Old Buildings and Fire Escapes…Definitely not Prosaic   Leave a comment

Stand on a street in Manhattan, pick a building and let your eye run from the ground all the way up to the highest point. Depending on the type of building you are looking at, you will experience one of two things. A five second view of glass and steel that never changes from street to sky, or a much longer scenic tour around scrolls, friezes and cornices on buildings with character. The latter is what I love to look at wherever I go. The artistic talent and workmanship of the architect and builders is truly awe-inspiring. How can you not be amazed? It saddens me that new builds are not of the same calibre. Just take a look at this recent report showing 50 New York City Buildings That No Longer Exist.

During my trip, I saw Trump Tower and others like it and I was like, “Wow, tall!”, but that was it. I was mesmerized by the size, not the design. Modern glass and steel have their place but, let’s face it, it’s not always that pretty when used so simplistically and in such a monolithic manner. Where’s the art? Well, you don’t have to look far to find beautiful buildings. I’ve seen many during my travels and even right here at home but here are a few of my favourites from New York City along with a couple of ‘then and now’ contrast shots.

Fire Escapes, I’d never really given them much thought until our trip to New York where I saw literally hundreds of them and also saw them in a new light.

If someone had asked me if there were fire escapes in Toronto, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’ve lived in and around the city for over 30 years and currently cannot bring any buildings to mind that have these structures stuck on the side. Why would anyone even think about them?

Their purpose is crucial to the inhabitants yet they are used for more than just the obvious. They are Mother Nature’s clothes dryer and they offer an escape of a different kind. A momentary refuge from a stifling apartment where the humid summer night of young lovers is punctuated with the sounds of the street below.

They hold no romance…or do they? Think of the Romeo and Juliet type balcony scene on a fire escape in West Side Story.

They definitely have no decorative value…or do they? Take a look at some of my favourites here:

Next Stop: Harlem

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Posted September 13, 2013 by Jaclyn in Architecture, New York, Travel

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