If you live in New York (or Chicago or London) and you haven't heard about Open House, then you are missing out on a hidden gem the city has to offer. Open House New York is two days every October when buildings that are usually closed to the public or buildings that usually cost money to enter are all free! It's a weekend that focuses on the architectural and design gems of New York. Most sites don't require reservations and allow individuals to simply walk in and attend tours free of charge. Some of the more popular sites or tours require a $5 advance reservation- and these reservations typically book up literally in minutes! In the past years I've had the opportunity to hear an architect speak about how he renovated his Chinatown loft from the comfort of his couch, toured a private Upper East Side home, wandered up on the roof of a Greenwich townhouse still under construction, and learned about the prototype for disaster housing. This year I managed to snag a ticket to visit the architect Paul Rudolph's iconic Modulightor home and also waited in line (for an hour) to climb the old steps of the Jefferson Market Library's clocktower to view a once a year view of downtown Manhattan. But the highlight of my 2017 OHNY experience was definitely getting the opportunity to tour Barnard College's newly renovated Diana Center.
Barnard College opened in 1889 as an educational institute for women and offered them a place to learn in a world that was dominated by men at the time. It is affiliated with Columbia University and was known as its female counterpart until 1989 when Columbia finally allowed women to apply. The school is named after the 10th Columbia University President, Professor Frederick Barnard, who pushed for the admittance of women. Barnard is mainly a liberal arts college and has distinguished alumni such as, Martha Stewart, Joan Rivers, and Cynthia Nixon.
The Diana Center is Barnard's new student life center and was designed by the architect firm, Weiss/Manfredi. Once completed, it won a National AIA Award and a Progressive Architecture Award. It is a triangular shaped building that was given the Leed Gold certification, designating it as a green sustainable building. The building utilizes natural lighting to the fullest with its giant windows, diagonal lighting, high ceilings, and wide open spaces. Although I loved my university (proud Longhorn for life), I would have LOVED to have had the chance to study on those comfy red couches or worked next those big dreamy windows! There honestly wasn't a single spot in the building that I didn't consider beautifully designed. I especially appreciated the study space incorporated onto the building's rooftop with its gorgeous view. The tour guides mentioned that the ground of the roof was kept as light as possible in order to ward off heat in the summer as darker grounds tend to attract overheating. I thought that was a tiny detail that could potentially make such a difference.
During the tour, the guides pointed out to us little design details (such as the double staircase shown above that was meant to increase traffic flow and the orange lines on the window panes that keep heat out in the summer and heat in during the winter) that I otherwise would have deemed insignificant. The tour opened my eyes to how architecture (something that isn't always noticed) can make a big difference in the way we live and interact with the buildings around us. I never knew how much work or thought goes into creating a building and now I think I'll pay much more attention to my surroundings. Although, my feet hurt at the end of each day from all the walking I did, my 2017 Open House weekend was a success! I can't wait until 2018 :)
Have you guys participated in Open House New York before? What are your thoughts on architecture?