New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Space

One of the most valued things in a city is space and in New York City, to have it is to have one of our most precious commodities. Indoors, when arranging things in an office, retail store or home, we often speak of taking up or using valuable real estate. We mean it literally. In many cases we jockey and maneuver things to gain inches. Parking, laundromats, parks, retail shops, sports, recreation, the arts, universities - everything here has a crucial space component. The success or failure of most small enterprises is largely a function of overhead costs with space rental as the biggest element. When leaving the city, one of the most pleasant things is the relative ease of so many of life's activities and chores, with space as a primary reason.
So for me, and I am sure many others, one of the most striking things when entering the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the enormous amount of open space indoors. At the risk of sounding like a rube, this amount of space almost feels like an indulgence, a luxury, a sin against those of us who parse our world and value every parcel.
At some level, the use of personal space in New York City must be justified or one risks being grouped with our porcine friends. With public space, one must answer to harsh critics, including a body of individuals trained in architecture, design and urban planning. The larger the space, the greater the justification needed and good design. With an enormous place like this you had better have a great reason and design for so much space - something, perhaps, in the order of an Egyptian Temple, which is just what we have.
So there is an inner sense of relief when your eye sees and mind realizes what has been done here - the Temple of Dendur has been moved stone by stone from Egypt to the USA and reassembled in this room built exclusively for it. Unquestionably a worthy candidate for its own wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art at Fifth Avenue and Central Park. A reflecting pool in front of the temple and a sloping wall behind it, represent the Nile and the cliffs of the original location. The stippled glass on the ceiling and the north wall diffuse the light and mimic the lighting conditions in Nubia.
The temple had to be removed from its location in Egypt - it otherwise would have been submerged by the rising waters of the Nile behind the new Aswan High Dam. The government of Egypt offered the temple to the United States in 1965 in recognition of the aid America had provided toward saving a number of Nubian temples doomed to be permanently flooded by the construction of the High Dam. A competition for its location included the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. In 1967, the temple was awarded to the Met. More than 800 tons of stone were moved and shipped in over 600 crates. The temple was installed in the Sackler Wing in 1978. You can read more about the temple here.

From the Museum website:
"On the outer walls--between earth and sky--are carved scenes of the king making offerings to deities ... This king was actually Emperor Augustus of Rome, who, as recent master of Egypt, wisely had himself depicted in the traditional regalia of the pharaoh. Augustus had many temples erected in Egyptian style, honoring Egyptian deities. This small temple, built about 15 B.C., honored the goddess Isis and, beside her, two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain, Pedesi and Pihor."

The temple is a majestic sight indoors or out at any time. It is a popular photography subject, particularly at night when it is illuminated and can be viewed from Central Park (where the museum and Sackler wing sit).
Sometimes the human spirit just needs a little extravagance, not defined in practical terms. All the better when done in an appropriate way as befits the Temple of Dendur. Sometimes we need a parade and sometimes we need some space ...

15 comments:

hokgardner said...

This is my favorite room at the Metropolitan. The last time I was there, I just sat and enjoyed the relative calm of the room.

I love your site and pictures.

naomid said...

Yay! This my favorite room in the Met, and the entire city! Also my first suggested destination to anyone visiting New York City. The view of Central Park is breath taking.

MaCoBra said...

I have seen that scenery before, is that where a shot of 'I Hero' has been taken with Will Smith. He was fishing there... right? In the start of the movie.

Paula said...

I've always loved that part of the Museum. I remember seeing it on TV when I was very, very little and begging to go see it. I finally got to see it when I went to NYC for the first time as a 15th birthday present. It was well worth the wait and it will always be a favorite part of my love for NYC, Egyptology, and the Met Museum.

Sharon said...

This is one of my favorite places in NY. When I go to the Met, the first place I head is for this beautiful spot.

Jarart said...

Amazing!

Terry B said...

Brian, I think the stream of comments above proves that this is not an indulgent waste of space, but rather a wonderful gift to New Yorkers. More than anyone, they need spaces like this where they can bask in the peaceful openness. A great photo of one of my favorite New York spots.

Beth in NYC said...

The Temple of Dendur really is one of the loveliest places in the museum. I think the park just beyond the windows really helps the atmosphere of the place, even if it isn't particularly Egyptian.

The Temple was used in the "you put too much pepper in my paprikash" scene from When Harry Met Sally. That film did a great job of showing a lot of great NYC locations, including others from Central Park.

JM said...

Your post is very interesting and this room is, of course, absolutely stunning! But I must say I feel sorry this, other temples and many other monuments (obelisks included) are not at their original sites but spread all around the world. When visiting Egypt you feel it's a shame you have to look at the poster instead of the real thing where it should be... I know it happens the same in many other coutries, but in Egypt this is too much.

Brian Dubé said...

JM - keep in mind that in this case, the temple had to be moved. And for many, this will be their only experience of an Egyptian temple. Plus, I am sure this temple will be handled very carefully here and preserved in a way it might not be in Egypt.

Thérèse said...

Perhaps a great move but I join in with JM comment...
Plus in today's world it's seems so out of... I can't find the word "out of reality." Placewise, moneywise, ethicswise.

JM said...

Brian, the Philae Temple and the huge Abu Simbel complex had also to be desmantled stone by stone and relocated above the original spot also because of the dam construction and the consequent 'birth' of Lake Nasser. If Egypt is taking good care of them surely the Temple of Dendur would be no exception as that area is far from being polluted (Cairo is another story!).

Just imagine Mount Rushmore National Memorial was 2.000 years old (or more) and your government decided to cut the mountain and offer the sculptures to the Cairo Museum... :-)))

Lulubelle B said...

Temple of Dendur
Many Sunday hours there
with Times and tourists

Anne Corrons said...

This temple was my favorite place when I lived in NYC with my boyfriend. We used to come and talk here, a great moment of peace.

• Eliane • said...

I also love seeing it from the Japanese room on the 1st floor.