life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, April 26, 2015


What do the following buildings all have in common?

Radio City Music Hall, NYC
United States Embassy, New Delhi, India
World Trade Center of New Orleans, Louisiana
State University of New York at Albany
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC
Busch Memorial Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee

They were all designed by the noted architect Edward Durell Stone.

Why is this of interest to me?

Well, aside from recent visits to MoMA and Radio City, I am a SUNY Albany alum, graduated from that fine institution in May 1981.  I first heard Stone's name in the fall of 1978, when the ASP (the Albany Student Press) ran his obituary.

The campus architecture was one of the reasons I chose Albany instead of another school in the SUNY system. Modern, almost futuristic, inspiring.

To quote Wikipedia:

Designed in 1961-1962 by noted American architect Edward Durell Stone and constructed from 1963-1964, the campus bears Stone's signature style of bold unified design, expressed by its towers, domes, fountains, soaring colonnades and sweeping canopy.

The campus exemplifies the style Stone used in his major projects between 1953 and 1970, including the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India; the Hotel Phoenicia in Beirut, Lebanon; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; 2 Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York; and the Aon Center, originally the Standard Oil Building, in Chicago. The campus was a filming location for the 1981 movie Rollover with Kris Kristofferson and Jane Fonda because of the resemblance to modern Middle Eastern architecture.

At the hub of the Uptown Campus is the rectangular "Academic Podium," featuring 13 three-story buildings under a single overhanging canopy roof. The Podium's showpiece is a central pool with fountains and an off-center circular bell tower, or "Carillon", which also serves as a water storage reservoir.

The domed Main Library, the Performing Arts Center, and Campus Center face the pool from the west, east and south, respectively. To the north is a grand entrance, which welcomes visitors by way of a "great lawn" (Collins Circle) and the University's Entry Plaza. Four residential quadrangles are located adjacent to the four corners of the academic podium. Each quad consists of a 23-story high-rise dormitory surrounded by a square of low-rise buildings.,_SUNY#Notable_alumni_and_faculty

And yes, I was there when the movie was filmed. Spring 1981. They also filmed in downtown Albany, at the State Legislative Office Building. 

To give you an idea of the magnificence of the architecture, here are a few photos of the campus:

"Uptown Campus" by UAlbany - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.  

"University at Albany Fountain - Project Renderings" by UAlbany - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

"UAlbany Podium" by UAlbany - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

That fountain, by the way, is about knee-deep.  Since the fountain is in the middle of the academic podium, in nice weather the students hang out at the fountain between classes, and often wade in the water.

But that column and canopy system...Stone designed it to protect students from rain or snow when they walked from one academic building to the other.  What happened, however, was that the column structure became a wind tunnel -- great during a hot, humid summer day, but not good in the harsh Albany winter.  And the stark white walls can seem gray and depressing in January. 

Urban legend, clearly untrue but firmly believed by almost every SUNY Albany student, was that Stone designed the campus for a warmer climate, like Arizona or South Carolina.  When Stone died, the joke was "He went to Hell, because he always did design for a warmer climate."

Want to learn more about SUNY Albany's architecture?  Read about it here. There's a great video, and you can see many more photos here.

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