Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Positively 'Brooklyn Bucolic' at Flatbush's Landmark Subway Station

Photo by Tony Napoli
The Landmarked Avenue H Subway Station Gets a Touch of the Down Home with Architect/ Designer/Artist Ed Kopel's "Brooklyn Bucolic" winner of the 2007 Arts in Transit Award from the NYC Transit Authority. Of course, since "postmodernism" has become the new reality, the chairs, "ironically" (ouch) are rendered in Bronze and don't actually rock. But they are a pleasure to the eye, adding a further touch of country-ish charm to the quaint Avenue H subway house.



Artisans at Work: Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry
that rendered designer Ed Kopel's vision

From the Foundry's website: "Brooklyn Bucolic, Kopel’s installation, is inspired by the unique element of the station house’s front fa├žade: it’s wraparound porch. Seven fixed and brightly patinated bronze Shaker style rocking chairs in varying sizes able to accommodate children and adults, scatter the north and east side of the house. Each original rocking chair, slightly different than the next, were hand carved in maple by JP Parnas Woodworking out of Massachusetts. Molds were made of every chairs’ element, followed by waxes, and eventually they were cast in bronze. The subtle bend of the chairs’ profiles up to the detail of the wood texture and lattice woven seats translated beautifully into metal."

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Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn asked Mr. Kopel a question about this work and his thoughts on design:

Q: As an architect who is also an artist, is utility important in design?

Mr. Kopel responded: For me, there is no architecture without utility. But how does one define utility or, for that matter, function? Is something considered useful if it provokes a thought or a mood or is just pleasing to look at? I think so but I also think that good design is approachable, understandable, and directly applicable to our everyday lives. So called "paper architecture" may be useful in the academy and may be great design but is not, in my mind, architecture.

More on the foundry that rendered the work here and the designer, architect Ed Kopel here and the New York City Transit Authority's Arts for Transit and Urban Design website here

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SIDEBAR: Additional Reading and Background on the Avenue H Station:

Avenue H is a local station on the BMT Brighton Line of the New York City Subway. Located at Avenue H between East 15th and East 16th Streets on the border of Midwood and Flatbush, Brooklyn, it is served by the Q train at all times. Among the many pleasures of our family's move from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill in the late 1990s to Fiske Terrace is the wonderfully pronto, el rapido, subway service that we enjoy, ensuring relatively quick access to the rest of Brooklyn and Manhattan via the Q or B.

The Avenue H station was opened around 1900 as Fiske Terrace, a two-track surface station serving the new planned community of Fiske Terrace in Midwood, Brooklyn. The station house, also known as the headhouse, through which the station is entered, is a landmarked wood frame structure built in 1905 as a real estate office of the T.B. Ackerson Company to sell homes in the new community. It was converted to railroad use in 1907, at the same time that the station was renamed "Avenue H." The campuses of Brooklyn College and Midwood High School are nearby.


In 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to demolish the structure, citing its wood construction as a fire hazard. The community intervened, emphasizing the building's historic importance, architectural significance, connecting to the adjacent community and the fact that several other wooden station houses on the subway system had been given landmark status earlier.

The Old, Pre-Renovation Avenue H Station

On June 29, 2004, the station house was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. This allows renovations inside, but preserves the major structure and exterior. The contract to "restore the landmark station control house" as well as rehabilitation of the platforms and other stations structures was advertised for bids by the MTA for January 2007.

In designating it for Landmark Status, the Commission indicated: "The Avenue H station on the BMT line [...] is the city’s only shingled wooden cottage turned transit station house. Often compared to a country train stop, it originally served as a real estate sales office for developer Thomas Benton Ackerson to sell property in the adjacent neighborhood of Fiske Terrace, an early twentieth century example of planned suburban development. The structure, with a hipped and flared roof and wraparound porch, evokes in miniature the area’s Colonial Revival and Queen Anne houses. After nearly a century of commuter traffic, the Avenue H station remains in service and retains much historic fabric, from a corbelled chimney to peeled log porch columns. It is one of a very small number of wood-frame station houses surviving in the modern subway system, the only station adapted from a structure built for another function, and the only surviving station from Brooklyn’s once-extensive network of surface train lines, which had originally attracted Ackerson and numerous other developers to the area.

--Tony Napoli for Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

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