"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, October 28, 2013

NYC: The 9/11 Memorial

Here's a report from my five day detour to New York City for the American Dance Therapy Association Conference, held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott hotel.  In addition to presenting an intensive workshop and attending others, I had a great time visiting with my fellow dance/movement therapists, many of whom I am very close to, and some I hadn't seen for decades! 

I was born and raised in and around NYC, and have seen much of it over the years, but have never visited Ground Zero or the 9/11 Memorial. So I took one morning off from the conference and ventured over to Manhattan to pay my respects. Rick would have liked to be there as well, but we couldn't work that out this time. I hope we'll get back to see it together when it's completed.

The memorial site is still a work in progress and is surrounded on all sides by construction. The lines to enter the memorial (free admission) travel under and around the construction, and pass through security procedures much like those at the airport.  Once in, you are propelled into a grove of young swamp oak trees, and all you can see of the memorial pools are the crowds standing around them. 

As you wind your way through the people to a place by the edge, this view of the South Pool opens up. 

The two immense pools, the South and the North, are located exactly on the footprints of the "twin" South and North Towers of the World Trade Center that were destroyed in the attack on September 11, 2001. A constant cascade of water flows from the upper edges down into the flat bottom of the pool and then again down into a central "void."

An angled black stone shelf around the entire edge of both pools is engraved with the names of all the people who died in the attack. Immediately inside the name shelf there is a flat reflecting ledge, before the water flows over and down.  

Many of the buildings that surround the memorial are also constructed of reflective surfaces, so there is this fitting ever-present theme of reflection, a synonym for remembering. 

It certainly suggests reflecting and remembering the events of that terrible day and the sacrifices made. The material, metaphorical, emotional and spiritual depth of the memorial is remarkable.

As I mentioned, the memorial is still under construction, so as you walk around the twin pools, there are chain link fences separating you from the construction, the unfinished surrounding structures, and the rest of the city.  But it doesn't separate you from the noise. You can't forget you are the middle of one of the largest and busiest cities in the world.

It's also interesting that this is the oldest part of the city, right down at the tip of Manhattan, and there are historic buildings around you as well, like St. Paul's Chapel seen here through the construction.  St. Paul's played a dramatic role in the 9/11 tragedy by providing sanctuary for those fleeing the destruction of the Twin Towers. 

In addition to the two pools, there is a museum still under construction, two views of which are below.  It will house parts of the original Twin Towers and information about 9/11.  The whole history of this site from catastrophe to inception, through development and completion, is just fascinating and should make for a world class museum. 

The 9/11 Memorial sits in an urban valley of silver reflections, with a floor of black stone in and around the pools, blue reflected from the sky, and a softening green from the swamp oak trees. I imagine on a cloudy winter day it would be a pretty oppressively grey and black experience, and I felt fortunate to be there on this bright sunny day.

The tallest building among all those planned for the site complex is One World Trade Center.  1 WTC is a masterful and symbolic achievement, designed by David Childs, towering at 104 stories, and 1,776 feet (the tallest in the Western hemisphere). It is very near completion, with only one freight elevator remaining on the exterior, which you can see running along the right side of the building, below.

I left feeling immensely grateful to all who were responsible for the creation of this Memorial.  I think it is and will be for generations to come, a noble and meaningful representation of loss, deep sorrow, absence, presence, memory, hope and beauty for survivors, friends, and enemies alike.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A "10" Day in Paducah, Kentucky

While staying in the area of eastern Kentucky called the Land Between the Lakes, we took a day trip to the town of Paducah, where we found three places that deserve to be added to anyone's list of things to see. They all get big "10's" from me. 

Paducah is at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers.  Because of that location, it has a long history of settlement, commerce and industry, going back to the "paleo and archaic Indian cultures." Paducah has done something truly remarkable to commemorate that history: the Wall to Wall Murals by Robert Dafford.  This link to Dafford's website has better pictures of all the murals if you're interested. 

Paducah's location is also the cause of a long history of devastating floods...

...and is now protected from the rising rivers by a long concrete flood wall. 

Rather than leave it a blank gray eyesore, they hired this incredible muralist to paint the history of the town on it. 

In addition to the beautifully detailed and richly colored paintings, 
in front of each one is a thoughtfully written plaque explaining the scene. 

 There are 52 wonderful murals, each more interesting than the next. They tell a story of the waves of industry and development that have shaped Paducah.  I've picked just a few to show you.  The old firehouse:

A historical montage of the African American community of Paducah:

Making pearl buttons made from river oysters was big business for awhile.

Moving freight along the river.

(The present day view of moving freight. That's Illinois on the other side of the river.) 

The churches in town. I love the image of them all being a part of the same branching tree.

The riverboats:

The atomic age - Paducah was the only US uranium enrichment plant until it closed in May of this year. What brought a boom to Paducah has now contributed to its current loss of jobs. 

After our walk along the mural, we lunched at a local treasure: Kirchoff's Bakery and Deli
Here are the cooks who make the great sandwiches that Kirchoff's is known for.

Painted on the wall is the logo from Kirchoff's famous Big Boy bread - a soft eggy white bread.

Yes, we would probably be as big bellied and the Big Boy if we lived here in Paducah. 
Their bakery is unbelievably yummy. We took away quite a few cookies and breads.

Kirchoff's is in the restored (or maybe well maintained) part of downtown, along with lots of galleries and restaurants. A fun place to browse for a hour of so, but it wasn't our last stop in Paducah!

That was the National Quilt Museum. Another "10"!  It's not a historical museum, but a large contemporary collection of outstanding quilts, some of which use traditional hand sewing, and others use the most advanced computerized sewing technology available. The exhibits were breathtaking. There unfortunately was no photography allowed in the galleries, but this quilt was in the conference room, so I dared to snap it. It's a carved wooden quilt. Really. Rick didn't believe it either.

Next, a month in Nashville for some rest and recuperation from the long stretch of travel that 
we've been doing since June! Who goes to Nashville to rest? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kentuck Knob: A Lesser-Known Frank Lloyd Wright Home

While at Fallingwater, we discovered that another of Frank Lloyd Wright's creations, Kentuck Knob was nearby in the outdoor adventure town of Ohiopyle, so we visited it too. It has some of the same features as Fallingwater, such as the carport, and primarily horizontal emphasis in the roof lines and stone work, as well as one view of the house with a vertical upward thrust.   

After a little bus ride up a wooded hill, the walking tour of the inside of the house begins in the driveway, between the carport and the front door.  This is the view of the house from under the carport. You can see how low the carport ceiling is. Remember FLW's perfect human's height of 5'8"?

Throughout the house there are details reminiscent of the dentals on colonial home architecture. The cutout designs tucked under the eaves on the right side of this picture are the signature geometric shapes of Kentuck Knob. They are the same as the shapes of the rooms of the house.

Here's the view of the carport from the front porch.

Kentuck Knob is one of FLW's "Usonian" homes, which were intended to be smaller homes for middle income folks and were of a design that he felt reflected the new architecture of the United States.  They were built mostly later in his career, and by that time he had developed this method of signing his homes - the authentic Frank Lloyd Wright signature tile:

Again, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but I did get this one of the dining room through the open deck door.  The interior was also designed by FLW, as he liked to give the complete package. Much of the furniture is built in and other than the living room, the rooms are very small. The passageways are really tight. It reminded us a lot of living in an RV, but chock full of great art work. 

After the tour, guests are free to wander about the outside, explore the grounds and take pictures.

These view shows the side with the vertical thrust, 
and it reminded me of the ship prow effect of the Robie House in Chicago. 

Like Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob is built into the surrounding rock to some extent, 
and FLW incorporates that in several places.

At one time, Kentuck Knob had a 360 degree view, but the original owners wanted to live in a forest, so they planted thousands of trees, which have now grown up and surrounded it almost completely. There is currently one view left.

The current owners of Kentuck Knob,  Lord and Lady Palumbo Of Great Britain, have turned the surrounding acres into a large contemporary sculpture garden.  Here are a few of the sculptures.

The original owners of Kentuck Knob, the Hagans, (of the local Hagans ice cream) were big time dairy farmers in the area. The Visitor's Center, where we ended our walk through the sculpture garden, serves Hagans ice cream. Guess what we did to restore our energy.

BTW, we are no longer in PA, but have moved on to Kentucky, where we are trying to catch up a bit and rest a bit more.  It seems like we have been traveling too fast for too long. Who knows what I'll post next or where we'll be by then! Thanks for hanging in there with us.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Frank Lloyd Wright's "Greatest Work": Fallingwater

I think Frank Lloyd Wright's (FLW) architectural designs are about as close to aesthetically perfect as you can get. Photography is not allowed inside Fallingwater, but I'll try to show some of the outside architectural details that make it so appealing to me, even though I liked the inside even better. I wish I had the architectural knowledge and language to explain why the house is so important and inspiring, but I hope the photos help convey some if it.

FLW had many strong opinions about architecture. One of them was that the building should blend in with it's environment, and not separate its inhabitants from their surroundings. Fallingwater has at least six outdoor balconies or terraces integrated into the living space to allow the resident's easy access to the outside from anywhere in the house.  On the terrace here you can see the upper fresh water swimming pool.

At Fallingwater FLW used a lot of this terra cotta colored concrete. Strange choice I think. Maybe it was the Southwestern influence, but it doesn't seem to blend in with the colors of this environment. Grey, green, beige or gold would seem more natural, like the colors of the stones used throughout the house, inside and out. 

More Southwest influence?

The house is all angles and planes, including the furniture, with a heavy emphasis on the horizontal, which gives it a peaceful feeling. Although aesthetically pleasing to look at, the furniture inside doesn't look very comfortable.  Not contoured and cushy, but angular and flat.  Here's a little peek inside.

Here is where the natural rock that the house was built into meets the concrete. There are iron beams running horizontally into the rock to support the structure of the multi leveled building.

This is the lower fresh water pool.

From one of the upper balconies you can see into the living room, which has glass on five sides here. What looks like the floor of a green house here are a set of sliding windows covering the staircase that goes down to the stream running under the house. 

Here is where the staircase comes out. It was designed so that the owners, the Kaufmans, could dabble their feet in the very cold stream. The lower swimming pool is on the right of the picture. Water is obviously the central theme of the house, and to the left of this picture you can just see the waterfall dropping off just beyond the house windows and decks.

Below is one of the sets of floating stairs in the house.  There were several "floating" features, including the balconies and the roof over a covered walkway. These were accomplished with counterbalances, cantilevers and folded concrete. The house was actually not that stable, and has had a lot of problems with sinking and sagging and leaking, even when the Kaufman's were living in it.  The Fallingwater Foundation has invested a huge amount of money to restore and maintain the building.

Another of FLW's quirks was that he wouldn't build storage areas, like basements or attics, and he wouldn't build garages. Instead he invented the open air style carport (below). He also thought that the perfect human was 5'8" (his own height) and so all the rooms were built to that dimension, making them seem very low ceilinged for anyone any taller. 

Perhaps you can see the influence FLW architecture had on 20th century homes. Just think of all these "modern" homes in the 60s that looked a lot like the above view of the Fallingwater. 

Probably the best view of the house is the one you get after the tour, from the lookout across the river.  From here you get a sense of the verticalness of the house that you don't really see anywhere else.

We also visited another one of FLW's homes in the area - Kentuck Knob. 
I hope to get a post out about that soon too.