For years, on return trips home from Brooklyn to Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge, I have observed this rooftop structure both by day and night. I promised myself that one day I would get to the bottom of this - a literal pursuit since this structure was atop a building located in Brooklyn, meaning I would literally have to venture down and explore under the Manhattan Bridge.
What was particularly compelling about it was the four exposed white steel truss system on the roof of the building which was illuminated at night, bathed in blues, greens, purples and reds.
Recently, this came up in conversation with someone familiar with the structure - he told me that it was occupied by architects and located on York Street. This rekindled my interest to bring this mystery to a close. On my first excursion, I did a cursory drive-by to confirm its location - 110 York Street.
On Sunday, I made a trip to Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn with the intent of returning to Manhattan by foot over the Manhattan Bridge and take a series of photos. I intended to time my afternoon so that I would cross the bridge after dark when the rooftop was illuminated. My return, however, was too early.
I was on a mission, however, and decided that I would return the following day after work when dark to cross the bridge again by foot. I had a burning desire and intention with my own mantra: Neither snow, nor rain, nor ice, nor gloom of night stays this courageous ambassador from the swift completion of his appointed rounds. *
There was snow and ice and gloom of night. But was I courageous?
There are two pedestrian pathways on the Manhattan Bridge - the one the north side is for bicycles - this is the side I needed to view the York Street building. However, a chain link fence obstructs a clear line of sight most of the way, so I found it necessary to climb and stand on a railing for the taking of photos. The roar and vibration of vehicles and the elevated subway was bad enough, but worse was having to use two hands to stabilize the camera while balancing atop a 4" wide steel railing which may or may not have been icy. See this in better detail at my photo gallery here.
The building at 110 York Street serves as the offices for a number of construction firms and most notably, Robert Scarano Architects, who originally occupied the top floor of this 100-year-old former factory building in Vinegar Hill. For a needed expansion, a 5,200-square-foot rooftop two story addition was designed by a member of the Scarano firm, Dedy Blaustein. The addition was completed in 2005. The lights used are a Color Kinetics LED system.
Blaustein's inspiration for the rooftop structure was the bridge: "We’re not the main thing here,” he says, gesturing toward the bridge. “That is the main thing here. It’s so dynamic. I had to do something crazy.” Some have referred to it as the "Jetsons Building." In response to critics, he said: “I didn’t design it for people to like it, I designed it for people not to be able to ignore it.” The project received a 2005 Design Award from Metal Architecture magazine and a 2005 Certificate of Appreciation from the Brooklyn AIA. From the Sarano website:
The Manhattan Bridge is the most visibly striking element of the site, running parallel to it only 20 feet away. For this reason, we designed an exposed steel truss system for the skeleton to intensify the dialogue between the structures. The design embodies a strong sense of dynamics. The structural axis is separated from the building exterior finish, providing a sense of movement, which is enhanced by the flying roof, sharp angles, and horizontal texture on the surface.
My affair has finally come to a close. I feel quite worn, perhaps not unlike the mountain climber who finally tastes the bittersweet success of arriving at the summit. Driven by an illuminated outline not unlike that drawn by a friend to describe the mountains of Colorado (see Part 1), I found this journey's end at 110 York Street in the foothills of the New York Rockies...
*The original seen on the General Post Office building reads:
"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
The sentence appears in the works of Herodotus, describing the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C.
Note: The firm of Robert Sarano is the subject of much controversy - both acclaim and official censure. Robert Sarano is a New York City native, born in Brooklyn. He became a registered architect and started his own firm, Scarano Architects PLLC, in 1985. His academic credentials and awards are many. The firm has been responsible for over 600 buildings in New York City. However, sometimes referred to as the bad boy of architecture, Sarano has also seen a loss of self-certification privileges, loss of filing privileges, numerous lawsuits, worker deaths on 3 of his projects and has been charged with violation of zoning or building codes on 25 projects in Brooklyn.