At the end of the day

Some incredible architecture courtesy of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses offices for White House staff, the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, then dinner at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest bar and restaurant and, finally a walk back to where we started, at Dupont Circle. Mari Vanna looked inviting but we didn’t go in, which reminds me that perhaps we ought to try their New York branch, sometime. 

April 23rd, 2017

Washington D.C. – Reconnaissance

Beginning near Dupont Circle back to Union Station with its massive Columbus Fountain and very own Liberty Bell which, in reality, is a replica of this symbol of independence located in Philadelphia – minus the iconic crack. In D.C., it is called Freedom Bell, American Legion, a public artwork dedicated in 1981.

From the Station, a short walk to the Capitol, passing in front of the Supreme Court which is closed on weekends. Still, one can walk around it and marvel at its dignified neoclassical architecture, tall Corinthian columns and bronze doors, designed by Gilbert and John Donnelly, Sr. and sculpted by his son, John Donnelly, Jr.

Each door is made up of four bas-reliefs which represent significant events in the evolution of justice according to Western tradition in chronological order. The thematic sequence begins on the lower left panel, moves up to the top of the door then continues on the bottom right panel and concludes on the upper right corner.

17 feet high and 9 ½ feet wide, and weighing approximately 13 tons the doors prompted the sculptor to declare: 

“Out of all of our monumental projects, spread over two lifetimes, the Supreme Court doors are the only work that we ever signed – that’s how important they were.”

April 23rd, 2017

The Brooklyn side of life

Why do all my walks in Brooklyn seem to end up in BAM? Because there is always something interesting going on there, that’s why; like that discussion with Alec Baldwin for the promotion of his memoir, Nevertheless. As expected, it was a funny, timely, thoughtful and honest account of his life. Thoroughly enjoyable, but I have yet to read the book.

April 9th, 2017

Sunday in Prospect Park

Starting at the Grand Army Plaza, one may expect to see ~

A monument to this gentleman ↓

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at the far end ↓

Wisdom and Felicity surrounded by Neptune, Triton and a boy holding a cornucopia (not visible from this angle), aka the Bailey Fountain. Sculpture by Eugene F. Savage, cast in 1931 ↓

This monumental door of the Brooklyn Public Library, in stark contrast with the, otherwise, minimal concrete facade ↓

The Brooklyn Museum ↓

The meadows ↓

The lost ↓♥

And the found ↓

April 9th, 2017

Cityscapes || Chelsea to Hell’s Kitchen

via Hudson Yards

The ”Mirror” Building, aka the Jean Nouvel Building.
Actually, its windows are multicoloured and, like the Gehry Building (see below), it changes appearance according to the time of day, weather and light.


The Shadow Building, aka the Frank Gehry Building, aka the IAC Building. As all structures designed by Frank Gehry, it looks different from every angle like a fascinating work of art.


The Chinese Consulate. It got my attention because, as far as I have seen, it is the only one situated on the West Side. And Hell’s Kitchen (as opposed to Upper West Side or Chelsea, for example), is a rather unusual location for a Consulate, but a very welcome one for the neighbourhood, especially during the Chinese New Year festivities which include fireworks over the Hudson River that are, apparently, spectacular! I’m eagerly waiting for this year’s announcement, but have already bookmarked the day: February 15th, eve of the Chinese New Year 2018, and the place: Pier 84, 12th Ave & 44th St.


Perspective of the Silver Towers, twin 60-story residential buildings designed by one of New York’s most prolific architects, the Greek born Costas Kondylis (another, less glass-towery building of his, we’ve seen here).


April 2nd, 2017

That crooked little street called Gay

Built in the 1820s as a row of horse stables for the wealthy living in nearby Waverly Place, it served successively as a low-income housing for their servants, home to black musicians, a den for artists and writers, a shelter for speakeasies during the ’20s. No one knows exactly why it is called Gay. There are a few theories but not much evidence – the Bowery Boys have more on this on their website.

Gay St., Greenwich Village

April 2nd, 2017

The stained glass windows of the Jefferson Market Library

Originally built as the Third Judicial District Courthouse in 1876, this Victorian Gothic church-like building has been saved from demolition twice, thanks to the efforts of the local community: once in 1945, when it ceased to be used as a courthouse and a group of local community preservationists campaigned to have it converted into a library, instead of knocking it down. Their campaign proved successful when –  after extensive restoration – it opened as a branch of the New York Public Library in 1967. Budget cuts in 1974 obliged the Board of Trustees of the Library to vote in favour of closing the branch. The decision was rescinded one month later, following outcry of the local community and its function and public character were saved a second time.

Thanks to the local residents we can still enjoy these beautiful stained glass windows by English glass artist, Charles Booth (1844-1893), who also created the stained glass for nearby Grace Church at Broadway and 10th Street. Jefferson Market Library

April 2nd, 2017

 

Christmas in the City

Enjoying an extended and-of-year break in New York City!

  • Extra days off from work – check.
  • Elbowing way through to Fifth Avenue Christmas windows – check.
  • Putting newfound navigating skills on ultra-packed streets to test – check.
  • Baking Greek Christmas cookies – check.
  • Go see the Rockettes – uh, maybe not this year. This type of variety show still has to grow on me.

A Radio City Stage Door Tour for an insider’s look at the Art Deco details, a walk into the – otherwise off-limits – Roxy Suite, a photo with a Rockette, cheesy as this may sound – check, check!

Starting point, a view over the Grand Foyer. Art Deco elements are omnipresent, floor to ceiling: the carpet we are walking on was designed by Ruth Reeves in 1932 to form a tile collage, each tile an abstract depiction of a musical instrument. Reeves had studied with French painter Fernand Léger in Paris in the early 1920s. Léger’s influence is evident in Reeves’ innovative design – so innovative that it looks every bit as modern today as at the time it was conceived, 85 years ago.Radio City’s interior designers Edward Durell Stone and Donald Deskey spared no expense nor effort to make the place as grand and stylish as possible. That is evident everywhere and restrooms are no exception. Here we are at the Ladies’ lounge, adjacent to the restroom on the third level, with a ”Panther” Mural of 1932, by Jenry Billings at its centre. Stylistically leaning towards Surrealism, still very much in place in an Art Deco environment. A ”Wild West” Mural, by Edward Buk Ulreich graces the Gentlemen’s lounge.The period leading to Christmas and New Year is the high season for the Rockettes who regularly go through their grueling routine of high kicks and tapping up to seven times a day and still do it with precision, impeccable style and – most difficult of all – a radiant smile (albeit a teary one at the end of the day). Here, we steal glimpses of one of their routines from the balcony.

Marveling at the vast, 6000-seat auditorium, where there are no pillars to obstruct the view, our guide informs us that, actually, it is what goes on under the stage that’s most impressive – the stage elevator system. This feat of engineering allows Radio City’s massive stage to be moved as necessary, in three parts, at the push of a button. Now, if that didn’t impress you just consider that, when assessed during the building’s massive renovation of 1999, the inspectors established that it was in such excellent condition, the elevator system was more or less the only feature that could be left untouched. It was built in 1932!

Interestingly, it attracted the Navy’s interest and the same principle was used in their aircraft carrier systems during World War II. It was thus that the stage elevator system of the Radio City Hall, became a national secret and even had its own government security agent guarding it throughout the War.
That staircase leads to Roxy’s Suite, where impresario Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the man who opened the venue and commissioned most of the features we enjoy today in Radio City Music Hall, used to receive his glamorous guests. Today, it is available to hire as a reception space. 

The Spirit of Dance, Aluminium Sculpture, 1932 – by William Zorach. This was one of three statues removed from the Music Hall just before its opening, because they were considered risqué. They were later reinstalled after several months, following strong criticism.The Phantasmagoria of the Theater by Louis Bouche, at the main lounge of Radio City Music Hall.

The crystal Christmas Tree stealing the limelight from the chandeliers and Ezra A. Winter’s epic mural that overlooks the grand foyer. ”The Fountain of Youth”, 1932, is one of the first commissions for the Music Hall and depicts a legend from the Oregon Indians about the beginning of time.

From the Radio City Music Hall, Happy Holidays to one and all!

Tour on November 26th, 2017