2009-08-08

New York: Guggenheim, Village Vanguard, Power Plants

On my recent New York trip, as usual, I spent a day in New York City, shoehorned full of various activities. As usual, I walked away feeling like each day I spend here results in two more days’ of activities I want to add to my list.

First, I headed to the Guggenheim, to catch the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit before it closed. I have to admit that it is quite embarrassing, as a native New Yorker (and museum nerd), that I’ve never actually gone to the Guggenheim. The exhibit was in roughly chronological order, going up the spiral of the museum—a really nice organization method.


Yes, I guess this shot is probably overdone, but it’s iconic, eh?

I got the audio tour, which provided a wonderful wealth of information. But it was somewhat interesting looking at his work, as a building technology nerd. For instance, “…but they don’t talk about how they had to completely rebuild the structure of Fallingwater’s cantilever with retrofitted post-tensioned concrete, just to keep it from falling down,” or “Oh yeah, the Usonian houses… I saw that article on having to entirely rebuild the structure, because the beams were built out of multiple 2x4s instead of a 2x10, like it ought to be,” or “Marin County Civic Center—yes, it’s a gorgeous space, inside and out… and the detail of those repeating motifs throughout the building are great. And I have an awesome picture of the leaking skylight there.”


Incidentally, Wright appeared to be a pretty unpleasant human being to deal with—common personality traits that come with genius probably. This is based on the Ken Burns/American Experience documentary—a huge amount of fascinating information, if anyone is interested.

Anyway, in the gift shop—check it out, a Lego Guggenheim! It turns out that there is a whole Lego architectural series. Funny.


Headed back to my sister’s place, got changed, and headed down to Greenwich Village. Had dinner at a local spot I found just randomly walking around (Chow Bar)—Asian fusion-ish; great calamari salad and tuna tartare. One amusing dish that I got as a side—their “crispy spinach”: take spinach, deep fry, and salt. Yep, they made spinach into potato chips. Wow. You actually can make spinach unhealthy. I only had a few bites before I gave up.


A very nice little wander around the Village to kill time before the evening’s entertainment. A brief moment of, “man, sometimes, it’s good to be alive”—check out that view of the sunset.


Then an evening of jazz at the Village Vanguard—as I wrote in the past:

I don't know how many of you are jazz aficionados, but the Village Vanguard is a famous Greenwich Village jazz club that has been around since the 1930's. The greats have all played the Vanguard, and a multitude have recorded live albums there: [Insert name of jazz giant] Live at the Village Vanguard (including my personal favorite, Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard). As a younger jazz musician puts it: "I call it the Carnegie Hall of jazz because most jazz clubs just don't have the sound that that place has. . . . It's the place where Moses and Mohammed and Jesus walked!"

The group I saw was Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Paul Motian (piano, bass, and drums)—Motian has a history that goes back to the 1950s, playing with some of the jazz greats (including Bill Evans). It was an absolutely superb evening.

I was only in the city for the morning, the next day. I thought I would try to find the Jamaican food truck on the upper East Side mentioned in a New York Times article (“Sweet Heat: For Jamaicans, It’s About Jerk”). Unfortunately, I could not find it—I’m guessing they are a weekday outfit, and take the weekends off or something. Guess that will have to be another trip.

However, I did get to wander about the East Side, looking up and down the river at the bridges and Roosevelt Island across the way.


Of course, infrastructure geekery ends up finding me—there’s another gorgeous old turn of the century power plant on the river there (74th Street)—there’s a similar one on the West Side—see that previous post. Incidentally, Daniel—you wrote I've always loved the look of that power station. When we were briefly on the FDR Drive, I thought we went past it (half torn down), but that must've been some other ornate squarish building on the East side.--is this the one you’re thinking of?


Anyway, as usual, this prompted me to go do web searching on the history of this thing. It was actually unproductive at first (I was doing “74th Street powerhouse –mesothelioma,” because most of the links were class-action lawsuits). But then… paydirt, at Google Books: The New York Electrical Handbook, by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (“Being A Guide for Visitors from Abroad Attending the International Electrical Congress, St. Louis, Mo. September 1904”), with a chapter all about the power plant, in obsessive and excruciating detail (starting at page 243—“74th Street Power Station, Manhattan Division”). Man… for all of the debates on the intellectual property ramifications of Google’s book scanning project, it’s discoveries like this that makes me feel that on the scale of humanity, it is a fine, fine thing they are doing.


The amount of coal required for the operation of the power station during the winter months is about 700 tons per day. This coal is brought to the power station dock in barges, from which the coal is unloaded by means of a ton-and-a-half clam-shell bucket operated by a hoisting engine. This bucket is elevated about fifty feet to the top of the coal tower, where the coal is discharged into crushers, which break it to a size suitable for use in the automatic stokers. The coal then drops into weighing hoppers, where it is weighed before going to the boilers.

I also found that Con Ed has a PowerPoint presentation showing all their power plants in the New York City area that supply steam. It’s actually a pretty clever use—this is leftover steam heat, from the power plants—normally, this energy is wasted. Instead, they pipe it under the streets to heat buildings.


BTW—in case it is not obvious—all of these power plants are located at the perimeter of Manhattan because they use river water as their cooling medium.

Yep, another fine visit.

1 Comments:

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Christy said...

Speaking of infrastructure geekery - did we show you these pictures of the Museum of Water in Lisbon? It would make a great set for the final showdown in some sort of steampunk epic.

 

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