POINT OF VIEW: NYC AIA ’18

As a native of the area, visiting NYC always feels like coming home. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years now and I don’t think I could ever leave. But if I had to move somewhere, it would be to New York City. NYC always lives up to its reputation. It is fast and relentless. Comedian Colin Quinn said that the polite people in NYC are the ones that do as much as they can in the least amount of time and then get out of the way so as not to waste anyone’s time. This was my trip. 8 days centered about the AIA ’18 convention, and hardly enough time to even scratch the surface of the city. I didn’t waste even one precious second.

 

As an architect it’s hard not to plan trips around visiting structures and buildings. It is especially difficult in NYC where even the green space is something we learned about in Architecture History classes. I started the tour as my great-grandparents once did with a trip to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island, admiring the impressiveness of Lady Liberty, but also visiting as an architect now, paying specific attention to the construction of the statue, from the wooden forms upon which the copper was hammered, to the design of the pedestal, to the funding of the entire project by not the government, but by ordinary people, a nickel or two at a time.

 

As the convention started, I took a tour of the new Whitney Museum in Chelsea which led into the High Line, a pedestrian path. The High Line leads to Hudson Yards which is the hottest new area of Manhattan getting a development overhaul. We checked out the new Diller and Scofidio SHED and the Vessel, a sculptural helix of stairs. Luckily the Vessel wasn’t quite open yet and my legs were spared 10 stories of stair climbing for now. The High Line ends right at the Jacob Javits Center where the AIA had taken over. The Javits center has been around as long as I can remember and it still looks pretty amazing. The glass and space frame structure is light, airy, and impossibly big. The expo convention floor was packed with vendors, ready to talk about everything from curtains, to paint, to the latest in VR systems. It’s a great one stop shop for a primer on the current state of materials and technology in architecture and construction. As always, it’s great to meet and hang out with architects from all over. At the Georgia Tech AIA party I saw classmates and friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years, as well as other alumni, young and old, all here to celebrate our profession, to learn, to discuss, and to share.

 

Not wasting a second, I continued around Manhattan. Near Radio City Music Hall is Rockefeller Center which has a rooftop terrace which no one will tell you is actually a better view than the top of the Empire State Building. Uptown, I visited the Guggenheim, the old Whitney (now the Met Breuer), and the Met, spending far, far too little time in each. It was great to see architects everywhere, enjoying and learning about the historic buildings, and taking in some of the great exhibits on display.

 

On my way to the airport I stopped at the new Occulus downtown. Calatrava’s mall/train station is an interesting hub for transportation and shopping. Like the skeleton of some giant creature, it is impressive if not out of place among the glass skyscrapers. A hot dog vendor asked me if I liked the Occulus while I was photographing it. I said, “sure, it’s pretty amazing,” marveling at the endless rib structure. He responded, “good, it cost us four billion dollars”.

 

And just like that, I’m back on a plane for Los Angeles. I tried not to waste a second but I’ll admit, I may have stopped for a slice of pizza a few too many times. NYC is endless. No matter how much time you spend there, you’re never going to see it all. That’s why it is always a treat to visit.

 

— Billy Guisto, AIA