Monday, October 16, 2017

My OHNY Weekend

The 15th anniversary Open House New York (OHNY) weekend took place Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15. I was giving a walking tour for the 92Y on Saturday, so Sunday was the only day for me to get out and see some OHNY sites. I decided on one — well actually a few, all in one location: the buildings of McKim, Mead and White, Robert A.M. Stern, and Marcel Breuer on the campus of CUNY's Bronx Community College. (It was originally New York University, who sold the campus to CUNY in 1973.)

Here's a scan of the site plan provided by OHNY, showing the MMW and Stern buildings symmetrically facing a large quadrangle, and the Breuer buildings informally peppering an area to the south. (Only Meister Hall is labeled, but Breuer designed all of the dark buildings in that area, including, east to west, Carl Polowczyk Hall, Begrisch Hall, and Colston Hall.)


Here is a view of McKim, Mead and White's Gould Library on the left and Stern's North Hall, which serves as BCC's current library, on the right.
Bronx Community College

And the rest of North Hall, which was completed five years ago and "completes" the quadrangle first planned by Stanford White of MMW:
Bronx Community College

The interior of North Hall is clearly modeled on Henri Labrouste's Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1851) in Paris, with a central row of columns marching down the large space and vaults spanning across to the exterior walls.
Bronx Community College

But Labrouste's delicate ironwork is eschewed in favor of aluminum column covers and Ionic scrolls.
Bronx Community College

Although not nearly as successful as its predecessor, North Hall's south-facing windows were inviting and fairly well used — for a Sunday, at least.
Bronx Community College

Exiting the west end of North Hall brought us to the Hall of Fame, a colonnaded walk that wraps the west side of the three Stanford White buildings of the original NYU campus: Gould Memorial Library, Hall of Languages, and Hall of Philosophy.
Bronx Community College

The walk was created to commemorate great Americans, with busts of noted scientists, writers, educators, and so forth alternating with the square columns. More than these busts, I was drawn to the views and the Guastavino tile vaults above the walk.
Bronx Community College

As impressive as the Hall of Fame is, it served merely as a prelude to Gould Memorial Library.
Bronx Community College

The copper dome hints at the impressive rotunda, reached via a central vaulted stair.
Bronx Community College

White designed NYU's Gould Memorial Library around the time he was designing the Low Library for Columbia University. Each building is similar from the outside, though I find the Gould's central space more appealing than Low's larger domed space.
Bronx Community College

Perhaps this appeal stems from Gould's rotunda being smaller than Low's rotunda, and therefore more intimate. I would have loved to experience the space as a library, when the walls were lined with books and the stacks behind were reached by small doors set into the shelves.
Bronx Community College

The Stern and MMW buildings were open to the public for OHNY, but the assemblage of Breuer buildings were accessible only via tours. Our fairly large group started with Meister Hall, which has a small auditorium enlivened by trapezoidal concrete walls on the side.
Bronx Community College

The facade of Meister Hall faces the campus's main quadrangle (there's a good photo near the end of Alexandra Lange's Curbed piece about the Breuer buildings at BCC), though the more photogenic side is the rear, which features a textured concrete elevation facing a sizable plaza.
Bronx Community College

Some relief from the sun (but not from the concrete) comes in the form of concrete canopies and benches.
Bronx Community College

From the plaza we cut through Breuer's Carl Polowczyk Hall to see the architect's most famous piece at BCC: Begrisch Hall.
Bronx Community College

This is clearly an example of "form follows function": the petit building contains just two lecture halls with raked seating that face each other and are accessed via a bridge or the stair seen here.
Bronx Community College

The westernmost portion of Breuer's 1960s additions to the NYU campus is Colston Hall, which is accessed via footbridges, a couple near the ground floor and a couple at the fifth floor.
Bronx Community College

When NYU buildings, Colston Hall served as a dormitory. Now as part of a dorm-free community college, it serves as office-space and for other functions.
Bronx Community College

This last photo from my visit to BCC afforded by OHNY shows an interior view toward those two bridges.
Bronx Community College

It also shows that the Breuer buildings could really use some TLC. Although the concrete finishes of the Brutalist ensemble have held up pretty well, the other elements (windows, doors, ceilings, etc.) could use an upgrade. CUNY needs to bring these modern spaces up to par with White's neoclassical landmarks and Stern's neotraditional addition to the campus.

2 comments:

  1. Loving the loggia with the busts, so serene. It must be so relaxing to take a stroll there, surrounded by those beautiful trees.

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    Replies
    1. Probably nice too later in the year, when the leaves fall off the trees and open views to the Palisades.

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