New York Trip

Words: Bronzella Cleveland
Installation view of The Modern Monument in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller at MoMA. Photo: Martin Seck
Installation view of The Modern Monument in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller at MoMA. Photo: Martin Seck

In April of this year, I visited New York City for the first time. Even to those who know me, it took some convincing for them to accept that I never had been to The Big Apple. After all, they know that I have travelled the world, and that I have visited many parts of this country. But oddly enough, until this year, I had yet to put a pin in New York, so to speak.

My time in New York was brief – a weekend walking around Manhattan with my wife for our anniversary – but I left knowing two things: First, I will return to New York soon. Second, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of masonry as a building material. Yes, masonry is always on my mind, and yes, I know that the world-renowned skyline of New York City is made up of glass, concrete, and steel towers. Still, I found myself less interested in looking up at some of this country’s tallest buildings; my attention was at street level, looking for brick buildings or towers with lower levels covered with stone tiles. Don’t call it an obsession; masonry always is in the forefront of my mind, just as when I used to edit a magazine about bridge design – those structures always captured my attention when traveling. They still do, in fact!

To get my “fix,” I headed to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan to revel in its façade of black granite and white marble. The building is an amalgamation of three structures: A residential tower by Cesar Pelli and Associates, Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone’s original 1939 building, and Philip Johnson’s 1964 addition. In 1997, Yoshio Taniguchi was hired to bring all of these elements together into a more cohesive whole. I’m not alone in believing he succeeded. His idea to incorporate that piano-black stone with its marvelous, reflective coating truly makes the building stand out among its steel-framed neighbors. It’s a work of art. (There’s also a great deal of priceless and inspirational art inside.) I’m glad I finally was able to see MoMA in person – both the outside and the inside.

During our strolls, I also noticed a few buildings whose lower levels were clad in pink granite. I wondered if the stone was perhaps quarried in Georgia. That’s an investigation for another trip. Until next time New York.

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