Friday, November 21, 2014


In 1807 Robert Livingston, the Minister to France, commissioned Robert Fulton to build a steam powered boat that he believed could paddle against the current forcing its way upstream on the Hudson from New York to Albany.  Livingston and Fulton's critics thought them ridiculously na├»ve. They began referring to their dream ship as "Fulton's Folly" christening the boat with the derogative moniker. It only took one trip up river by Fulton's steam powered boat to silence the critics and make them eat crow or perhaps carp in this situation.
Last week the new Fulton Center opened, a hub for three of New York's subway lines combined with a retail market soon to be filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. The project has had a stop-and-go history. Negotiations began over a decade ago. At one point it looked as if the project was going to be totally abandoned and replaced by either a park or plaza.
A new set of critics began calling the project the "Folly on Fulton Street". History repeats itself. These twenty-first century critics are going to be eating crow, or perhaps roasted subway rat, too.
Like celebrities going from second fiddles to divas the name of the project has morphed from the "Fulton Street Transit Center" into the more sophisticated and royal, "Fulton Center". We lived around the corner, a half block from this project when it was only an annoyance of sledgehammers and caution tape. We know the area and if there was an area in Manhattan in need of a facelift, the area around Fulton and Nassau was deserving of being around the top of the list.
I actually wasn't aware that the center had already opened. On this latest trip to the city Emmy traveled with us under the pretense of having a final project in her photography class that somehow required photographing New York while her classmates settled for staying and photographing Madison. After having traveled through Chinatown and the lower East Side we decided to continue on to the financial district and the World Trade neither of which aroused her shutter finger. We were only going to the Fulton station so we could get back up to Rock Center. I was expecting the same construction barriers and lines of dumpsters.
As we rounded our way around Wall Street and then headed up Broadway I was still unaware of anything being different. That's when the long day's journey turned to wow!
We entered the Center through the historical Corbin Building. When we lived on John Street the doors to the Corbin where barred with signs of beware of the rat poison. That's not the case anymore.
Emmy immediately pulled out her camera. I got into the photographic act with her, Emmy with her expensive Canon SLR and me with my iphone 5. There wasn't an angle you could point your camera at that wouldn't produce a remarkable photo.
Architecturally this place was stunning. Designed by Grimshaw and James Carpenter Design Associates, this station was elevated from the mundane and confusing to the sleek and efficient.
The center of the terminal is capped with a dome of 952 reflective panels that distribute the natural light flowing in through an oculus at the very top of the dome.
It's Manhattan's twenty-first century Parthenon. Where Rome's niches are filled with marble sculptures, New York's version uses technology to project lithe dancers that leap in slow motion on hi-def screens soaring twenty feet above the transfixed on-lookers.
Spiral staircases wrap around the interior as if putting a final bow of metal ribbon around a very special gift to this deserving neighborhood.
Fulton Center is a new must see for anyone interested in architecture.
Along with the new World Trade Center, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, The Guggenheim Museum and Rockefeller Center,

the Fulton Center is worthy of being added to the growing list of New York's stunning architectural history.


Woman on a Train, 1958
Louis Stettner, photographer
Represented by Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

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