In a Cuban Minute

Between the daily scramble to the metro and the hurried morning coffee, New York City’s pace can be overwhelming.


It was refreshing to experience a city which, at least superficially, appeared at rest; almost frozen. Yet, behind it’s historic stoic facade, the runnings of daily life hummed with activity. Cars constantly on the move, pedestrians just like me and you idly observing from the balcony, watching everything unfold in a New York minute.



-by Freddy Melo


The View from My Desk


Whilst I do have an actual bona-fide desk from which I work a significant amount of the time, I consider any platform from which I work to be my “desk”.


One must be able to function whether sitting comfortably with a cup of tea or being suspended several hundred feet above the adjacent sidewalk. 


Consequently the view from my desk varies considerably day by day and is rarely mundane. 


I’m lucky that way.


-by Frank Scanlon


Secret Passage

"Ordinary things contain the deepest mysteries." - Robin Evans


At first it is difficult to see that conventional scaffolding that is a secret passage. It is easily disposable. It is temporary. It is invisible in the hard line drawings of the architect's plan, section, and elevation drawings. We as architects and builders know that it is inevitable in order to repair, restore, or build a building. 

Scaffolding comes in different materials, shapes and sizes, but it is usually made of modular units that are connected and repeated throughout. It transforms the facade of the building into an interior. It acts like temporary skin wrapping around the facade of the building, and it allows the architects into a transient platform between the exterior and the interior. 

The scaffold divulges the secrets of the building. It gives access to almost every single minute detail of the facade. We can probe and open up the facade on the scaffold. It acts like an operating room for the building. After we’ve done our job, in a day or two, the scaffold comes down and never will the exact one be seen again.


Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.


-by Febe Chong

The Character is in the Details

Downtown Manhattan is a perfect location to see the evolution of New York City's architecture throughout the 20th and 21st century. When buildings from these eras are juxtaposed, one of the most obvious differences may be the staggering heights that the newer buildings are able to reach. At the same time, the lack of ornamentation in the newer buildings brings forth the unique character and attention to detail that the older buildings have shown through their ornamentation.


Whether it is a sculpture, a scroll, or even a geometric mosaic, ornamentation helps give a building its identity and gives it a narrative and a place in time. From atop 57 Reade Street I had an opportunity to observe two great pieces of terra cotta, a centurion and a lion head. 


"But the building's identity resided in the ornament."

-Louis Sullivan

By Fabian Yang


One (Wo)Man’s Trash…

Do you ever wonder where your garbage goes once you toss it to the curb? Do you have your doubts that the plastic coffee cup and junk mail you threw in the same bin actually get separated like they say? Believe it or not – the city does a remarkable job at doing just that!

This past Saturday, I spent the day volunteering at the Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, as part of the 15th Annual Open House New York Weekend.

The facility processes 100% of the metal, glass, and plastic and approximately 50% of the paper collected in the NYC curbside program. So, there’s a good chance your own garbage has been processed here!


Tipping Building | Inbound materials arrive here by barge and DSNY collection trucks.


Processing and Bale Storage Buildings | Materials are separated using a series of conveyors. Each machine is designed with a duplicate to assure consistent processing in the event that one needs servicing.


Pedestrian Bridge | The bridge connects the main building to the viewing platform inside the Processing Facility. This is where I was stationed to direct visitors coming from the Education Center in the main building.


Pedestrian Bridge | The fantastic view made up for the smell of garbage!


by Eri Semerzakis


Concrete Jungle

High above the concrete jungle exists a wilderness of different sorts, where branches and vines are made up of framing, counterweights, tie-backs and cables. What appears to be little more than an organized chaos allows us to hang from the highest of heights. It may be tough at times to look down, but it is always easy to enjoy that view.  



-by Emily Barr



Recently, while tour-guiding some friends from California, I took them to Prospect Park. While exiting the park we came upon Grand Army Plaza. Sometimes it takes showing off all the great places in Brooklyn to remind myself why I love living in Brooklyn as much as I do.

Originally, the grounds of the Grand Army Plaza were a battleground of the Battle of Long Island, which was the first battle of the American Revolution.


In 1975, Grand Army Plaza became a National Historic Landmark.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch at the south end of the traffic oval. The sculptures were added to the arch in 1895


Just beyond the arch is Bailey Fountain


by David Espinoza


A glance skyward will show it — the star. -Joseph Brodsky

You may already know that CTA's renovations on the 165 year old Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights included a copper roof, but have you ever looked inside? and up?

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

A few months ago Dan Allen told me a story about an aspect of the church we did not work on, the ceiling. It went something like original ceilings were painted over with a concoction of this-n'-that, possibly rabbit skin glue .... they washed it off in 2014 .... it revealed a celestial masterpiece covering the ceilings and walls of the sanctuary.

I have had a post-it on my computer ever since.


Grace Church was designed by Richard Upjohn, renowned Gothic Revival architect, and constructed from 1847-1849. The church opened in 1848, and the ceiling was painted over in the early 20th century with a pattern of false wood, or "faux bois", and the walls were turned some pale, unflattering shade of beige. See below.

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

From what I have read, the original designs could still be faintly discerned through the false wood pattern. “Sometimes, if the sermon wasn’t gripping, I’d look up and see all this detail,” said parishioner and leader of the renovation project, Margaret Ann Monsor. (NY Times)

EverGreene Architectural Arts, the conservation, plaster and decorative painting subcontractor, made a discovery: The faux bois was in distemper paint, a water-soluble combination of pigment, chalk, water and an organic binding agent. Rabbit skin glue perhaps?!  After a professional cleaning with sponges, rags, water and a gentle detergent the original brightly colored ceiling pattern was exposed and brought back to life.

BEFORE  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

AFTER  I Photo by Whitney Cox

BEFORE  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

AFTER  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

After being covered for 100 years, Phase I was completed for Easter 2014.  The team included Leo Blackman Architects (now BLuHR), CTA Architects, & Evergreene Architectural Arts. This project was honored with the NY Landmarks Conservancy’s 2015 Lucy Moses Award.

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

-brought to you by Dara Magagnoli