhouse

It was clear that the people who once lived here never expected to leave for good.  Inside the cottages beds were made, dishes and glasses lined the shelves, clothes were folded neatly in the bureaus and dressers.  Children’s toys were scattered in yards, fishing gear was stored in garages.

A trundle bed covered with debris

Since our visit to Pleasure Beach, demolition crews were sent to the island to raze the remaining cottages.  None of the nearly four dozen residential buildings remain.  The horses from the old carousel, however, survive.  After the bridge fire, the horses were removed from Pleasure Beach and installed in a new carousel at the Beardsley Zoo, also in Bridgeport.

The land bridge that connects the island to the mainland is now largely a protected habitat. Fences and signs alert pedestrians of the land’s status as a nesting area of the piping plover.  The plover is one of the main concerns to those who would like to rebuild Pleasure Beach.  As an endangered species, piping plovers and their habitats are protected from development under Connecticut law, barring anyone from building a road on the connecting land bridge.

So for now, the island sits vacant in full view of the interstate, the Metro-North line, and the Port Jefferson Ferry, a melancholy reminder of Bridgeport’s grand past.


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