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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2014, 11:06 PM
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Empire State Plaza - Albany, New York

Empire State Plaza. What to say. Built between 1959 and 1976 at the request of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, this iconic, though highly criticized project was meant to make a bold statement, and intended to demand attention. The project used the cities of Brasilia, Versailles, and Chandigarh as models for his concept. At a cost of nearly 2 billion dollars, the plaza underwent major obstacles including the implementation of unrealistic schedules of completion, and poor working conditions that would later cause the state money through lawsuits. Many see Empire State Plaza as a poster child for urban renewal in this time period.

Controversy surrounded the plaza from the start due to not only its cost, size, and appearance, but most notably from its displacement of people. Nine thousand were displaced for its realization, mostly Jewish and Italian people. The construction began at a time of downtown Albany declining economically, with this urban renewal project expedited its decline.

The site is 98.5 acres, with 13,000 government employees. It is constructed using prominently Marble and Steel. The plaza rests on a six-story platform, a reflection of Rockefeller's idea of Architecture as sculpture. The plaza includes The Four Agency office buildings, The Mayor Erastus Corning Tower, The Egg theater, The Cultural education Center, The Robert Abrams Building, The Legislative Office Building, and the Swan Street Building. The Corning Tower is the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City at 179.6 meters and 44 stories. The Four Agency towers are 23 stories. At the North end of the plaza is the New York Capitol Building, completed in 1899.

These photos are from July of 2013, at the beginning of a road trip to some of eastern Canada which I will post in a week or two

Enjoy

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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2014, 11:11 PM
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cool photos but seems even weirder/more surreal in black & white
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2014, 11:26 PM
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It appears to be the hell to which that storied road paved with good intentions leads. I mean, you can see what was meant and with the benefit of hindsight, we can all see that it was just another grim swath of urban "renewal" that killed off the kinds of neighborhoods people fall over themselves to live and work in today. Same shit, different city, in other words.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2014, 1:04 AM
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I kind of like it. Good to have an example of this type of thing in the US, our Brasilia.
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 23, 2014, 7:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpongeG View Post
cool photos but seems even weirder/more surreal in black & white
I felt having them in B&W would add interest. I have the photos in color as well, but these looked much better

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Originally Posted by dc_denizen View Post
I kind of like it. Good to have an example of this type of thing in the US, our Brasilia.
I agree. Only difference is Brasilia didn't demolish any neighborhoods
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  #6  
Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 2:36 AM
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Nice pictures, and the black and white made it surreal.

I'm not a fan of this type of architecture, and especially at such a massive scale with that appears to be such a disconnection from the rest of the city. At least the capitol building was saved.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 10:15 AM
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It's certainly an interesting location, that's for sure. I guess I respect seeing this urban renewal taken to its ultimate conclusion, if even just as a warning of what not to do in he future. I tell you, something similar was tried here in Lansing, but it was half-@ssed, pieced together, and never finished, which seems even more an offense to what it replaced.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 3:03 PM
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Empire State Plaza is such a bizarre place. It's so surreal that if I hadn't been there myself, I wouldn't believe it existed.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 6:47 PM
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Nice thread. These shots lend Empire Plaza quite the dystopian vibe.
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  #10  
Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 9:24 PM
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I'm a pretty hardcore preservationist, and would never, ever be in favor of razing a neighborhood if such a thing was proposed today, BUT I have to say that the Plaza (including Egg, Library) has a certain charm. Very 1960s Americana...

Anything that's super typical of its era is architecturally worthy, IMO.

I'm familiar enough with Albany to be able to say that there are so many acres of the same types of rowhouses (of a varied, but still limited, number of architectural styles, so there are still many, many, many of each still standing) that the loss of a small number of blocks for the Plaza wasn't really such a catastrophe. The city has amazing bones, and I would even go as far as to say it could afford to trade a few typical blocks for something truly unique. Feels weird to say that, but it's still true. Especially considering that had the Plaza not been built, the pressure for state govt downtown office space would have definitely severely dented the supply of rowhouses in the core one way or another during the 1960s/1970s/1980s.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2014, 11:37 PM
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I like the B/W pics, makes more of an impact. Not that I'm a huge fan of the Plaza (kind of a tale of two cities), but there is a "futuristic" charm about the place. marcus, did you get up to the observation area atop the Corning Tower? Awesome views.
Thanks for the pics.
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Old Posted Feb 25, 2014, 2:12 PM
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Great pictures. It is sad what was lost, but lio45 rightly notes there's plenty of housing stock left, a lot of it in the crappier neighborhoods. Growing up in Albany, I assumed every city had a giant complex like the ESP, and only when I began to travel did I realize how truly unique it was.
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Old Posted Feb 25, 2014, 2:18 PM
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I think something is being lost in the explanation criticism of the plaza. It's not just the architecture. It could have replaced far less architecturally interesting stuff, and it still would have been a problem. Apart from the loss of historic structures is the loss of the street grid and just the general urban fabric of the inner-city.
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Old Posted Feb 25, 2014, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LMich View Post
I think something is being lost in the explanation criticism of the plaza. It's not just the architecture. It could have replaced far less architecturally interesting stuff, and it still would have been a problem. Apart from the loss of historic structures is the loss of the street grid and just the general urban fabric of the inner-city.
Whats wrong with what it is? I think it is a beautiful complex for a government business park.
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2014, 2:36 AM
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2014, 7:19 AM
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Apart from the loss of historic structures is the loss of the street grid and just the general urban fabric of the inner-city.
The street grid isn't really a big deal IMO. Madison, Swan, Eagle and State/Washington allows traffic to flow correctly around the Plaza (my observations of a few days in total driving around Albany...) The only "missing" streets are the smaller, neighborhood-level streets that would've been continuing (and that you can see on both sides of the Plaza: Hamilton, Hudson, etc.) but that through traffic wouldn't have been using anyway. It would've been local traffic only... for the rowhouses now gone.

The Plaza is actually a smaller hole in the street grid fabric than nearby Washington Park, and more or less on par with Lincoln Park. And no one says that breaking up the continous character and regularity of the street pattern is a valid reproach to make concerning the parks... (Would you even dream of saying that about NYC's Central Park?)

If you consider the whole thing (Plaza + Capitol) as the seat of the state govt, it's not abnormal that its very existence will be having an impact on the urban fabric of the city core, regardless of how it's done.

Unless you think it's preferable for the city to have all those white collars and their mini-Brasilia (or whatever the setup is for their office space, but in any case, it's going to occupy quite a bit of land) located far away from downtown...?
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2014, 2:10 PM
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Sinister. Dig it.
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Old Posted Feb 27, 2014, 12:24 AM
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Thanks guys

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance View Post
Great pictures. It is sad what was lost, but lio45 rightly notes there's plenty of housing stock left, a lot of it in the crappier neighborhoods. Growing up in Albany, I assumed every city had a giant complex like the ESP, and only when I began to travel did I realize how truly unique it was.
What's interesting is that while previously noted the types of neighborhoods demolished are highly valued today, but only in certain contexts. There are many examples of these types of neighborhoods in Albany, and they are not up to their full potential at all. In fact, some are really neglected.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Ithacan View Post
I like the B/W pics, makes more of an impact. Not that I'm a huge fan of the Plaza (kind of a tale of two cities), but there is a "futuristic" charm about the place. marcus, did you get up to the observation area atop the Corning Tower? Awesome views.
Thanks for the pics.
You know, upon creating this thread the other day is when I realized they even had an observation deck. I'm kicking myself for not doing the proper research beforehand!
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Old Posted Feb 27, 2014, 1:55 AM
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Excellent photos!
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  #20  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2014, 2:00 AM
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What's interesting is that while previously noted the types of neighborhoods demolished are highly valued today, but only in certain contexts. There are many examples of these types of neighborhoods in Albany, and they are not up to their full potential at all. In fact, some are really neglected.
I might do an Albany photothread soon, I'm going to be there on Monday/Tuesday.


Quote:
You know, upon creating this thread the other day is when I realized they even had an observation deck. I'm kicking myself for not doing the proper research beforehand!
Other SSPers have gone up there, give me a minute to find the threads and I'll link to them... better than nothing
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