Rolling Back The Clock


Ever played that game where you imagine you could go back in time to some watershed moment in your life and make a choice that would instigate a dramtically different outcome? I do it all the time. Lately the theme has been work related for pretty transparent reasons. If I found myself poised on the threshhold of college life again, I’d choose architecture in a nanosecond.

This weekend HCB and I were in Lake Placid for the Can/Am Hockey Tournament on account of a particular young man, not for the first time. In some ways I find the built environment of the town a reminder of better days, and this is absolutely true of the 1980 Olympic rink where the U.S. Hockey team made history. Sitting there for Saturday’s first game reminded me of the times I have been at American Ballet Theatre’s lovely old neoclassical building at 890 Broadway in NYC for teacher training: important things have happened there, and I can feel that. But each of these facilities has seen better days.

That’s where the metaphor falls apart, though. 890 Broadway possesses soul and a depth of character that the Herb Brooks Arena lacks. Is the building’s age the thing? Maybe, but also a softness in its design I think, like the difference between old and new cartoons–call it the Warner Bros. factor. Scooby rocks, but he can’t hold a candle to Porky.

Saturday’s second game was in the 1932 rink (the Jack Shea Arena) down a long, connecting corridor. I love the lines and geometry of that space. It is a more intimate rink than its massive cousin, imposing nonetheless. Also, I am a sucker for curvilinear structure, and the ribbed cathedral-style ceiling of the Jack Shea Arena has it in spades. (Look at 890 Broadway’s facade!)


890 Broadway


Beauty is also in the details, here in the concrete joinery. And the concrete itself sparkles, with tiny pieces of what? I have no idea. I do know that the composition of concrete has changed through the years, and if anybody out there can tell me what I am seeing, I’d love to hear from you. I assume that the concrete structure of this building has remained more or less unchanged since it was built (not so the seating, now red plastic stadium chairs, remarkable only because they are misnumbered like crazy–a sure sign they were repurposed from elsewhere).



Tomorrow morning I still won’t be an architect, but I will always enjoy studying what we build to shelter us as we sleep and eat and work and play, and how we design and build it in a particular way, and why. What would you do with your life if you could start again?


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