Manhattan

 

In many ways I realized that my travel plans have neglected the good old U-S-of-A. New York City is a good example. Though I had been a couple times when I was younger I never thought much of the place one way or the other. However, I felt that it was terribly unkind of me to have visited Istanbul, and New Dehli before I gave the Big Apple a second glance.

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I loved the Flat Iron building without ever seeing it. After years I finally saw it. And it was lovely, but somehow afterwards the magic was gone. (Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

There is simply too much to be discussed about New York to encapsulate it all in one essay. But what grabbed me the most was that the city was an experience in layers, scale, and (architectural) depth. Almost like an archaeological excavation. Tooling around the streets for a few days I got to see remnants from the Blade-Runner/Apocalyptic epoch of the 80s. I saw beautiful vernacular buildings from the 19th century that somehow never got torn down, and the city’s modern, masculine structures of wealth and power.

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Notice how the layers of apocalyptic alterations settle towards the bottom of the building. This is an unfortunate reality of architecture in Manhattan. However, I will admit that alteration is better than demolition.

It was interesting to experience the phenomenon of scale. The Empire State building is one of the finest skyscrapers ever conceived until you can see where it touches the ground. Standing at the corner of W 34th & 5th it’s just some dumpy office building with a nice lobby. The details at the street level are insufficient to capture the imagination of anyone walking by. Most people wouldn’t know that they were supposed to look at the building if they didn’t look up.

Empire Sate Building

Google Maps Street view of the Empire State Building.

Compare that with the New York Public Library, where the ornament was scaled up or down in relation to the viewer’s proximity and interaction with the building. The building was surrounded by life (the park certainly helps), and it held it’s ground despite being physically dwarfed by the surrounding architecture.

New York Public Library

Google Maps Street view of the New York Public Library

Ultimately, New York City is bigger than anyone’s opinions or criticisms – though I left the city with a number of both. There are a number of obvious draws to visit, but the raw asphalt, steel, glass, stone, noise, and people that make up this living, frenetic place were the most interesting parts for me. Walking through different neighborhoods as they experienced the inevitable cycle of death, life, and rebirth was something I had never before experienced on such a large scale, and it was quite a treat.

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Sketch of the New York Public Library

 

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Urn at the steps of the New York Public Library.

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