Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Start?

In July 2006, a week before I moved to New York, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the seminal moments in the architectural history of Minneapolis, the opening of the new Guthrie Theater. Each one of the theater's three stages hosted a concert that night, every one representing a different genre of music. Afterwards, as the three diverse crowds merged, it really felt as if the entire city was there inhabiting the lobbies and walking the ramp of the cantilevered bridge. Everyone was enjoying the building and was enjoying being in the building, together. The collective joy felt by everyone on opening night has cemented that evening in my brain as one of my favorite moments and cemented the Jean Nouvel design as one of my favorite buildings.

A few weeks ago I visited the soon to be completed 100 Eleventh Avenue residences here in New York to get my Nouvel fix. The building is stunning. It is both beautiful and bewildering. The faceted glass planes catch sunlight and their varying shades of greens and blues change the color of the light just before bouncing it back to you. It’s like looking at a 20 storey Internally Flawless diamond. The fa├žade is composed of over sixteen hundred different types of windows, and I found my self trying to find two of the same type or a repeted module. It was a futile and inappropriate exercise. The facade is a texture, not a pattern. As such it plants a new seed into a previously void area in the urban fabric and does so in conjunction with Frank Gehry’s IAC building across 11th Avenue. Now, add in the Shigeru Ban project directly to the east of the Gehry building and you realize that in these three projects a kernel of thoughtful architecture has started on New York’s west side.

While at the site I found myself experiencing the same feeling I had that night of the Guthrie opening. I felt as if I was standing in the middle of a convergence of harmonious diversity hoping that I was witnessing the beginning of a trend, not just a sudden and fleeting moment.

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