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The Oculus, NYC’s 3rd Largest Transportation Hub

The Oculus, the gleaming white World Trade Center Transportation Hub that is the centerpiece of the revitalization of Lower Manhattan, is striking for its futuristic design as well the contrast it draws to the structures that surround it. Designed by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, at a cost of $4 million, the Oculus is approximately 800,000 square feet. From the outside, it resembles a bird with giant, outspread wings, ready to take off. The inside, looks to me, like the deck of an enormous space ship.

The Oculus, a bird

The Oculus

A bird?

According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s website, when it opens fully later this year, 250,000 commuters will pass through its concourses connecting daily to 11 subway lines, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system, the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, the World Trade Center Memorial, Towers 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the World Trade Center, the World Financial Center and the Winter Garden. 

While we were there on Saturday, we saw just a fraction of that number. As they walked through, many turned and snapped photos of the cavernous white space.

The Oculus, interior

Some lay on their backs on the marble floor to photograph the ‘eye’ and the slice of the World Trade Center building that peeks through. 

The Oculus, leaves

As the light started to change, I tried to imagine how the interior looks when the sun rises and sets daily. 

The Oculus, shaft of gold

The Oculus has such a light appearance that standing beneath the 155-foot high ‘eye,’ I felt as if we could start moving – we didn’t.

The Oculus is not only a transportation hub. About 78,000 square feet of its space will be dedicated to stores and restaurants. Most of the spaces were covered with hoardings from retailers such as H&M, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, etc.

The Oculus, reflecting in the North Pool

The Oculus, reflected in the North Pool of the World Trade Center

The Oculus (eyelike opening or design) never fails to catch the eye. My only issue is that the Port Authority should have set aside more space to give it room to ‘breathe.’ With a building within a few feet of its left ‘wing,’ it feels hemmed in.

 

A Stroll on the High Bridge

The High Bridge is one of fourteen bridges that cross the Harlem River and connect Manhattan (at Highbridge Park and 173rd Street) to the Bronx (at West 170th Street, in the Highbridge section). The bridge, for pedestrians only, reopened last July after several decades of closure and undergoing approximately $62 million worth of renovations.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Towards The Bronx

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Towards Manhattan

Known originally as the Aqueduct Bridge, the High Bridge was part of the Croton Aqueduct that transported water from the Croton Reservoir in Northern Westchester to Manhattan. Construction on the High Bridge, which was designed to recall a Roman aqueduct, began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. It is the city’s oldest remaining bridge.

Spanning 1450 feet and 102 feet high, the bridge had 15 arches, 7 over land and 8 over the river. The arches were built high enough to allow navigation on the river, however, they were too narrow and in 1927, a steel arch replaced five of the 8 arches. The aqueduct closed in the 1950s and pedestrian access was closed in the 1970s.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Taking a stroll across the High Bridge, as 1900s New Yorkers used to, has been on my list since last summer but I didn’t get around to doing that until the Memorial Day weekend. My friend and I entered the sprawling Highbridge Park at Amsterdam between West 173 and 174 Streets and followed the signs to the bridge. Through the trees, we spotted some of the arches that remain on the Bronx side of the bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower, which was directly in front of us.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Designated a New York City Landmark in 1967, the 200-foot octagonal High Bridge Water Tower was built on the Manhattan side of the High Bridge in 1866-72 to help meet the city’s need for water.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

High Bridge Water Tower, a NYC Landmark

To get to the pedestrian bridge, we walked down approximately 100 steps (I saw a sign to the Edgecombe Avenue and 165 Street ramp entrance but a light drizzle started before I could check it out.) To my surprise, the bridge was not crowded at all – a few joggers, families out for a stroll, their kids, as soon as they saw the wide open space, took off running and giggling like only they know to do.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

At almost 100 steps, the stairs look daunting. There’s also ramp access.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

To the ramp

Unless I’m a passenger, whenever I’m on Harlem River Drive, I never have time to take in the view. From the High Bridge, I could see the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and the Washington Bridge (which, along with the Henry Hudson, comprise the four fixed arch bridges that span the river), and the parts of Manhattan and the Bronx that line the river.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

View of Harlem River Drive, the Harlem River and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge. Across the river is part of the Bronx. 

The original stonework on the bridge, the walkway, lighting and fencing were improved. I liked the addition of plaques that describe a bit of the High Bridge’s history. They’re off to the side, so be sure not to miss them. There are also a few benches for those who wish to linger a while and watch the traffic on the river or the Metro North trains as they head north.

High Bridge Particulars:

You can enter the bridge either from the Amsterdam and West 172 Street (High Bridge Park) entrance, or from the Edgecombe Avenue and West 165 Street ramp access on the Manhattan side. From the Bronx side, use University Avenue and 170th Street. The bridge is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. There is no fee.

Flux Art Fair, Harlem

I noticed them right away – two giant heads at one of the east side entrances to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. I stopped jogging to take a closer look. Neither figure resemblance Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born black nationalist after whom the park was renamed in 1973. Maybe, I thought, the likeness was of Pelham Fritz. Fritz, the former assistant commissioner of recreation at the Parks Department was a regular at the park. Following his death in 1988, the park’s recreation center was named for him. 

I checked but there were no plaque, no sign, nothing to indicate why they were there. I was intrigued. I took a few photos. As I did, another jogger stopped and asked if I knew who they were.

Flux Art in Harlem

(E)scape – New Faces, Bob Clyatt

I was jogging again the following week when I spotted this colorful totem-like piece just north of the basketball court.  I decided to finish my jog and go into the park to take a closer look. By now, there were several more pieces and all had plaques. In addition to the artists’ name and the title of the piece, each indicated this was a Flux Art Fair.

Flux Art Fair Harlem

Golem, 2013 Jordan Baker-Caldwell

According to their website, Flux Art Fair “embodies Harlem’s creative spirit and cultural significance” and is a collaboration with NYC Parks, NYC Department of Transportation’s Art Program and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Urban Structure, Kurt Steger

Flux Art Project Harlem

Sprout, Sui Park

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Big Head (Harlem Rose), Montserrat Daubon

Flux Art Project Harlem

Surge, Lucy Hodgson

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Bed of Flowers, Leah Pollar

Located in the Mount Morris area of Central Harlem, Marcus Garvey Park is bounded on the north by 124th Street, on the south by 120th Street, on the east by Madison Avenue and by Mount Morris Park West (Fifth Avenue). The park was previously called Mount Morris Park.

Flux Public Art Project Harlem

The Odyssey, 2016, Stan Squirewell

Flux Art Fair Harlem

Trompe l’oeil, 2016, Capucine Bourcart

Flux Art Fair features work by over 40 artists. Most will be on display at Marcus Garvey Park until May 31st. According to their plaques, Big Head (Harlem Rose), Surge, Sculpture Love, Outdoor Indoor, The Odyssey and (E)scape – New Faces will remain until August 1, 2016. The exhibition is free, however there are several paid events around Harlem, including talks on May 21 and 22 and a family brunch.

What do you think is the value of public art?

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations host. Be sure to stop by to view other photos from locations around the world.

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Van Gogh’s Ear at Rockefeller Center

Van Gogh’s Ear (and art) have fascinated the public for years. As the story goes, in 1888, Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in the south of France to create a space for artists to live and work. He found said place and convinced his friend and fellow painter, Paul Gaugin, to join him. The two worked together successfully for months before the friendship soured and Gaugin decided to return to Paris. Van Gogh was so upset about the failure of the friendship that he took a knife and cut off his left ear lobe. After bandaging himself, he wrapped the lobe in newspaper and took it to a brothel where he asked Rachel, the girl he gave it to, to guard it carefully.

Van Gogh's Ear 1

Now, 163 years after van Gogh’s death, the artists Elmgreen and Dragset have created a public art piece they call Van Gogh’s Ear, in tribute the famous artist’s most famous external organ. The piece, located at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Channel Garden (across from Saks Fifth Avenue), is on display until June 3rd.

Van Gogh's Ear 3

An ear was not the first thing that came to mind when I saw Van Gogh’s Ear close up this week. The shape made me think, at first, of a gigantic bean (or giant foot) but with its Tiffany blue-looking interior and striking white edges, I decided that it looked more like a pool. But the silver steps on the right, the elongated strip at the top (the diving board) and the small circular lights at the bottom, convinced me.

Van Gogh's Ear.

But how does a pool become an ear? According to The Guardian, the artists, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, who have been working together since 1995 (longer than van Gogh and Gaugin were able to do), are fascinated with swimming pools. They’re also known for taking ordinary objects out of their usual context, like Prada Marfa, their installation of a Prada store in the middle of the Texan desert.

Van Gogh's Ear plaque

Van Gogh’s Ear is a pool, and it’s also an ear. When you look at the backside of the 30-foot installation, which stands upright on its wider end, you definitely see the outline of an ear. Bracketed as it is by towering brick buildings, the shock of color, whether viewed from the front (blue), or the back (white) where it seems to sit in a flower garden with two small pools, is eye-catching, and incongruous. But then, that’s the idea.

Van Gogh’s Ear Particulars

Location: Fifth Avenue entrance (between 49th & 50th Streets) to Rockefeller Center
Dates: April 13- June 3, 2016
Free

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.  

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