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Architecture paper

Kevin Wang

History and Architect of Saint Mark’s place

Saint Mark’s Place, a segment of 8th street in Manhattan, runs from 3rd avenue to avenue A. It is named after St Mark’s Church in the Bowery, on 10th Street and Second Avenue. Saint Mark’s place was originally a farm, owned by Dutch Governor-General Wouter van Twiller during the 1600’s. Much of the place has changed since then. Because of the Irish potato famine in the 1840’s, there was a large efflux of Irish and German immigration to the area. The sheer number of immigrants created a large working class and apartments began to build up instead of single-family houses. Saint Mark’s place soon became America’s first large scale foreign-born neighborhood. In fact, even more immigrants came later in the 1890’s, bringing Poles and Ukrainians to the area as well. Also, in the 1960’s, a migration of musicians, hippies, and artists settled down around and on this street as well. As a result of this mixing of different cultures, races, and ethnicities, a diverse community was formed. This is apparent in the numerous social, sport, political, and recreational clubs that were set up throughout the history of Saint Mark’s place. As of today, Saint Mark’s is still known for its highly diverse and vibrant community, a vivacious nightlife, and various art and music clubs.

This multifaceted diversity of Saint Mark’s is also manifested in the contrasting architecture of the buildings, stores, and schools on and around Saint Mark’s place. Some of the areas that my group partners and I have visited are Saint Mark’s 2 Bros Pizza, The Engineering School at Cooper Union, the School of Architecture at Cooper Union, and Saint Mark’s Cube. Each of the design of the building was stimulating in a different way. Saint Mark’s 2 Bro Pizza’s architecture represented the classic pizzeria store and its design also reminded me of my childhood. The Engineering School at Cooper Union’s architecture was filled with a technological beauty and the incorporation of many innovations into its composition. The Architecture School at Cooper Union represented a more traditional style and was inspiring because of its rich history. Saint Mark’s Cube is a distinct and unifying element that brought all of Saint Mark’s together. All of these monuments evoke different feelings due to their various and distinct architecture styles. This in turn further served to exemplify the uniqueness of Saint Marks place as a whole.

On our trip to Saint Marks, a small pizzeria that sells pizza for a dollar caught my eye. I was surprised that pizza could be sold that cheaply, especially in Manhattan where things are generally more expensive. The pizza store’s architecture somehow made it stand out from the other stores. Although it was rectangular and squeezed between two other buildings, its yellow cylindrical lights illuminated the front of the store, giving the floor a glow that distinguished the store from its neighbors, especially at night. There was a large sign on the top of the store that read “2 Bros Pizza”. On the sign, there was a cartoonish picture of two old men showing off their freshly made pizza together. The simplicity of the image at the front of the store serves as a reminder of the old days when pizza stores still usually sold pizza for a dollar. As I walked into the pizza store, I saw the interior of the pizza store, full of reddish and orange colored bricks. It was a stark contrast to the white plastic walls that I was used to. I feel that the store’s very architecture was designed to inspire this feeling, a feeling of reminiscence of the good old days. And unlike other pizza stores, Saint Mark’s 2 Bros Pizza could also bring back the value of eating pizza by selling it for a dollar like the old days.

The School of Engineering at Cooper Union had an architecture that immediately made it stand out from the rest of the buildings. The building was very strange in that it was irregularly shaped and somehow seemed transparent; while you couldn’t see what was in the building, I felt that there was light coming into the building. I learned eventually that it was due to the environmentally green design of the building that included an ability to let in 75 percent of natural lighting, wall panels that could help regulate interior light and temperature, and a full height grand atrium. Walking inside the Engineering School, I was similarly awed by interior design. One thing that really stood out to me was the spiraling staircase in Cooper Union. They were unlike anything I have ever seen before. The staircase did not go up in a regular pattern; instead, they were zigzagged and unpredictable. A white interconnected web of beams also surrounded the staircase. On the walls of the staircase, there were also numerous cylindrical lights with its lights pointing up to the sky. This lighting suggested that with each additional floor we climb, we were progressing to a new level of thought and a higher understanding of knowledge. In fact, the whole architecture of the building from start to finish made me admire the sciences and technology more. Being recently built in the summer of 2009, with the help of alumni donations, the engineering building’s whole architecture was designed with the idea of society’s advancement in mind and that is reflected in its architecture.

In our trip to the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, the Cooper Union building looked nothing like the School of Engineering. In fact, it was the complete opposite; the Architecture school inspired a feeling of a time long gone and past, in a neo classical style. The building was completely brown-colored and throughout the building, there were magnificent arc shaped windows. The building also had aged circular lights with Roman numerals hanging out from the sides. There was also a clock at the top of the building. Because of all these elements and the fact that the building was vertically symmetrical, the building gave off an air of wisdom. Speaking with the officer in front of the building, I learned that unsurprisingly, this building was the foundation building of Cooper Union and was built in 1859. It was one of the oldest buildings with a steel infrastructure. I also visited the Great Hall, which is in the basement of the School of Architecture. In this Great Hall, I noticed that the floors were filled with a checker design, and that the lights of the ceiling illuminated the sides of the wall. On the wall of the Great Hall, there were many pictures of prominent U.S. leaders that spoke at the Great Hall. This included Obama, Roosevelt, Grant, Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln. Some of their speeches were of racial equality while others were of economic reform. The building as a whole was inspiring with its rich quantities of history.

The Alamo (Cube) was given as an anonymous gift to the city of NY in November 1967 and was actually supposed to be only held at Saint Mark’s temporarily. However, the local residents petitioned and convinced the city to keep the cube. Standing at the middle of an intersection, the cube is strikingly noticeable because the cube is the only monument of its kind found at Saint Mark’s, and serves as a symbol that unites Saint Mark’s. The cube has six distinct faces, all of which are distinct in its own way, due to their creases and protrusions. I was surprised to learn that it was possible to turn the cube at Saint Marks on its axis. The cube actually was actually quite a technological achievement, especially considering that it was created in 1967. In a way, the cube helped unify all of Saint Mark’s because the cube is representative of all the different kinds of people at Saint Mark’s and the diversity of the place as a whole.

Saint Mark’s place is a place filled with rich histories and a vibrant culture that continues to change to this day. The embodiment of all the different kinds of people living at Saint Marks is clearly illustrated in the many different sorts of buildings. The diverse architecture of Saint Marks is one of the reasons it is such a great place to visit.

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