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A Blessing Sent From Hephaestus

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Photo:Leyden Ynobe Lewis

My friends Willie and Billie and I were heading back to Brooklyn driving south on 3rd Avenue just below St. Marks Place. We were at one of those places where cross sections cut diagonally into the famous gridiron of New York City, a wedge in the urban fabric.

Always difficult to navigate as a pedestrian but a relief from the relentless one and two point perspective streets. The wedge serves as the plot of land (come wafer -thin island) dedicated as the plinth for the “zaftig” 19th century building. Built by Peter Cooper  and home of The Cooper Union For The Advancement Of Science And Art.

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Photo: Leyden Ynobe Lewis

At the south end square (actually a triangle) is a park which, I recall from the haze of my teenaged memories and before the the recent gentrification of the east Village, was home to squatters, drug addicts and mohawks. The eye of the needle before entering the Bowery and CBGB UMFUG, and home of the early seventies punk scene. Also a seminal place where in 1860 Abraham Lincoln gave an extraordinary speech addressing his position and outlining his ideology regarding the industry of Slavery.

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Photo: Leyden Ynobe Lewis

Today the architecture group known of “Morphosis,” lead by the  punk rock icon of deconstruction Thomas Mayne, has created the most formally innovative and sculptural piece of architecture in the city in decades. Located on the east side of the square, it is worlds away from the weak glass tectonic turd deposited by Frank Gehry on the west side highway for Barry Diller’s IAC Corporatation. It’s a nod to the wind sails of lovely Boca Raton. It’s as far away from being light airy and gossamer as a sail can be. For a sail it certainly is anchored.

Frank Gehry IAC Building

Photo: Hubert J. Steed

The Morphosis buiding, the latest  addition to the confetti pseudo-campus of nowhere land that is The Cooper Union. In material the brutalist composition probably weighs twice as much per square inch than the Gehry glass faceted icon. Yet it is far more transparent  and seems to want to disapparate than the heavier feeling corporate institution by Gehry. Truely a visual veil.

Like most of the language of architecture appealing to my particular sensibilities, a modern ruin in conception. It has the noble classicism of some thing ancient and embodied in alchemy. It is not yet a master work, instead it is lingers in the in-between place before  the wizard coaxes the lead  to turn to gold. Fires are hot and we witness traces of brassy iridescence bubbling in the  cauldron.

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Photo: Leyden Ynobe Lewis

All of the associations I have are tied up with the theory that if it is possible for a building to have a poltical view then it is truly democratic. The raw use of materials and seemingly arbitrary geometry reference destruction, collapse, fractures and implosion, a concept that all of us can relate to. It stands out from the surrounding classical motifs, inciting discourse among passers-by. Whether seen from a passing car, the sidewalk, or in a photograph, one can’t help but be fascinated.

It’s elegance stems from the fact that it’s not the prettiest on the block. It simply tries its best to suppose that architecture can evoke an emotional response by being completely superfluous and awe inspiring it. How it will age, only time will tell.

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Photo: Leyden Ynobe Lewis

It reminds me of the reasons why I began my journey into design, architecture and art. It’s an attempt to move a person emotionally by the things I build.

Of course the thing cost tens of millions to build, but belongs to everyone’s emotional sensibilities. Although guards are in place to deliniteate public access from private entitlements. It’s a building preparing for the purely socialist Utopia where money has no meaning, only education,cultural advancement and the synchronicity of public health. To boldly go where no man or woman has gone before, putting humanity before corporation.

c/o Leyden Ynobe Lewis LLC

Photo: Leyden Ynobe Lewis

one response to A Blessing Sent From Hephaestus

  1. Leyden,

    Wow! I learned so much and laughed so much reading your blog! I had a chance to check out the building – actually it was a drive by siting nevertheless awe inspiring and peaked my imagination – after reading this, I am looking forward to seeing it again with new perspectives. Great comparison with the Gehry building – which I keep looking at but always turn away with a some what empty feeling and poof, its forgotten.

    I love your blog!!!! I will post it on my FB page.

    BTW – whats new in Berlin? Its been seven years since i was last in the city and I am looking forward to seeing and reading about some of your inspirations.



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