Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm staying with architecture for this post, and will for the next one as well.  I came across a file full of treehouses and picked these four as the most interesting, at least the ones that most resonated with me.

The geodesic dome and I go way back to Expo '67 in Montreal.  Buckminster Fuller had popularized it and it was one of the great highlights of the Expo along with Habitat, a jumble of prefabricated apartments stacked as if randomly on top of each other so as to snake around the landscape ad lib.  I caught up with them after Expo itself had ended and new exhibits were installed in the various buildings in the hope of keeping tourists coming.  The dome had become a giant aviary for tropical birds.  It was raining the day I visited and you had to keep your umbrella up inside the dome as it leaked like a sieve.

My next encounter with Fuller was during the early '70s at Emerson College where I was head of the scenic design operation for five years.  The students had voted for "Bucky," generally considered a genius by all although known by some to be pretty much around the bend, as their commencement speaker.  He got to the podium and began to talk without notes of any kind -- it just poured out of him, unchecked, for over an hour and a half at which point the Chancellor walked over to him and, covering the microphone with his hand, told the old visionary that he had to cede the platform to the rest of the graduation.  It didn't seem to bother him a bit; he just smiled sweetly and waved as he made his way back to his seat.  And everybody sighed in relief.

Here's a delightful little Federal Period treehouse, the sort of thing one feels little Tommy Jefferson might have had in his back yard.  What I love is the contrast between the roughness and wildness of nature and the carefully structured rationality of the neoclassic building surreastically up in the air.

Another dome, this one Japanese, in a forest to give hikers a sheltered place to rest by day or to spend the night.  The triangular, forrested mass in the background suggests one of Japan's volcanoes, although not the exquisitely symmetrical Mount Fuji.

I've saved my favorite for last, because it's the one that reminds anyone who builds a treehouse that the tree keeps on growing and will inevitably rip the house apart as it does.


Not a treehouse, but perhaps the urban equivalent.  The Cooper Square Hotel in Greenwich Village, New York City.  We were in the city for a family event last weekend that took place here, and where most of the major players stayed.  The Cooper Square is an ultra-modern, high-concept and very chic boutique hotel. 

It is definitely for special occasions as it's pricey, but the staff was extremely attentive.  Requests for an ironing board and iron or blankets in place of the duvet (which Fritz and I hate as they are invariably way too hot even with air-conditioning) were met within three to four minutes.  A chilled complimentary bottle of champagne was waiting for us on arrival, WiFi was available at no extra charge, and the views were extraordinary.
Our room was on the 15th floor, on the left edge of the building in the picture above, meaning we had views north to the entire rest of Manhattan, and east over the East Village and on to Brooklyn. 

The event took place in the Penthouse on the 21st floor, a room with floor to ceiling windows on all four sides, and the terrace even had glass rails so that the views were completely uninterrupted.  The site was a huge hit with the guests and as the evening wore on, the city became brilliantly illuminated, adding to the excitement.  The brownstone Cooper Union that gives its name to the area is in the lower left.

The bath tub of beer on ice was a popular meeting place.  The Penthouse would appear to have been thought of as a residence (certainly at an astronomical price for sale, rental or as a hotel stay for ultra high-end travelers).  Elevator access required a special card to take guests up past the normal hotel room level, and opened directly onto the largest single space in the place, surrounded on three sides by the terrace.  On either side of the elevator entrance were a probable dining room off which was a kitchen area from which came the evening's passed hors d'oeuvres (I have a proven track record of never passing up a passed hors d'oeuvre).  On the other side of the elevator shaft was the enormous bathroom that included this tub, built-in book shelves along two walls, and a huge round ottoman, as well as two lavatory rooms and a handsome stall shower.  A staircase in the kitchen area led upstairs to what Fritz suspected was a master bedroom suite and probably a great deal more.

View through the glass rail wall of the terrace toward the East Village bathed in sunset light.  The towers and part of the span of the Williamsburg Bridge are visible at the right.

Not the steadiest of night shots, but somehow rather pretty for the effect: The Empire State Building towering over all at the left, with the white-lit Metropolitan Life Insurance Building in front and the gold pyramid-topped New York Life Insurance Building directly right of it.  The blue-lit building with the clock face is on 14th street and all the way on the right edge is the brilliantly lit art deco spire of the Chrysler Building, most Manhattanites' (and my) favorite sky scraper of all.

Love it! I don't know NYC any more. The last time I was there was in 2006 for lunch, just driving through. The time before that, a day at MOMA sometime in the 90s. Before that, set the wayback machine, Sherman, for the '80s. Fabulous photos!
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