Inside the Williamsburgh Savings Bank

Image compliments of the NYPL.

In this video, architectural historian Christopher Gray, who writes the “Streetscapes” column for the New York Times, takes you into the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, built by Mancini•Duffy’s parent company Halsey, McCormack & Helmer in 1929. He also wrote a terrific, invaluable article for the New York Society Library called “A Guide to Researching the History of a New York City Building” which is a great starting point for anyone interested in doing just that. Go here for the website of Mr. Gray’s firm, the Office for Metropolitan History, which has a Building Permits Database that allows you to search NYC buildings that went up from 1900 to 1986. We love this guy.

Big Bambú

In a city where we rarely look up, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is giving us a reason to do just that; but watch your step!

Doug + Mike Starn, a pair of identical twins with a studio located in Beacon, New York, are transforming the roof of the museum one bamboo stalk at a time. Currently, they have organized over 40,000 bamboo shoots to feel, at one glance, like an organized chaos of sticks and ropes, but with the turn of the head suddenly the piece becomes an ebbing and flowing wave of sculpture.

The Starn Brothers, originally from New Jersey, bring from their previous photographic work the same transformative aspect of movement and honesty to their latest project, but this extreme three-dimensional work allows a more elaborative emphasis on the connectivity of the medium. There is no disguising the colorful loops and knots that keep you floating thirty-five feet over the roof.

The project’s stiletto-bamboo, structural members firmly rooted on the roof deck and the connecting ramps and steps were carefully planned by the brothers and a crew of architects and engineers using 3D modeling software. While the brothers still follow the growth of their art piece, they leave every detail of how each stalk continues to be attached and connected together to the sole discretion of the construction crew, who are not architects or engineers, but rock climbers who work on the project each weekday.

On my Memorial Day visit, this wave had reached only thirty-five feet above the Met’s roof garden, but by its close on October 31, 2010 it will reach fifty feet. Plan ahead as you must have a ticket to walk through the structure and there are several restrictions on what you may carry or wear on the tour. Check the Met’s website for more information.