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Saturday, December 8, 2007

42nd Street

Today Mark and I are zipping into the city for some bakery goods, then zipping out to New Jersey to see his brother's family. Tis the season for getting together. I'll have to post about my first date with Mark later.

I was near 42nd Street the other day and took a picture of the Chrysler Building, above. I was reminded of a talk I gave, many years back at a public school in Chinatown. It was Career Day, and I was going to speak about architecture and one of my favorite streets in the city.

I had all these slides with me to show the kids a virtual walking tour of 42nd Street. It began with the transformation of Times Square and how an old movie theater had been lifted off its foundation and moved. I had photos of the aqua green terra cotta tiles covering the McGraw Hill Building. There was Bryant Park, littered with green folding chairs and people sunning themselves.

I had images of the grand Neo-Classical presence of the New York Public Library, the raised street at Pershing Square, dotted with streetlamps and the swelter of commuters in and out of Grand Central. Finally, Chrylser Building ended the tour, a soaring Art Deco monument in stainless steel. It had briefly been the tallest building in the world, before being eclipsed by the Empire State Building.

Unfortunately, the slide projector was broken (ack!). The thought of giving the tour without visuals seemed absolutely lame. So I broke out a roll of drawings I'd brought to show the kids what architects did (ie; toil for hours over drawings of things for superbly wealthy people).

A flurry of 8th and 9th graders swarmed around me. They were mesmerized by the three-car garage, the housekeeper's apartment, his and her dressing rooms, and the assortment of rooms that might all mean the same thing - Family room, Living Room, Library, Den, Game Room. These were kids who grew up in apartments, and they were a astounded that such over-the-top homes were possible.

Of course, none of them wanted to be me (sad, because this had been the point of Career Day). They all wanted to be the client, the guy with the big bucks. Big Bucks had gotten his money from owning a chain of drug stores. The kids didn't ask about his profession, and I didn't let on.

When the last student left, their teacher turned to me and shook my hand. 'I always wanted to be an architect', he said. It's something I've been told many times.

I gathered my things and left the classroom, toting the heavy roll of blueprints and box of unused slides. All in all, it had been a good day.

Photo by myself of the Chrysler Buliding.


Spandrel Studios said...

Your photo is spectacular - I love all the detail!

Who knows? You may still have inspired one of those kids to consider it as a profession, one day.

Mom Knows Everything said...

That is such a wonderful story! I was one of those kids that wanted to be rich too. LOL

Anonymous said...

Definitely a successful day: you were resourceful in the face of equipment failure, you captured the children's imaginations and showed them that there were other ways of life out there (and maybe one day they will think about means to acquiring such a life and will remember the resourceful architect who came and showed them the drawings?), and it must have felt good to be doing what you love doing instead of regretting that you ended up doing something else.

Kitty said...

thanks all, for the kind words.

It was fun to talk to the kids. A little nerve wracking but fun. It was strange to see them not just as they were but as kids who were about to become adults and had to think about careers.

Anonymous said...

oh, that reminds me of when i spoke at a career day years ago. at the time i was working for an entertainment publication and i had done several interviews w/all kinds of singers and rappers. well, the kids didn't care one bit about what i did. all they wanted to know was who i had met and what they were like. then they wanted me to dispel rumors about their favorites too! oh, it was a mess. kids, gotta love 'em i guess.

Juliana said...

Hi, I like your blog. I can know much about NY :D I hope you don't mind if i hang around here ^.^

My best friend live in NY.

Visit my blog when you have time. Nice to know you :)

Columbia said...

Another aspiring architect turned teacher over here. What's the connection, I wonder?

I spent a year and a half in architecture school (Pratt) before I realized I wasn't cut from the same cloth as my peers and professors. Hard reality to accept, but I guess it's better to find out in school than in the "real world". :-\

It's warming to hear snippets of your passion for this great city. :)

Kitty said...

Hi Juliana, nice to have you. We just visited Amsterdam this summer!

I love hearing about the twists and turns of life, Columbia. I think the two professions are similar in that both attract visionaries.

One sees an idealized, perfect object world, the other sees the potential lying with each student.

Great seeing you!

Anonymous said...

Real cool pic of the Chrysler building. It's always been my favorite example of Art Deco architecture.

One of my blogs has the Chrysler building in the header image.

boutique hotel sydney said...

I have to agree with Libertine, the Chrysler building has to be my favourite building in NYC with its iconic design.