Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Sunday, September 11, 2005

From 8th Avenue to Times Square, part 1

Port Authority, the New York City bus terminal, is on the southwest corner of 8th Avenue.

Look downtown as you cross the street to see the new New York Times building going up, designed by Renzo Piano, with Fox and Fowle. It is scheduled for completion in 2006.

This part of Forty-second Street (from 8th Avenue to 7th Avenue, including Broadway, which crosses at a diagonal to form Times Square) became the popular entertainment section of New York at the turn of the last century. Dozens of theaters sprang up on the adjacent streets, as well as restaurants and related businesses that catered to the theatrical professions and to the audience. By the mid-1960s, the area had declined and it took years and a couple of false starts before city planners came up with a viable alternative to the all-encompassing sleaze. For a good review of the street's contemporary history, click on http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20050829/200/1544.

On the northwest corner is the colorful cubism of the Westin Hotel, replete with an assortment of chain restaurants. Can someone explain why tourists come to New York, the city which may have the widest assortment of restaurants in the world in terms of types of cuisine at all price points, and eat at the same chains that they have in the mall at home?

The Westin Times Square (it's really a block away) was built in 2001, designed by the Miami firm, Arquitectonica. It is an exuberant expression of the revitalized (some say Disney-fied) neighborhood, in which light, color and popular entertainment are the defining characteristics.

Call it Disney-fied, if you must, but this notorious neighborhood is certainly friendlier to tourists and to locals who sometimes visit the movie theaters, than it was when it was "the deuce," ground zero for drug dealers, prostitutes and the full range of petty and not-so-petty crime that accompanied them.

The lavishly decorated Loew's multiplex cinema in in the Westin complex.

On the south side of the block is another large complex that incorporates a number of theatres, combined and renovated to form the AMC 25 multiplex, stores, a branch of Madame Tussaud's, and the Hilton Times Square hotel. The architects involved in the complex (2001) were Beyer Blinder Belle and the Rockwell Group.

This block is one of the difficult in NYC to walk, so densely packed it is with pedestrians and sidewalk vendors. Nevertheless, a certain number of locals wend their way to this theater despite the inconvenience because it charges lower-cost senior citizens prices beginning at age 55. At the left, an old sign with the theatre's original name (Empire) has been left on the building. The theatre is not in its original location. but was moved nearly 200 feet west to become part of the complex. Two other old theatres, the Liberty and the Harris are part of the complex as well. The architect of the original Harris and Empire theatres was the great Thomas W. Lamb, 1912 - 14. Herts and Tallant, equally and deservedly well-regarded theatre architects, were responsible for the Liberty,

The entrance to the Hilton is graced by some amusing Tom Otterness sculptures.

This is a detail of Madame Tussaud's facade.


Blogger Jennifer said...

I totally dig your blog! I am doing something similar about paris only with less pictures (I suck about carrying a camera). Keep up the good work and feel free to stop by and visit Paris anytime.

9:47 AM  

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