Saturday, March 10, 2007

Different Strokes For Different Folks

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
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"Architecture is to make us know and remember who we are."
~ Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe
The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in a building on Fifth Avenue on February 20, 1872, with John Taylor Johnston, a railroad executive as its first President, and the publisher George Palmer Putnam as founding Superintendent. In 1880 the Met acquired land on the east side of Central Park, where American architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould designed a red-brick Gothic Revival stone "mausoleum". It remains here to this day and the original structure is still part of the current building. A host of additions over the years, have expanded the structure and it now measures almost a quarter mile long and occupies more than two million square feet, more than 20 times the size of the original 1880 building. I was enchanted with these arches all around the massive central lobby.

Frank Lloyd Wright Room, (1912 - 1914)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This living room was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Francis W. Little house. It was obtained and installed at the Met in 1982. Wright's concept of "organic architecture," in which not only the building but all furnishings and the surrounding landscape relate to each other. This represents an excellent example of his late Prairie-style. The lines are sleek and the stained glass panels above the windows and in the skylights let in so much light. It feels warm and homey; a wonderful place to spend the cold winter evening.

The Chrysler Building, New York City

Walter P. Chrysler was an auto mechanic who became master machinist for the Buick Corporation in 1912. By 1922 he owned his own company and decided to build his headquarters in the heart of New York City. William Van Alen was the architect and the building reflects a merging of the old and new, with shiny Nirosta steel covering the sunburst tower and gleaming gargoyles that reflect the symbol of the Chrysler automobile. This building was the tallest in the world in 1930 and remains a shining light in downtown Manhattan today, a wonderful example of the "Art Deco" style of architecture. It was featured on an episode of the History Channel's Modern Marvels just this evening.

The Sir Christopher Wren Building, College of William and Mary

This building is at the pivot point of the campus of William and Mary and is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States. It was built between 1695 and 1699, before Williamsburg and when the capitol of the colony was still Jamestown. The original architect was said to be Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London, but that is still disputed. Gutted by fire several times it has been rebuilt on the same foundation and with many of the original walls preserved. In 1772 Thomas Jefferson was asked to add to the plans and he drew up the most detailed floorplans of the structure ever made. These plans were used in the 1930's for the restoration in association with Colonial Williamsburg.

It is amazing to think that Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, and John Marshall studied in these rooms. George Washington was once chancellor and studied for his surveyors qualification here. It is still used for classes today and is an integral part of student body tradition. Each fall the entering class of freshmen and transfer students walk through the building and onto the campus as each name is called. They are greeted by the college president and welcomed with cheers from the returning upperclassmen. Graduation sees a reversal of this procedure with seniors walking back through the Wren building in the opposite direction, symbolizing their new steps out into the world. In 2005 my daughter Nyssa took that first walk through these historical halls into William and Mary as a transfer student and in May, 2008, she will again walk through on her way into her future.

The theme for Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt this week is "architecture". You can go here to "Grab the Scavenger Hunt code" and here to join the blogroll. This really cute logo is available there as well. The link to other participants is in my blogroll on the sidebar.

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