Last weekend I had the chance to attend a couple of events at Open House New York (OHNY), a weekend long series of events that celebrate the built environment of New York City. Based on the original success of its predecessor Open House London, OHNY has been a huge success in educating the public about culturally and historically significant spaces and places in the built environment.
All weekend there are a large number of events, from exhibitions, visits and tours of design studios and historic sites, with some famous designers and architects opening their own homes to the public for a limited number of hours. While most events require a reservation, plenty of events are also free.
I was able to attend three events this weekend, two guided tours through parts of the city and a self guided tour along an abandoned railyard that will soon be converted into the newest portion of a public park.
Fading Ads of New York City (Chelsea) Tour
The first event on my weekend agenda was the Fading Ads tour in the Chelsea neighborhood of the city. While the tour area designated was Chelsea, it also stretched into the Flatiron district just north of it as well. Frank Jump, who does research on the ads and has written a book on the subject.
I’ve always been a fan of vintage typography and signage, and this tour certainly gave me the chance to see the city with a new perspective. The ads have a certain mystery to them, and proudly bear stories of times gone by above the street, holding them in reverence above the streets.
After the tour, we also had the chance to speak with Frank about his research on the ads and purchase a copy of his book, which he graciously signed too!
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces Tour
This tour was an interesting take on the contemporary history of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. What was once a dangerous area has now become an extremely liveable and community-oriented neighborhood thanks to its committed residents, who by their own efforts had started and are continuing to reshape it.
The tour took us through the community gardens and apartment buildings that were once abandoned spaces and are now bustling centers of activity full of life, culture, and arts.
A Walk on the High Line Phase 3
Since its opening in Summer of 2011, the High Line park has become famous and can usually be found swarming with visitors during particularly pleasant days. The next phase of the park is set to start construction soon, and this self-guided tour was a chance to walk through the raw terrain for the last time before it is closed off.
There was definitely something hauntingly beautiful about the rail yards, as they’re called. The once active railways are now being overtaken by greenery and foliage, and the result is an almost perfect example of a true, urban landscape. The weather was a little damp that day, but the walk was definitely the highlight of my weekend.
I was definitely interested in seeing more places and possibly attending more tours, but due to limited time and the popularity of some events, reservations were sold out rather quickly. The only thing I would have wanted was that it lasted more than just a weekend!
All images by Renee Alfonso.