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THE TWO POLES OF MY EXISTENCE are the immensity of nature that is the East End of Long Island and the intensity of humanity that is New York City. Which do I prefer? There’s no contest; it’s the former.
But with a couple of hours to kill in Midtown recently, while waiting to join a friend for Skylight on Broadway, I found much in the West 30s and 40s to command my attention.
Emerging into Times Square after the performance, the visual stimulation was an assault. There’s something undeniably exciting about it, I admit, but… get me back to the country ASAP.
Today, my column on Brownstoner.com, the Brooklyn real-estate website, is another wreck transformed — this one by architect Elizabeth Roberts with uncommon smarts and taste. Above, the dining room in a new two-story addition, seamlessly integrated with the garden. Check out the full post, including a really great farmhouse kitchen, here.
FOR THE FIRST OF MY NEW SERIES OF ‘THE INSIDER’ columns on Brownstoner.com, the colossal Brooklyn real-estate website, I chose a house I wouldn’t mind moving into myself: a gut-renovated Bed-Stuy row house by architects Robinson + Grisaru for a pair of design-minded individuals. Love the exposed joists painted white (seems to be a trend; there will be more of those in upcoming weeks). Look for ‘The Insider’ on Brownstoner every Thursday at 11AM. To read more about the house above, go here.
EVERY NOW AND THEN, I need a photo workshop to help me look at things afresh. In Europe last month, I was so busy chronicling all I saw as straight-up reportage that I rarely took time to be creative with my camera — or iPhone, in my case (I’ve given up carrying anything heavier).
This morning, at the Municipal Arts Society offices in Midtown Manhattan, I took a two-hour class called “Getting the Shot” taught by Timothy Schenck, a photographer specializing in art, architecture and construction. Tim ran through an astonishing amount of information in an hour. His reminders about basic mindfulness (“focus on the task”) were not lost on me, and I loved being given permission to experiment (“tap into your individual vision,” “try the unconventional”), along with composition (eliminate visual clutter, use negative space, remember the rule of thirds) and technical tips.
I asked how to take photos of a building besides just standing in front of it and holding the camera up, something I often find myself doing. Among Tim’s suggestions: try a very low angle to take in, say, the cobblestones on a street; use ‘leading lines,’ like a row of houses diagonally pointing toward the subject building; look for a convenient bell tower for a high vantage point; take close-ups of a weathered door or interesting knob; tell a story about the building in a series of images.
All very helpful, so when our group of about 25 — most with SLR cameras, some with point-and-shoots, a few with cellphones — marched the 10 blocks south to Grand Central Terminal to put Tim’s tips into practice, I was feeling inspired. The image, top, taken on 42nd Street just in front of the station, may be my favorite of the day.
It was crowded inside the station, with more tourists than commuters. I interpreted the part of the lesson about weeding out visual clutter to mean people — people en masse, at any rate. I gravitated toward quiet corners and was surprised there were some, even inside Grand Central on a Saturday afternoon. And when there weren’t, I found that if I waited, a wave of humanity would pass and for a few seconds the coast would be clear to grab a shot of the station’s grand Beaux Arts architecture.