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Cooper Union – Ali Simon-Fox

Architecture Research Paper on 41 Cooper Square

Cooper Union’s new building, named simply after it’s address, 41 Cooper Square, is a paragon of architectural and environmental innovation. At 175,000 square feet the building is a block long and is sure to become a landmark for the area in years to come. An unorthodox shape with a shining, sculpted façade, 41 Cooper Square that is forty percent more energy efficient than other buildings of it’s size, making it a stand-out both visually and environmentally. Succeeding where it’s ideological predecessors failed (take MIT’s Stata Center for example), 41 Cooper Square blends environmental consideration, socialization, and education, channeling Cooper Union’s dedication to creativity to create a physical space that fosters academic brilliance while capturing the eye of anyone who sees it.

The design was conceived after Cooper Union became a “PlaNYC Challenge Partner”, being one of numerous pre-eminent city institutions agreeing to rise to Mayor Bloomberg’s challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from building operations by 30 percent by the year 2017.[1] Originally intended to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver, the additions of various technologies throughout the design and construction process led the project to supersede itself twice, being projected as qualifying for LEED Gold certification and being awarded, when all was said and done, a certification of LEED Platinum.[2] Platinum is the highest certification administered by the Green Buildings council, and Cooper Union’s new building is the first to be awarded the status in New York City.[3] On a global level, it is one of only thirty-eight campuses and/or academic facilities to be rated as LEED Platinum in the world. [4]It is the first academic building in New York City to receive LEED certification of any kind.[5]

The building qualified for LEED status thanks to a plethora of technologies geared towards being environmentally thoughtful. The Green Building Council determines LEED certification through what is meant to be a holistic form of ratings by category; the Cooper Union building excelled in the categories of water quality, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental quality, it’s only weakness being in the materials and resources category.[6]

One of the energy-saving features is the green roof. The planting of the rooftop with low-maintenance vegetation helps by both fighting the “heat island” effect that plagues most city buildings as well as facilitating “rain harvesting”, or the gathering and capturing of rain that would normally either run off the building and become dirty water or sit and stagnate on the top of a building and using it for practical purposes at a later time. The water retained by the green roof in 41 Cooper Square’s case will be channeled to the low-flow plumbing devices that have been installed throughout the building. This will save an approximate 600,000 gallons of water per year.[7]

The building’s ceiling is also equipped with radiant heating and cooling panels, which showcase the newest in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technology. The incorporation of cutting-edge mechanical engineering contributes greatly to the energy efficiency of the building. The recovery of energy waste and reduction of energy costs is supplemented by the inclusion of a cogeneration plant.

The foundation of 41 Cooper Square is constructed in the traditional box build; it is the custom rectangular model made from reinforced concrete and the wall spaces left for windows are standard. A look at the floor plans reveal that they are not dissimilar from a conventional academic facility with office spaces, engineering labs and classrooms occupying either side of the building.[8] This however, is where 41 Cooper Square’s ties with conventionality end. The building is centered around an atrium which extends through to the top. This atrium is the focal point of the building and serves a multitude of purposes in regards to visual aesthetic, environmental-friendliness and the buildings function as a space for learning. The atrium improves air flow and circulation throughout the building as well as making it so that seventy five percent of occupied spaces within the building are lit naturally during the daytime.[9] The atrium acts as both a giant skylight and as a facilitator of social interaction, a common area meant for usage by any of the building’s inhabitants.

Social interaction and physical movement are further encouraged by the buildings grandiose stairs, skip-stop elevators and flexible glass partition-walls. The elevators stop only on the 3rd , 5th and 8th floors, leaving the other six floors accessible only by stairway.[10] Translucent and transparent walls emphasize the openness of the space and allow building occupiers to witness goings-on in the rooms surrounding them. These walls can also be moved to modify the rooms to accommodate the needs of the building’s occupants.

To outsiders, the most obvious and striking feature of the new building is it’s exterior. The façade is made of perforated stainless steel panels and features an aluminum and glass window wall, all of which are offset from the inside walls by a perimeter of one to 8 feet. The panels reduce the impact of heat radiation during the summer and provide insulation in the winter.[11]The operable skin and meshed windows are a highlight to this project and one of the more visually tangible manifestations of architectural and environmental innovation.

Built to house Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering and Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as additional studios for the School of Art, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the public[12], 41 Cooper Square has not only replaced 40% of the space used in the old Cooper Union building but has been erected as a testament to cutting-edge architecture and environmental design and the intersections between the two disciplines.

Saint Mark’s Place – Politics and Style

The architecture of St. Mark’s Place comprises a variety of both modern and classical styles. This diversity is a large part of what makes the neighborhood so popular and successful.  When the buildings all come from different styles, they will attract people from different styles of life.  In this manner, the contrasts between the buildings bring different people together.  Throughout history, certain parts of St. Mark’s have also been used as platforms for political figures.

A good example of a dichotomy in St. Mark’s is the pair of Cooper Union buildings on Cooper Square.  The first of the two is the Foundation Building, established in 1859, which has a classical, 19th century style of architecture. This style obviously fits in with a lot of the older buildings in the neighborhood, and is appreciated by the more traditional critics. But although the foundation building resembles many of St. Mark’s other buildings, it still has unique features.  For example, it was one of the first buildings in New York to be supported by rolled wrought iron beams, which were developed by Peter Cooper himself.  This idea of using light, sturdy iron beams laid the foundation for many of New York’s first skyscrapers.  The Foundation Building also won awards of recognition for its round elevator shafts, impressive great hall, and imaginative ventilation system.  So although the building may appear to be traditional now, it is actually considered to be one of the more innovative designs and structures in American history.

In September 2009, a new building was constructed under the name of Cooper Union.  This building is now called 41 Cooper Square.  Designed by Thomas Mayne, this building lives up to the engineering school’s name by boasting one of the most revolutionary architectural styles New York has ever seen.  Built in the interest of energy conservation and innovation, the building gives St. Mark’s Place a modern edge, which provides a welcome contrast to some of the older buildings in the neighborhood, including the Foundation Building.  The building’s concrete frame, covered by a curtain of stainless steel, is considered a masterpiece.  There is a façade in the middle of the building, which exposes the interior to the rest of Cooper Square; from the inside, the Foundation Building is the focus of the view. The interior has also been praised for its staircases, which skip floors and connect to either other via bridges, as well as the radiant heating and cooling thermal roof panels. A green roof helps insulate the building and collects storm water, and a cogeneration plant provides additional power but recovers waste heat. The full-height atrium provides interior day lighting to the building core and the semi-transparent nature of the façade has allowed for seventy-five percent of the occupied spaces to be naturally lit. The architectural style of the building uses its innovative materials to make the building as green as possible.  But although this building seems perfect, many critics dislike having such a modern building built among all of the traditional buildings.  They feel that it lacks the scale, material, and uniformity of its neighbors.  However, 41 Cooper Square has the same dimensions as the Foundation building, which also has a steel infrastructure.  Critics also seem to neglect that the Foundation Building was first made famous for its innovation and deviation from the norm, so 41 Cooper is in fact upholding the values of not only Cooper Union, but of Saint Mark’s itself.

Another great example of Saint Mark’s diversity in architectural styles is The Alamo, also known as the Saint Mark’s Cube.  The Alamo was installed on Astor Place in 1967 as a temporary art exhibit, but because of a petition signed by the residents of St. Mark’s Place, it became a permanent landmark.  For a sculpture done in the 60’s, The Alamo was surprisingly constructed in a modern style.  The six faces are all distinguished, each comprising its own variety of indentations, protrusions, and ledges. The adjacent sides all have different styles that come together much like the different types of people that come together and live in Saint Mark’s.  The abstract design makes the cube seem ahead of its time, and it brings the other areas of the neighborhood together, much like the actual Alamo.  The most identifying feature of the Alamo is that itcan spin on its axis.  This requires a couple of people, but many people who move into New York City spin the cube as a ritual to signify that they are now a part of the city.  Among buildings both large and small, this sculpture again brings a different style to Saint Mark’s, making it one of the most diverse areas in New York City.

In addition to diverse styles of architecture, St. Mark’s Place has also been the site of several political addresses.  Many of The United States of America’s most prominent senators, governors, and presidents have spoken in the Cooper Union Foundation Building’s Great Hall.  The Hall is located in the basement, and is now considered one of the country’s most famous auditoriums.  Presidents such as Taft, Grant, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Abraham Lincoln have all spoken and addressed the country from the Great Hall.  The most memorable speech given in the Hall was Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Speech.  In this address, Lincoln opposed the federal regulation of the spread of slavery.  The speech galvanized support for Lincoln and helped him clinch his presidential election.

The many different buildings of St. Mark’s have their own styles, their own histories, and their own distinguishing features.  The styles of architecture often conflict with each other, but they also work together to create a diverse neighborhood.  St. Mark’s place has also cemented its place in history by housing several of the country’s most famous national addresses.

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.

Response Paper by Darren Panicali

Response Paper: Washington Square and Its Arch

When Cindy and I visited the site of the arch at Washington Square, the park itself was being renovated. Half of the park was green, but the other was torn up into dirt and sectioned off with fencing. Surprisingly enough, the square didn’t lose any of the life it experienced on a normal, renovation-less day: People lounged around, kids played, chess players battled – everything was basically the same. It makes you wonder, “This place looks less-than-perfect. How is all this liveliness still possible?” The answer lies in the architecture.

In terms of the use of space, the fountain as the aesthetically intriguing centerpiece takes up a considerable amount of land as a huge, inviting circle that seems to, almost like a whirlpool, draw people in – sometimes even literally into its wading pool. There are seats lined in arcs around the circle itself, providing a watch-at-your-leisure beautiful, dead-on view of the fountain but also of the people who surround it, and there are always many interesting people that do. The fountain is encompassed by a wide, open space suitable for walking and romping and the like – a plus to any major public attraction. When you walk around, you feel like every step is a breath of fresh air because the space is so huge and refreshing. The bigger circle holding both the seats and fountain within seems to give the park pleasing curves. The arch itself is visible from almost anywhere in the square, but the best spots for viewing are those very seats and space surrounding the fountain. For this reason, it makes sense that the hustle-and-bustle of the square is concentrated there.

The arch itself is majestic, to say the least. Tourists and seasoned New Yorkers alike are drawn in by the intricate Beaux-Arts bas-relief and sculpted details, the stateliness of the massive marble stature, and the two symbolic naturalist sculptures of Washington in peacetime and in wartime. The Beaux-Arts style in the arch blends well with the square because it boasts simplicity with the grand size of the plain main structure yet complexity too with the elaborate details, as does the square, having its simple open central space yet also having its complicated architecture. This duality is kept consistent, and it is delightful to the eyes. The arch is also an appropriate welcome into the square, with sheer splendor emanating from its walls as you pass underneath. Its glorious size and lavishness can actually give you the shivers!

The architects McKim, Mead, and White did have a challenge in making the arch: If it was too luxurious, it would stand out too much, but if it was too demure and less bold, its message would not be as powerful and the welcome and vision it exudes would be compromised. Thankfully, the end result worked out because it does not lack boldness at all, and while it does appear a bit exorbitant in its stateliness architecturally in relation to the meager square, socially it seems that was necessary for the many less-than-affluent people of Greenwich Village to feel that they had something special in their lives that could give them hope and they could cherish as theirs, providing them with sheer motivation, so the architects truly were successful in the end.

Whether you want to have a long intellectual conversation by the fountain or just wish to meander aimlessly about the square, Washington Square with its gorgeous arch is really the place to be. With some good company and a few glances at the colossal marble welcoming sign, you’re bound to have a marvelous time as you stroll down the paths walked by thousands upon thousands of both revolutionary and mundane individuals alike, all sharing common dreams to inspire, to be inspired, and to find their paths in life, just like you. Enjoy!

Research Paper by Darren Panicali

The Washington Square Arch and the Liberation of Human Sexuality

Take a stroll down to the north side of Washington Square and walk beneath the illustrious Washington Square Arch; you’re guaranteed to feel a sense of grandeur and magnificence. With its beautiful bas-relief detail, massive stature, and two contrasting sculptures of one of our most integral Founding Fathers, George Washington, it is easy to get lost in the majesty as you look on. In fact, that is what happened to many unconventional, bohemian New Yorkers in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries: There was a division of the square between the north border’s conservative, rich population and the south border’s liberal, poor population, which seemed to be growing as immigrants poured in (“New York Architecture” par. 10). Henry Marquand, at the time of the construction of the arch, remarked, “It is true that the neighborhood may all be tenement houses in a few years. But have the occupants of tenements no sense of beauty? No patriotism? No right to good architecture?” (“New York Architecture” par. 6). Yet these words would come to mean so much more as the arch became a symbol of a right to not simply good architecture but also bigger and better rights for the plebeians and bohemians of Greenwich Village – perhaps the greatest right of all being the freedom to be what you want to be, no matter what anyone else thinks. Washington himself was the leader of a revolution, and he was and continues to be displayed for all to see, an ever-present reminder that sometimes you must fight for what you believe in, and if you succeed, times of peace and prosperity will greet you with open arms. As time went on and the area developed, one of the peace-desiring groups that gained (and still possesses) a major presence in Washington Square and Greenwich Village was the long-time rights-deprived non-heterosexual community (i.e., homosexuals, bisexuals, transvestites, transgendered individuals, and those who questioned their sexuality, to be referred henceforth as “LGBTQ,” short for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered/transvestite, and questioning”). But with the tantalizing vision of Britain-defiant George Washington as their guide and the magnificence of the arch (though it was theirs to view, a splendid right already) being not nearly good enough for them, they were not about to settle. A spark of social insurrection was in the air, and it would come to ignite aggressively by the late 1960s, when the gay liberation movement was in full throttle (Aldrich 212) and the war on oppression of unconventional sexuality was taken up by the little people, who were part of the community of Washington Square and basked in the glory of its architectural symbol of rebellion. And if the flames of these nonconformists’ loves were to burn in hell, they would drag – in drag – their rights and their dignity with them.

“A tipsy crowd of revelers climbs [sic, climbed] to the top of the arch in Washington Square to declare Greenwich Village an independent nation” (Stinsell 2). John Sloan and his fellow artistic rebels made quite a statement in 1917 (Axelson par. 2), but it would take decades before the message would apply to the LGBTQ community. Though LGBTQ culture was strong and visible from the 1890s to the 1930s, a “host of laws and regulations [that] were enacted […] in the 1930s that suppressed […] drag balls, censored lesbian and gay images […], and prohibited restaurants, bars, and clubs from employing homosexuals or even serving them” would stifle their growth and lifestyles until the 1960s (Chauncey 8). The LGBTQ community was suppressed heavily and could not escape the unyielding prison that society had established for it – that is, until Greenwich Village’s very own Stonewall Inn set the ties that bound the community for so many years chaotically ablaze in a single night.

“‘And there were men dancing with men. And when I [saw] the two men […] I had such a thrill in my stomach. It was … like an electric shock. And it was so f***ing exciting’” (Carter 71). This was the fiery dynamic that could be found in the late 1960s within Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on Christopher Street, just a few blocks west of Washington Square’s enormous symbol of revolutionary insubordination. But the police wouldn’t have it: They often conducted raids on secretive gay bars at the time (Carter 83), and Stonewall Inn was fated to be busted soon enough as well. But when the police barged in one memorable night in June and forced everyone out, people did not disperse but rather watched, and the crowd grew larger and larger until a few aggressive moves were made and berserk, violent pandemonium ensued (Carter 151) – a “protest without precedent in gay history” (Aldrich 212). This was the first instance in history of such an uprising for this group, and it signaled a radical shift in the treatment of the LGBTQ community by society. As a result of the riots at Stonewall, the summer of 1969 ushered in the founding of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) to allow the new LGBTQ generation to “take to the streets to manifest their discontent” and fight for “authenticity, sensuality and community, rebelling against what they saw as social alienation produced by a bureaucratic and consumerist society” (Aldrich 213). And so the stage was set for the LGBTQ community to finally make a stand and advocate for their rights both in society and in court. Largely thanks to an offshoot of the GLF known as the Gay Activists’ Alliance (Aldrich 216), the rest is simply recent political history, with a general “happy ending” of LGBTQ rights gained in many sociopolitical areas, although the fight for true sexual equality lives on. But had the arch not been there and the square not developed into a sanctuary for the condemned, the unusual, and the surreptitious, it is possible that none of this would have ever taken place – a bone-chilling thought for LGBTQ people today. Luckily, the arch and the environment it promoted were present, and the fight went on – to sweet victory.

The Washington Square Arch means a number of different things to a number of different people. For some, it is an example of sheer beauty. For others, it is an architectural masterpiece, representing a technically correct and aesthetically pleasing example of neoclassical Beaux-Arts work. But for the sexual deviants of Greenwich Village, it was freedom. In an area thought of as “a free territory untrammeled by convention” (Axelson par. 3), the hopes of the LGBTQ people were so built up and gained such blazing momentum that even New York’s Finest was powerless against them. And it all started with the creation of this environment with an affinity for the bizarre and the poor, the tired and the eccentric, the intellectual and the hopeful. But none of this could have achieved its full potential without the addition of the arch and the unyielding message of liberation behind it. The grand structure screamed, “Fight for yourselves; your efforts will not go in vain, and the fruits of your labor shall be great.” And so the drag-queens, lesbians, and gay men fought at Stonewall, hearts on fire, minds racing, and souls fed with the promise of a brighter tomorrow. And thanks to the arch and their efforts, that brighter tomorrow is today.

Works Cited

Aldrich, Robert. Gay Life and Culture a World History. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006. Print.

Axelson, Erik P. “The Free And Independent Republic Of Washington Square (Part II).” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The Daily Plant, 24 Jan. 2007. Web. 02 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_newsroom/daily_plants/daily_plant_main .php?id=20026>.

Carter, David. Stonewall: the Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s, 2004. Print.

Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic, 1994. Print.

Landmarks Preservation Commission. Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report. Vol. 1. New York: City of New York, 1969. Print.

“New York Architecture Images- Washington Square Arch.” Nyc-architecture | New York Architecture- Historic and Contemporary. 2010. Web. 02 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GV/GV046WashingtonSquareArch.htm>.

Stansell, Christine. American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. New York: Metropolitan, 2000. Print.

Belvedere Castle Research (Zoe)

It is no secret that the various arts are connected. Music, dance, literature, and yes, even architecture, are all different ways of reflecting the society that they spring from. The arts are a way to illuminate the values of a society, which frequently leads to an overlap of the values of the society’s artists, no matter which medium they are working in. An unusual architectural example of this principle that can be found in the city of New York is Belvedere Castle. The castle’s intended purpose (or rather, its lack thereof) reflected the artistic values of its day in an almost perfectly metaphorical way. However, its later and now current usages reflect the change in the values of American architecture and arts specifically, and the wider American culture more generally.
Designed in 1865, in the midst of the Victorian Era, Belvedere Castle was meant to be a “folly”, which is defined by Random House Dictionary as “a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found esp. in England in the 18th century.” And while obviously Belvedere Castle was constructed in 19th century New York City, and not 18th century Great Britain, the term is clearly appropriate. From the beginning, Belvedere Castle was not meant to be lived in, gathered in, or used in any truly productive fashion. Its very name, which comes from the Italian for “beautiful view”, subtly highlights the true purpose of this grand structure: to look interesting, and provide people with a lovely view of the park.
It is in this way that Belvedere Castle reflects the artistic values of the Victorian Period. For example, Victorian literature, as exemplified in the novels of Charles Dickens and in the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Lewis Carroll, was not necessarily devoid of meaning, but certainly placed a greater emphasis on euphony, potent imagery and (at least in Carroll’s case) wordplay than it did on imparting a substantial meaning beyond the occasional heavy-handed moral. In the same way that Lewis Carroll’s poetry was all interesting sounding words with little deeper message to convey, Belvedere Castle was meant to be a harmless building that would add a little something to the landscape of Central Park, and provide those who entered with a beautiful view.
However, with the 20th century came drastic changes to both Western society and Belvedere Castle. In 1919, the National Weather Service began taking meteorological data from Belvedere Castle to determine wind speed and direction. Just to the south of the castle, rainfall and other data were taken. What was once a pretty, purposeless structure became a place of science. In the society surrounding Belvedere Castle, the long-term effects of the Industrial Revolution were beginning to show themselves. Architecture as a general field was changing, too. Building design was moving towards a more Functionalist ideology, revealing a decreased interest in beauty for beauty’s sake that pervaded the greater culture.
Unfortunately, Belvedere Castle began to deteriorate, and it was not until 1983 that the building was renewed by the park service and reopened to the public. It retained its usage as a data collection facility, but gained a new purpose: the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. In its current incarnation, Belvedere Castle is home to papier-mache birds, and the “beautiful views” are encouraged to be utilized by birders and other scientifically-minded enthusiasts. The castle has been restored to its late-19th century grandeur, and is still capable of being as much of “a conversation piece” as it ever was. In this way, the structure reflects the need for all aspects of society to adapt to the new way of the world by providing multiple services simultaneously. Our world is increasingly interconnected, and the various structures of Western society, whether they are political and abstract, or a very real building such as Belvedere Castle, can no longer exist in isolation from the world. It is now no longer practical to build building with no purpose beyond looking nice, for many reasons. In today’s society no pragmatic architect would ever construct such a structure, and, as seen in the case of Central Park’s Belvedere Castle, we no longer have the luxury of maintaining those structures that lacked a purpose to begin with.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Belvedere Castle. In fact, I knew very little about the architecture of Central Park. Like many in this country, I knew that the park was large, had immense quantities of green space, and perhaps not much more.
But learning about Belvedere Castle made me realize that it is truly a shame that the architecture of Central Park is relatively unknown outside of New York City. Not only is Belvedere Castle a small observatory (focused primarily on birds), the castle itself is a beautiful structure (indeed, as I discussed in my research paper, the beauty of Belvedere Castle was in fact its only original purpose), and it provides its patrons with truly stunning views of the surrounding area.
The most interesting thing I learned about as a result of this project was the existence of architectural follies. These are buildings that were built for no specific purpose but to add to the beauty of the surrounding area. Obviously these are widely impractical, but some follies (primarily those located in Ireland) were actually commissioned so as to provide employment for those who were out of work as a result of the potato famine, without displacing the employed. I thought this was a peculiar way to deal with the problem of unemployment, that while perhaps effective, would be wildly decried in contemporary America.
I found that this project was a fairly successful one as far as enlightening me regarding the artistic side of architecture, but in retrospect I would have chosen a building with a more compelling history, that would have lent itself more easily to a more substantial analysis.

Our introduction to architecture was a memorable one and an experience that few can say they shared. We began with City Hall, taking in the full effect of not only the building but also the park in its vicinity and the water fountain within it. The park complimented the elite style of the building. The waterfall was peaceful and inviting; also similar to the kind of atmosphere the architect was aiming to create. The building emphasized symmetry, simplicity, and precision.

The next building we saw was the famous Woolworth Building, built in 1913. When it was built, it set records in architectural achievements. When we walked into the building we witnessed not only architectural significances, but also elaborate designs and personal details. Upon entry into the building we both felt like royalty. We were sure that as we walk up the wide staircase, the doors would open, a banquet would be waiting, and we would be introduced to the King and Queen. The sense of awe created by the design of lobby is aimed to entice businesses to rent floors in the building. This effect is increased due to the grand, welcoming staircase.

We were both intrigued by many aspects of the buildings, starting with the lobby and ending with the roof (also known as the home of the pelican). The elevators are reminiscent of the Tower of Terror attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The tiny elevators contradict the considerable size of the building. We liked how the history of the building has been kept alive throughout the years. Even without a tour, one could get a better understanding of the building’s past thought the caricatures and sculptures along the walls and ceilings. We did find it slightly conceited to find the face of the architect and Woolworth all over, but it made the building more personal.

For our own architecture presentations we chose to use Coney Island. We met next to Nathans and began looking for something inspiring that is worth dedicating an entire project to. Two blocks later, we realized there is no choice more clear than the Cyclone. We examined the Cyclone from all angles, and even trespassed a little through an entry open for construction workers. We realized that the ride packs several spins and drops into a small area. We also found the design of the roller coaster to be fairly simple, mainly consisting of wooden boards and large bolts. After taken pictures of all sorts of variations, we noticed that the Cyclone is isolated from other attractions of Coney Island.

At that point, we decided to walk along the boardwalk to get another view of the roller coaster in relation to the rest of the area. The white color of the Cyclone effectively complimented the blue of the ocean. While on the boardwalk, we came face to face with the Wonder Wheel. The Wonder Wheel conveyed a feeling of unity. We continued observing the area and realized the next monument that drew our attention was the Parachute Jump. After that, everything came together. The Wonder Wheel is the centerpiece, with the other two monuments to the left and right. As we look along the boardwalk these three structures catch our eyes as if pinpointed on a map. Hence, we felt the need to learn a little more about each landmark.

We couldn’t help but pay close attention to the Cyclone. It stood alone on the street while the Wonder Wheel was surrounded by other attractions. From visiting the parks in the past, we know there are even separate tickets sold for the rides in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and for the Cyclone itself. This relates back to the history of the area, where all the parks would compete with each other for ticket sales. Also, we learned that originally there were many more rides and entertainers at Coney Island than there are now, so we aren’t getting the same effect of the structures as the original architects and visitors got. We were also interested in learning more about the Parachute Jump since right now it doesn’t resemble an attraction in anyway. It more closely resembles some sort of satellite with a scientific purpose.

Our past experiences with the park are very different. Polina grew up in the Brighton Beach, an area that is a walking distance from Coney Island. She has visited the park many times and was aware that we were walking along a historic site. She even rode the Cyclone although she was fearful of the ride. The wooden boards seemed old and frightening to her, and the fact that it was almost an artifact did not help either. She rode the Cyclone with a friend to help ease her anxieties. However, she was still worried about the constant shaking and rattling of the boards beneath them. The ride was quicker than she thought, and she was glad she took a chance and experienced the history.

Lidiya, on the other hand, has had a difference experience with the park. She remembers being terrified of the Cyclone but willing to take the chance if someone would finally tell her she is tall enough for the ride. Deep down she knew that the height requirements were the same for each ride, but made sure she still lined herself up with every ruler. At an older age, Lidiya attended the Mermaid Parade at the start of summer at Coney Island. She was slightly frightened because she was not sure what the men were doing dressed as mermaids, but still made sure to see a variety of costumes. These types of events were very common in Coney Island’s past.

The architectural styles of Coney Island and of some of the places we saw in Manhattan are very unique but all of them convey a history not only about the creator, but also about the time they were built in and the tools that were used to create these structures. Experiencing a landmark in person has a much more personal effect on an individual than looking at well angled pictures. Nothing beats the real deal.

Landmarks of Coney Island

It all began with the buying of the intersection of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street by Jack and Irving Rosenthal. They invested $100,000, hired Vernon Keenan and Harry C. Baker and the building of the Coney Island Cyclone officially took off. Harry C. Baker supervised the construction that was carried out by a combination of the National Bridge Company, which supplied the steel, and the Cross-, Austin, & Ireland Company, which supplied the lumber. Harry C. Baker was previously in a joint partnership with John A. Miller in a company called company called Miller and Baker, Inc. By the time the Cyclone was built, Harry C. Baker formed his own company, Harry C. Baker Inc of New York.

The Coney Island Cyclone was finished in 1927. The tracks are made of wood with a steel foundation. It is 85 feet high, with the biggest drop also being 85 feet high. The angle of the drop has been measured to be 58.6 degrees, with top speeds reaching 60 miles per hour. The Cyclone is 2,640 feet long and each ride lasts a total of one minute and 50 seconds. The passenger count can be no more than 24 and no less than 3.

The designer of the ride is Vernon Keenan. The cyclone was his first creation and was followed by other roller coasters. These include the Blue Streak, the Atom Smasher, the Coaster, the Cinema Coaster, the Twister, and another Cyclone built in the New York Worlds Fair. The design used in the creation of the Cyclone was similarly recreated during the designing of the Comet. Vernon worked with Harry C. Baker but also later worked with Ackley, Bradley, and Day Company. Vernon Keenan’s father also built roller coasters. Keenan was the first to ride the coaster his father built for the Chicago World Fair. He got to test the ride along with some sandbags before the ride was opened to the public.

Building the cyclone was not a simple task. Although the Cyclone was not the first roller coaster, it was done on a small ground. This meant that the twists and turns had to be kept tight and steep to fit the lack of space. After Vernon Keenan designed the Cyclone, he helped work of the Comet. The Comet was a revised version of the Cyclone. Keenan helped Edward Leis in constructing the Comet, sharing the secrets of the design and making improvements based on what he viewed to be the shortcomings of the Cyclone. Keenan had a good imagination and the skills necessary for the building of roller coasters. His coasters were high in intensity, and caliber. The coasters he designed were more thrilling and more suitable for adults. These were the qualities sought after during the building of roller coasters.

Coney Island was not only the site of amusement. There is another monument that was first built for military purposes. The parachute jump at Coney Island was built in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. In 1941, it was relocated to its current location, in Coney Island. The parachute jump was originally designed to help train soldiers in in-air jumps. In the 1930s, the military focused on the use of airpower in the military and they needed an efficient way to train soldiers in in-air jumps.

The man behind this invention is Naval Air Commander James H. Strong. He had already retired when he patented his invention in August of 1936. His invention consisted of a strong steel tower base with electric moors to tow the chute up. It has eight guided cables, arranged in a circle around the chute. This helps prevent the jumper from coming in direct contact with the tower. Between 1936 and 1937 he built several versions of the design on his personal property in Hightstown, NJ.

James H. Strong did not foresee that his invention would also appeal to the general public. As time went on, many people, mostly motorists, would stop by the tower and ask to experience the thrills of jumping off. Strong was inspired by the popularity of the tower and adapted it for the average citizen. He incorporated shock absorbers at the bottom to prevent accidents. The seats were also made to accommodate two people. The size of the parachute changed from 24 feet to 32 feet in diameter.

Another landmark of Coney Island is the Wonder Wheel. The Wonder Wheel is the centerpiece of Astroland Park and stands across the street from the Cyclone. Built in 1920, it is 150 feet high, 140 feet in diameter and can sit 144 people at a time. The material used to build it was 100% Bethlehem Steel which was assembled at the site of construction. The Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company built the Wonder Wheel and the 18 original co-owners of the Wonder Wheel helped supervise the building of the wheel. The Wonder Wheel has a total of 32 cars, 16 swinging cars and eight stationary cars. It has a perfect safety record and is painted each year to protect against damages of the weather and other environmental factors.

The Wonder Wheel is known as an eccentric ferris wheel. Ferris wheels operate as a rotating upright wheel with passenger cars. The cars are attached in a way to keep them upright as the wheel turns. The cars of the ferris wheel are able to keep the passengers inside partly due to forces of gravity. Normally, the passenger cars are just attached to the rim of the wheel, but in eccentric ferris wheels, this is not the case. Since some of the cars are not stationary, they are attached to the hub while others are attached to the rim.

Belvedere Castle Response

The temperature was steadily dropping into the fifties…forties and all I had on was a sweatshirt and a knitted hat. It was pretty early in the morning, and I was sure I had no idea where I was going. All I knew to look for was a castle with a little flag perched atop it; not too hard to look for, right? I zigged and zagged along the crossroads covering the park, and I finally caught a glimpse of it. Across the great lawn I spotted a pristine cream-colored castle in the middle of the busy park. It was almost strange to me to see something so beautiful, mysterious, and alluring surrounded by dog poop and screaming children. Almost walking into a pond, I finally found the path that looped around Shakespeare Garden and straight to the base of Belvedere Castle.

This wasn’t my first time visiting this magnificent structure. My senior year Creative Writing class stopped at Belvedere along our Literature Walk, and I was just as fascinated by it then as I am now. The beautifully crafted balconies and weathered stone exterior look like they came straight out of a fairy tale. The day I visited with Zoe, we walked into a middle of a photo shoot for a gothic magazine. The entire crew managed to walk up the narrow one-person staircase to the balconies. One of the models stood near the edge of the turret, looking out dreamily over the rest of the park, much to the joy of the photographer below. She was a fairy tale princess come to life, only wearing much more black. The Gothic inspired style really gives Belvedere Castle a dreamy feel that draws thousands of people to the structure every year.

After looking at the surrounding structures and reactions of the tourists, and doing some research, I began to understand what the castle was doing in the middle of a public park. Olmstead, Vaux, and Mould wanted to design a place where people of all classes, races, and ages could relax and enjoy rural beauty in the middle of the urban jungle. Central Park encompasses so many different styles of landscape architecture, and I believe that the contrast of Belvedere Castle against the Great Lawn and urban backdrop is one of the best examples. It serves as an escape from the hectic city only a few blocks away, and every time I have visited afterward, I take no shame in climbing up the stairs to the balcony and imagining myself as a princess locked away by a fire breathing dragon, or college professors.

-Laura Ayala

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