Thursday, April 24, 2014
New York's Hidden Architectural and Industrial Details
Yesterday as I was leaving 125 Worth Street, where I had gone for a business meeting, I stopped at the women's bathroom. As I left, I noticed the doorknob. Very cool...industrial, deco-ish geometric design and a little piece of history in a most unexpected place. I knelt down and snapped a pix with my iPhone, getting curious looks from the corporate types walking by. As I scanned the fifth floor hallway, I noticed several identical doorknobs.
I love the thickness of the letters, the little flowers between the C and N, and between the F and K, the little dot between the W and Y. The geometric shape, like a stop sign, is balanced, functional and pleasing. Do you think the people who work in the building notice the doorknobs? Probably not. The building is old, and not in a charming way. It is pretty cold, industrial and uninviting, and needs serious renovation. But many years ago, someone proudly and skillfully designed, manufactured and installed the knobs, which have withstood the years very well.
Later I was looking at my camera roll, and noticed several other unexpectedly beautiful industrial photos--especially manhole covers. The NYC Parks Department has a beautiful leaf, yet has the unexpected word "India" on the side. The industrial mini artworks usually have great textures on the surface, have endured years and years of use, yet still remain viable. The Parks Department manhole covers may not be as old as the doorknob. This photo was taken in Central Park last summer. I liked the leaf design--so simple yet effective. And somehow I am drawn to circular designs, maybe because they are so naturally balanced and pure, with no beginning or end.
Many people photograph Grand Central Station, but on a recent trek through it, I saw it with new eyes. The ceiling and steps are magnificent. But the small details are too. I have been through it thousands of times, but noticed the grill work for the first time on a recent Saturday afternoon. The grill work that surrounds the ticket-sellers booths is amazing, as these photos testify. But most people coming and going are in a hurry--rushing to catch a train, late for work, bumping into each other, and rarely look carefully at the little details of the famous building.