Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Boss and the Waterfront - 8/15

How the City Beautiful Almost Came to Albany

A Luncheon Talk by John Pipkin, Professor of Geography and Planning, University at Albany

The City Beautiful movement sprang up around the turn of the last century as an antidote to urban disorder and unplanned growth. Its key figure was Daniel Burnham, and in addition to monumental visions such as the McMillan Plan for Washington DC (1902) and the Chicago Plan (1909), it produced a wave of advocacy and innovation in cities large and small – including Albany.

Professor John Pipkin of the University at Albany will discuss the effort to introduce the City Beautiful to Albany at a luncheon Wednesday, August 15 at the National Register-listed University Club of Albany, 141 Washington Avenue at Dove Street. The buffet lunch will begin at 12:00 noon, with the presentation commencing at 12:15 p.m., followed by a question and answer period.

“The Delaware and Hudson Building, completed in 1918 at the foot of State Street hill in Albany, is the most visible reminder of a political struggle over the functions and meanings of public space,” said Dr. Pipkin. “The D&H was an unanticipated outcome of efforts by Republican boss William Barnes to clean up the river front in collusion the railroad companies. The primal struggle between the boss and his critics led to a political debacle. In the resolution, what had been a routine local exercise in graft metamorphosed into an encounter with the City Beautiful. Arnold Brunner (who had worked with Burnham) was hired and produced a plan with Charles Downing Lay, Studies for Albany, in 1914. The plan is a weak effort, but it served its primary purpose, to bestow on Barnes’s machinations the imprimatur of planning expertise and the aura of the City Beautiful.”

The D&H Building was designed by Barnes’ friend, prolific Albany architect Marcus T. Reynolds, whose command of his craft puts to shame the neoclassical orthodoxies of the City Beautiful. After a near brush with demolition in 1972, the building now houses the State University of New York’s central administration offices.

John Pipkin is Distinguished Service Professor of Geography and Planning and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, University at Albany. His interests are in urban design, urban planning, architectural symbolism, social geography, landscape history, and public space.

The cost for the luncheon and lecture is $25. Reservations are required and may be made by calling the University Club at 518-463-1151. The University Club Foundation, a 501c3 corporation, is presenting this event, which the public is invited to attend. The Foundation was formed to recognize and maintain the unique historic and architectural significance of the University Club building and property, its historic neighborhood and the city of Albany, where it has been located since its inception in 1901.

The U. Club is closed for summer break until 8/13- you may leave a message on the answering machine to RSVP for this luncheon and pay at the door. OR -- you may now register and prepay online with PayPal!!! Even if you don't have a PayPal account, click the button and use a credit or debit card as a Guest! Please choose the number of guests before you click BUY NOW.

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