new york city – day one

It’s been five months since my trip to New York City. To spare everyone from a deluge of photos, I’m going to break them down in to each day from the trip. My fiance and I spent three nights in Manhattan; two nights in Princeton, NJ with her family; and two nights on the Massachusetts coast with my family.

We arrived at LaGuardia just before noon. I was overcome with excitement as we neared the city, craning my neck at every chance to peek through the windows of our Uber ride at the skyline. As we crossed the Queensboro Bridge, I started to pick out buildings I recognized. The United Nations. The Chrysler Building. One World Trade Center was off in the distance. I struggled to take in everything; I felt like I needed more than one set of eyes. We cut through Central Park and for a short time, we were transported out of the city into the countryside. It was surreal. Tunnels. Winding Roads. Mature trees. All just steps removed from the city.

At the hotel, we were greeted with very friendly staff who were willing to help two Texans get around the city. They advised on the best lunch options in the neighborhood. We enjoyed a casual lunch outside. I could hardly focus on food. I was too busy watching the city. We came armed with a plan of sights to see and I had an endless list of buildings to see in the neighborhood.

First up was Hearst Tower – designed by Norman Foster – completed in 2006. I learned about this beautiful skyscraper in my college structures courses. The signature X-bracing is expressed on the facade as the tower rises from the historic 1920s facade. We ventured into the lobby off of 8th Avenue and were greeted by a security guard. At first, I was taken aback by his stern warning that “there are a few rules here in the lobby.” But, I was put at ease when he continued with: “selfies are strongly encouraged, take as many photos as your heart desires.” He then directs us to the information desk and some benches to look at the towering lobby. It was a truly spectacular space and I could’ve spent hours pouring over every detail.

We continued down W 57th and over to W 56th to see the latest “super-tall” buildings reaching for the skies above Manhattan as we made our way to the Lever House and the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. The Lever House – designed by SOM – was built in the early 1950s. The main mass of the tower is lifted off of the street, providing a gracious plaza and wide sidewalks. The full-height glass of the three-sided lobby provides an airy feeling to the dense Midtown neighborhood. Across the street is the infamous and iconic Seagram Building – designed by Mies van der Rohe – completed in 1958. It is the quintessential modern skyscraper and I’ve wanted to see it since I first learned of Mies. The lobby is beautifully detailed with steel, glass, and exquisite travertine.

Next was the Citicorp Center – designed by Hugh Stubbins  – on Lexington Avenue. The original St. Peter’s church moved to a new site to make way for the new tower. However, a new church was to be built on the same site but structurally independent from the tower. The new church – designed by Vignelli Associates – was built at the corner of Lexington & E 54th. The main sanctuary is a beautiful space, but the real gem in the Citicorp Center is the chapel designed by Louise Nevelson. We almost missed the chapel if it weren’t for a kind volunteer at the church who opened the locked room for us. The chapel is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration. Last year, a gentleman stopped by the church wanting to see the chapel and make a donation for the restoration. He was headed to a meeting with his business partners and asked how much the church needed. Right there, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for the remaining $1.5 million – proclaiming it was just a drop in the bucket for him.

With only a short time remaining until MoMA closed for the day, we high-tailed it to the museum and spent our time on the 4th floor to see timeless classic by Jackson Pollack, Mondrian, and Gaudi. The majority of our time was spent in the room dedicated to Claude Monet’s Water Lillies paintings. Simply put, our short visit to MoMA was great. So much art and culture contained in one building. And it was incredible to see pieces of art that I had only seen in textbooks or during college lectures.

After a whirlwind day of travel from Dallas and a tour of art and architecture in the Midtown neighborhood at break-neck speed, we had a delightful dinner with Nicola’s friend in a quaint Upper East Side restaurant. Then it was back to our hotel to recuperate for day two in the Big Apple. Stay tuned…

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