New York City: The Same, But Different


Two literary greats share a conversation about New York City's changing skyline in this week's NY Times. Philip Lopate interviews former Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable about her new book and her old city, including the incarnation of NYC in her youth (she's now 87). "That was a quieter, safer, more secure time," she says. "The city was more a bunch of small-town neighborhoods. There wasn’t the same greed, ambition, drive, short attention span." Below, a few choice quotes covering her thoughts on architecture (and greed, ambition, drive) in NYC today. More here.

Still, in a way I’m glad for this downturn in the economy. Because so much bad stuff was being built. This will give us a chance to think, to take stock. I am so weary of these stupid alliances between developers and cultural institutions in which the cultural institution is given a block of space and the developers overbuild the rest and make an enormous profit.
And now the developers have learned that they can make more money by hiring a name architect. It’s the law of unintended consequences. They build these hugely expensive oversized condos and the star architect is supposed to make it palatable. The architects are delighted to be used by the developers because they want to build, but it’s the same money game. Still, I think it’s good, on the whole.
[By name brand architecture I mean] the “wow” buildings. Don’t blame it all on Frank Gehry. Gehry is legit; what he did at Bilbao is superb. He showed us how to marry all the arts in our time. But the lesson taken away from it was: We need something that looks “iconic,” that’s going to put our city on the map.

Brooklyn is barely mentioned, though Lopate, a Brooklynite himself, laments that "we’re too Manhattan-centric in our planning. I sometimes feel that there’s not enough emphasis on the other four boroughs." To which Ms. Huxtable replies: "In one sense they’re lucky they were left alone. But in another sense it’s not fair at all."
Her New York [NY Times]
Photo by Fifer.

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