by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP
It’s been nine years since openhousenewyork (OHNY) started making architecture more accessible to the public, and each year I eagerly anticipate the weekend. For me, it is not only exciting that buildings open their doors to the public, making NYC feel more welcoming and inviting, but it also gives me a chance to explore neighborhoods I do not usually visit. This year, I focused on West Harlem/ Hamilton Heights, touring Curtis + Ginsberg Architects’ PS90; taking the AIANY ENYA tour of the 135th Street Marine Transfer Station (site of the current ideas competition, The Harlem Edge | Cultivating Connections); exploring the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, by Ohlhausen DuBois Architects with WASA/Studio A and Harvey Marshall Berling Associates; and The Gadson Gallery, housed in a circa 1900 brownstone on W.134th Street. In walking from site to site, I passed through the City College campus, came across the relocated Hamilton Grange, and strolled along Convent Avenue. It is events like OHNY that allow me to slow down and really appreciate the city.
My biggest criticism of OHNY is that this year the organization introduced a $5 fee for some of the walking tours, in addition to the OHNY Passport (for a $150 donation, individuals can cut lines at popular sites). I understand the need for funding, especially in these economic times, but by requiring donations the spirit of OHNY changes. It no longer provides an accessible environment for open exploration. Granted, $5 is not a large sum of money, and volunteers have the same privilege as OHNY Passport holders, but I hope that next year the organization is able to find alternate ways to raise money, whether it’s through selling merchandise or by finding more sponsors. Or perhaps OHNY will be able to take Open House London’s lead and advocate for government funding. This is an important event for architecture and NYC, and I hope that more organizations show thier support.