are vessels. They not only hold people and their stuff; they
also hold ideas. They are the reaction of architects, artisans,
and their patrons to the times in which theyve lived.
Three of New Yorks signature public places are snapshots
right now of their own time as well as this uniquely strange
moment were in now.
Downtown, The Wintergarden recently reopened, after sustaining
major damage when the North Tower collapsed. Its filled
with the rich materials and textures that had come into vogue
in the 1980s, and is the unlikely home to 16 fully-grown
palm trees. Performance space, promenade and anchor to a group
of shops, restaurants and services, the Wintergarden had become
a destination for tourists and a welcoming and stimulating
space for local workers and residents.
Reopened this past September, it is a fulcrum for the strange
yin and yang of the aftermath of September 11th. The atriums
east face, originally a facade of polished red granite, has
been replaced with a curtain wall of glass that gives an uninterrupted
view of the entire Trade Center site. The vast emptiness is
deeply sobering, and yet...turn around and you are greeted
by the first building to be completely restored and reopened
after the attacks. The palms are cheerily robust; the murmur
of conversation and motion reminds us that daily life resolutely
continues. Courage and resolve have made it possible for us
to return to this place.
In Midtown, the venerable Grand Central Terminal makes her
own time warp. Sensitive but practical restoration of Grand
Central, completed several years ago, make this building a
dialogue between centuries- the grand planners of the 19th
Century, the industrial tycoons of the early 20th, and now
the forward-reaching techies of the 21st.
Go up to the balcony level, then, and lose some of the details
of the people strolling or rushing across the floor of the
main room. It could be 1944; a huge American flag hangs from
the vaulted ceiling, just as it did during World War II, when
veterans took the trains home to all parts north, south, east
A few blocks away, Rockefeller Center, Art Deco gem of the
Great Depression, envelops visitors with the American flag.
Two rows of them almost completely encircle the skating rink;
they replac =ed the customary international banners right
after September 11th. The numbers of them and their varying
symmetry show the evocative strength of the flag in a way
thats different from Grand Centrals huge, still
flag. When breezes stir them, the white and red bars seem
to be reaching out to the people below- to evoke a calm centering,
perhaps action- and certainly, underneath it all, remembrance.