Tuesday, September 22, 2009


A couple weeks back, I was standing outside the Cooper-Hewitt preparing to return home, when I struck up a conversation with a nice woman named Nancy, who was visiting New York from Toronto. She seemed to know the city very well for a visitor, and had found a great tour book. It was arranged by neighborhood rather than type of site or some other criteria. I have to wonder why more New York guide books aren't structured that way, it's really the only way to efficiently navigate this city.

Anyway, her next stop was going to be the building where the Marx Brothers grew up. "I love the Marx Brothers!" I said, and asked her if she wouldn't mind some company.

We walked over to it, with a rain storm beginning to sprinkle on us, but not enough to necessitate umbrellas. It was a chance meeting, and one of those little-known, out-of-the-way things to be found in New York City that make this place so magical. I had no idea it was even there.

It's just an ordinary tenement style building on a non-descript block, 179 East 93rd Street.

It has no placards or signs or any indication that one of the greatest comedy troupes of all time played and fought behind its walls. I can't help but wonder if the people living there know it's the Marx Brothers' house, although I'd be surprised if they didn't.

In somewhat more disturbing news, some morons decided that Jean Nouvel's new building next to the MoMA was going to be too tall. As we all know, buildings being too tall is a constant problem for a city like New York, so we have to be very careful about that. They're forcing him to chop off the top of it, which will completely alter its glorious proportions. Just when something like the High Line opens up, and you start to think maybe, just maybe there's hope for New York to remain on the map of architectural greatness, something like this happens. Who are these ignoramuses and why on earth do they have control over our skyline?

Of course I can't go more than a couple of posts without mentioning Philip Johnson again. But far more encouraging is the news that the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, about which I've gone into greater detail before, has been designated a historic landmark. This means that the decrepit but deliciously futuristic symbol of Queens in the 1960s may very well get the funding for restoration it so sorely deserves.

As if one shot of Johnson weren't enough, but more concerning Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, this article by Justin Davidson is truly one of the best, most eloquent reviews of Lincoln Center's redevelopment I have read yet. And trust me, I read practically all of them.

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