Friday, February 16, 2007

Favorite American Buildings

Jen Graves at The Stranger, inspired by a recent listing of the 150 favorite pieces of American architecture, named her top five. So, here are mine. Subjectivity obviously plays a larger role than technical aspects of architecture, about which I know damn near nothing.

1. Lincoln Center -- New York, NY

I think it's been clear from some of my recent musings that living in New York for almost seven years can wear a guy down, but I'll tell you what -- the night that walking by Lincoln Center (not to mention attending a performance there) doesn't put a spring in my step, I don't need to relocate. I need to check in to the morgue.

2. Saratoga Racetrack -- Saratoga Springs, NY

Open since 1863, this track is a throwback and a gem. To consider it as one piece of architecture, you have to take into account the grandstand (pictured above), the sprawling grounds behind it where people picnic and horses get saddled up before each race, and the stables that line the outer perimeter. Counting all of that, even leaving aside the fact that I spend a restorative week there every summer, it would be hard not to include it.

3. Grand Central Station -- New York, NY

Unlike Lincoln Center, which even when it's crowded is outdoors and gives some sense of breathing room, you can obviously catch Grand Central at a frustrating time, when it's less a transportation hub than a human pinball machine. But it's one of those places that remind me how happy I am that New York so often strives to turn its utilitarian public needs into majestic statements.

4. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth -- Fort Worth, TX

Graves included the Kimbell Art Museum on her list -- also in Fort Worth -- and that's a great building, too. But the much more recently opened Modern is my preference. As you can see above, it has a stunning facade, but the interior is as quirky and compelling as the exterior is streamlined. A great place to see art. If Fort Worth wasn't the type of place that's normally 110 degrees and once had a tornado tear right through its downtown streets, it might be a satisfyingly offbeat place to live.

5. (tie) Yankee Stadium -- Bronx, NY;
and PNC Park -- Pittsburgh, PA

Yankee Stadium is fairly self-explanatory, not only because it's an iconic American place, but because I'm a huge baseball fan and a rabid Yankees fan raised by another rabid Yankees fan (funny how that works). So "the big Y.S.," as Dad's always referred to it, is a bit like a church to me -- a church with a lot of cursing that smells strongly like urine. But still, a church.

As much as I love tradition, though, it would be difficult for me to say with a straight face that I've been to a better stadium than the home of the Pirates, which opened in 2001. As you can see from that pic, it offers a striking view. I know there are all kinds of egg-headed theories about baseball reflecting our agrarian side, so I guess there's something strange about the mashing together of skyscrapers and all that dirt and grass, but I love it. Minor-league stadiums can be next to a farm. I love that, too.

PNC is also cozy. This from Wikipedia:
PNC Park...was the first permanent facility to be built for a MLB team that hosted fewer than 40,000 since Milwaukee County Stadium, which was later expanded. It was also the first to be built with two decks rather than three (most of the seats are actually located within the lower deck, 26,000 to be exact) since County Stadium. Consequently, the highest seat in the park is only 88 feet from the playing field, giving the stadium a very intimate feel. PNC Park also has the smallest capacity of any stadium in Major League Baseball, only a few thousand seats smaller than Wrigley Field and a few hundred seats smaller than Fenway Park
If, for some incredibly odd reason, I had to choose a place to live based solely on its baseball stadium, I'd be in Pitt.


Blogger JS said...

Never been to PNC, never been to Wrigley. I swear I'll go to Pittsburgh first.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Clint said...

I think it's neat you listed baseball stadiums.

Gimme Yankee Stadium, The Meadowlands, and Jacobs Field in Cleveland as my favorite 3 american structures.

6:20 PM  

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