Inhabiting the City

Above: Our new front door

On September 1, the Architectural League moved its offices from the Urban Center at 51st Street and Madison Avenue, our home for 29 years, to the sixth floor at 594 Broadway in Soho. We have moved to a new building and a new part of town—and an altogether different kind of New York experience. Midtown certainly has its attractions, and the beautiful Villard Houses themselves, home of the Urban Center, are one of the most significant. The League had three great decades there, and we are grateful to our friends and neighbors, the Municipal Art Society, for spearheading the creation of the Urban Center and sharing that beautiful building with us for all those years.

Our new neighborhood, the north end of Soho, and its main street, Broadway, pulse to a very different rhythm than Madison Avenue: quiet in the morning, when midtown is going to work, and crowded and intense from around noon until well into the evening. Lots of other things are different too, which we knew from spending time down here but didn’t feel until we moved in. You don’t see much red brick in midtown; here we are surrounded by it. The scale and grain of the buildings is much smaller, and the street level businesses—at least off of Broadway—are so much more variegated. The crowd on the street is a lot younger. The lunch choices are so much more interesting! We love our new space, and we are incredibly grateful to Newmark Knight Frank, our new landlord, for making it possible for us to move here.

You can accumulate a lot of stuff in 29 years, and we are still unpacking our boxes and settling in, with the fantastic help of Jason Andersen, Carrie Schulz and Jon Schramm, three recent Parsons architecture graduates and Design Workshop program veterans who are helping us adapt our furniture and shelving to our new office. We will invite you by for a visit as soon as the dust has really settled.

The League’s staff and board are very excited about the opportunity the move gives us to inhabit the city with our programs, and to experiment with new program formats. For many years, we have moved our Annual Meeting and Beaux Arts Ball to architecturally interesting places around the city, ranging from the Mink Building in Harlem to the Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO, from P.S. 1 to the Guggenheim. Recently we have greatly increased the number of tours we offer to significant building sites in the five boroughs. We like being out in the city, and we are going to be doing a lot more of it.

The 2009-2010 program season has already started with two great tours—at Peter Minuit Plaza and on Governors Island–related to Dutch design and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York. On Thursday, September 17, our big fall exhibition, Toward the Sentient City, will open at the Urban Center (yes, we will still have a few events at the Urban Center this fall). And please get your Metrocard ready so you can move around with us, to programs including Toward the Sentient City events in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn; Urban Omnibus events in Brooklyn and Staten Island; a Design in 5 charrette at the Noguchi Museum in Queens; and our flagship Current Work series in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

Our new website, beautifully designed by Red Antenna and produced for the League by Gregory Wessner, Varick Shute, and Reid Bingham, will tell you everything you need to know to keep up with all the League’s activities.

One last note, for now: Many of you have asked where Urban Center Books will move to when the Urban Center closes. Urban Center Books is owned by the Municipal Art Society, which will move out of the Urban Center sometime early next year. The MAS has not yet announced where the organization and the bookstore will be moving, but as soon as they do, we will let you know.

Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director