Art Imitating Life

by Don Friedman on March 11, 2019

The New York skyline augmented to be Gotham.*

Gotham City, where Batman resides, has been a funhouse-mirror reflection of New York for 80 years. Even the name is a reference to New York. Gotham is dark, with narrow alleys fronted by ornate (possibly over-ornate) tall buildings. The ledges and roofs of those buildings, of course, give Batman a place to stand and look down on the city.

There’s a TV show currently on the air called “Gotham” and it takes place roughly ten years before Bruce Wayne decides to become Batman. The simplest description of the show might be that it demonstrated how things got so bad in Gotham City that a vigilante like Batman could be accepted. If you’re a Batman fan, it’s an interesting show. If not, probably not. But regardless of your feelings about anti-heroes in tights, the sets are gorgeous. The interiors have the gothic-crossed-with-industrial-revolution feel of the comics books, but it’s the exteriors that really caught my eye. About half are carefully-selected New York street scenes and buildings, and the other half are the New York skyline augmented. By “augmented,” I mean that the art department on the show has carefully added taller and weirder buildings to New York’s already tall and weird skyline. They’ve added elevated trains to areas that only have subways. As a nice touch, they’ve added a lot of bridges between buildings, which was an architectural obsession circa 1900-1925.

We are proud to be part of the team working with Dunn Development to convert the former Building T – a tuberculosis hospital constructed in 1941 – to affordable housing. It’s a great building and it’s been drastically underused for years. During this period, some of the upper floors have been used for filing various TV shows. Since there’s nothing creepier than an abandoned hospital, it’s been used by “Gotham.” (Eventually I had to tie this paragraph to the rest of the post, right?) Specifically, portions of the upper floors served as an interior of Arkham Asylum, which is, in the Batman folklore, a very bad place to be locked up. Jimmy Chen, our intern engineer (and now in his last semester at City College) worked on our structural survey of Building T and has sharp eyes. He noticed that this shot of Detective Harvey Bullock of the Gotham City Police interviewing Oswald Cobblepot (also known as The Penguin) was in a room he’d seen before:

I’ve recognized in “Gotham” any number of backgrounds that I know, but I hadn’t identified any Building T shots.

* The stills of copyrighted material from the show are presented here under the fair use doctrine.

Lucy Moses Award: Child’s Restaurant, Coney Island

May 17, 2018

The last project we want to mention with regard to this year’s Lucy Moses Awards is Child’s Restaurant. It’s a New York City Landmark on the historic and just-landmarked Coney Island Boardwalk. It was designed in 1923 by Dennison & Hiron, in the Spanish Colonial Revival style with sea-creatures in the terra cotta details. Originally opened […]

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Lucy Moses Award: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

May 16, 2018

The church, completed circa 1837, was the first of the English-parish-style Gothic churches built in this country, and guided builders of other churches in this style. The land for the church was donated by Clement Clarke Moore, best known for his poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and St. Peter’s was the center of the […]

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Lucy Moses Award: Public Bath Number 7

May 15, 2018

Another Lucy Moses winner that Old Structures worked on is a gem of a building located at 227 Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. The building was completed in 1910 as Brooklyn’s Public Bath No. 7, and was described as being the most ornate public bath in the borough. The building is a City landmark, and is […]

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Lucy Moses Award: The Hadrian

May 14, 2018

Old Structures is proud to have worked on four projects that won Lucy Moses Awards last week. First up, the Hadrian, a 1903 apartment house at Broadway and 80th Street. (That picture is from 1910 and gives a good feeling what it looked like in the early years.) Most of the real-estate boom at the […]

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Under A Dramatic Sky

May 12, 2018

Work has begun.

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The Big Time

April 26, 2018

I missed the showing of “At the Corner of 3rd and 3rd,” a documentary about the Coignet Building. This is, to my knowledge, the first time a movie was made about a project we worked on. The picture above is – and I hope this is obvious – pre-restoration.

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Signs of the Times

March 10, 2018

We’re looking forward to the project start up.

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A Current Project In Miniature

December 13, 2017

Another picture from the Botanical Gardens train show: Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Our project there, to restore the masonry and the wood pavilions, has recently gone to contractors for bids and should be in construction soon. Belvedere is a unique structure, combining thick ashlar masonry walls, wrought-iron beams, and stone-slab floors. It was built […]

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An Old Project and a Missing Neighborhood

November 13, 2017

That’s the north ventilation tower of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, located on Battery Place in Manhattan. It’s basically an empty box, steel-framed and with a stone-face curtain wall. (It may or may not be the portal to a secret government agency.) You can’t see from this angle, but the tunnel approach is directly behind the building, […]

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