Monday, October 6, 2008

Open House New York: Take 2

This past weekend was Open House New York (OHNY). This was my second time participating in the program and once again I completely missed any advertising for it until the day before. It was friend A who got me into gear this year. Each year, the program opens up several commercial and private interest sites (apartments, studios, businesses, etc.) to the public for two days. Some places require reservations for tours while others are open to the public during certain hours.

And just like last year, I missed out on several sites I would have loved to see. The High Line? Not even close. Not only did I miss the deadline to enter the lottery for a tour spot (!!) but I heard that they had something like 5,000 requests for 700 available spaces. Tom Otterness studio? Totally booked -- try the 14th St/8th Ave subway station instead. 7 World Trade Center? Maybe next year.

Still, I wasn't dissuaded from finding other spots to see. A and I decided to go the Broadway Penthouse, the Grand Mason Lodge, PS260 and the Chrysler Building (which I saw last year, but I never get sick of deco). Our plan was to meet at Broadway Penthouse on Saturday morning at 8:45 AM and work our way uptown.

These wood tables were a
cool accent in the Broadway penthouse.

It was raining on Saturday but I was too excited to care. I got down to Great Jones St around 8:55 (pretty good for me!) where A was queued up 3rd in line. We were the second group to go up. I learned later that we came at the right time. Not only did we get a full tour from someone from the architecture firm but I learned the site cancelled for Sunday. The place was very modern and had recently been featured in the New York Times. My favorite part was the living room, which had pillows made to look like rocks and pebbles. Minimalism has never been my style though and the place was so sparse. Not a kid-friendly place. Whether it was jealousy or shock I'm not sure, but I was kind of upset walking around. It just seemed like so...lifeless to me. It had tons of cool features but it had no personal touches. No photos or anything that says life. Maybe they were taken down beforehand? Nonetheless, I appreciate that the owner was willing to open it to the public.

The bathroom sink (yes, it's a sink
out of wood -- teak) was
surrounded by
real foliage.

The roof had a tiered garden, which the architects said the owner wanted to use to bring natural surrounds to the urbanscape. That at least spoke to me a bit.

The 2nd floor hallway at
The Grand Lodge of Masons.

From there, it was up to 23rd and 6th and the Grand Lodge of Masons. Admittedly, I was a bit confused about who the Masons are exactly. Was it Masons in the sense of working with stone? (Yes, historically.) Was it like a union? (Not really.) The Masons are a fraternity of sorts and as they explained it they're committed to bettering themselves and charitable efforts. The building is non-descrept from outside -- I know I have passed by at probably 100 times without realizing what was inside. And how cool it was; 12 floors of ornately decorated meeting rooms each set up to reflect the Temple of Solomon and by that reflect their code of morality. Our tour guides were a hoot. Each made sure to mention that Félix Chávez had restored each room over four years in 1986. And my compliments to him because each room we saw was truly beautiful.

The Tiffany skylights in the Grand Hall.

The coolest room on that tour was the Grand Hall, which was so big I couldn't capture it one photo. Our guides told us an anecdote that the Tiffany ceiling skylights inspired the Titanic designers to use the same skylights in the great ballroom. I don't know if this is story either way!

From there we headed to P.S. 260. Not actually a school. It was a video editing company meant to be young, hip and cool...and man if you've seen one of these companies (or worked for one as I have) you've really seen them all. They are awesome to work for but a bit pretentious from the outside looking in. Also kind of shitty that no one was outside as the rest of the locations had -- and there was no way to buzz up. Luckily someone who worked there happened to arrive at the same time as we did and let us up. A and I quickly breezed through the office. We were mostly interested in the rooftop view. They recently shot an episode of "Lipstick Jungle" up there. Oddly enough, I was visiting a friend who lives next to the Empire State Building for a party on his rooftop deck that night and we saw them filming (the lighting for the shoot completely fucked with the light on our night photos and I was repeatedly cursing them). Anyway, the deck was pretty cool. The view to the north was just alright but the view south was to die for. Straight shot to the Flatiron Building.

Ahoy, Daily Bugle!

We could see the new Esplanade clearly and Madison Square Park peeked in from the East. As we left, I told A, "I'll take it."

The Chrysler Building was still awesome just like last year. Go see it! Coolest clock ever in the lobby. Overall, getting an early start was key this year. The weather probably also had something to do with it (on and off rain and cold) but we hit no lines this year. Four places and done before 3 PM. I have to say, though, what the hell is up with the OHNY website? Not only is it so NOT search engine friendly (no meta tags?? spaces in the URLS?? really??) it's also not mobile phone friendly. C'mon guys. People in the 21st century do not carry around tabloid-sized guides. If you want help re-doing your site, call me. I got friends in talented places.

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