Monday, June 29, 2009

Zion National Park III

Golden columbine growing from the seeping porous rock walls.

Zion National Park II

Zion National Park I

Well, I've just gone and driven across my rather large country of residence and the natural highlight of this trip had to be Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. It's a valley carved out over millions of years by the amusingly small Virgin "River." Up at the end of the valley you can trek up the "narrows", hours of hiking through the water that gets deeper and deeper and narrower and narrower until at some point (which we did not reach) you can place a hand on either side of the canyon wall. Or you are under water. While we didn't make it that far, we did make it far enough to see some praiseworthy interplay of light and rock - far better, anyway, than the "light rock" one hears on the radio. Viz.:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation headquarters is a true architectural masterpiece. The offices are all exposed to a 12-story skylit atrium and winter garden, which is a beautiful and ostentatiously inefficient use of space. (Some photos and architectural history here.)

The centerpiece of the garden is a bonsai tree in the center of a coin pond. The tree symbolically places wisdom at the center of its building and the goal of the Foundation philanthropic activity. (Although with that reading the coin pool suggests the futility of throwing money after wisdom. Perhaps that's overthinkng things a bit.)

But to my mind, the most remarkable thing about the space, other than that it makes a cathedral of nature, is that in its midtown Manhattan setting, it inverts the traditional relationship between nature and built space. In Manhattan, architecture has displaced landscape as the manner of beautifying the space that humans occupy. The Ford Foundation building brings the landscape to the inside, which serves all the more to reveal the brick jungle on the other side of the windows.

United Nations

I'm working at the archives Ford Foundation this week, and their building is just down the block from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

I liked this sculpture but I would want to point out to anyone thinking about firing this gun that it will blow up in your face. Which, I suppose, is exactly the point.