25 October 2006

Happy 75th Birthday to the Architectural Emblem of My Parents' Divorce

From the time I was six to just about when I left for college, every other weekend started and ended with a trip across the George Washington Bridge. Sure, we used it for other things - trips into the city, namely - but it'll always really be the centerpiece of the drive from my mom's house in Rockland to my dad's place in Queens. It's not a fraught symbol or anything - when your parents get divorced that early on, at least for me, it's mostly just a fact of life. (I don't understand the home lives of my friends whose parents are still married.) And the GW is a beautiful bridge. Le Corbusier, via Wikipedia:

The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apron; the second tower is very far away; innumerable vertical cables, gleaming against the sky, are suspended from the magisterial curve which swings down and then up. The rose-colored towers of New York appear, a vision whose harshness is mitigated by distance." (When the Cathedrals were White, 1947.)

Where Corbusier seems enamored of the grace of the suspension cables, it's the open steel lattice for me. It always seemed so much more interesting than the covered-up Whitestone or Throgs Neck bridges, the sort of structure that an eight year old on a car ride can lose her imagination in for a bit. (Speaking of imagination, when I was very little, we lived in Queens, practically under the Throgs Neck, and it wasn't until several years after leaving the city that I learned it wasn't called the Frog's Neck bridge, and my bafflement at naming a bridge after Kermit's neck (I swear) was misplaced.) Now, when I drive over the bridge, usually with my mother driving me home after a dinner or day or weekend at her place, I always catch myself craning to see under or over the railing on the right, to pick out buildings in the line-up just south of Central Park - there's where James works, there's the Hearst building that went up the year I worked across the street. Last time my mom drove me home over the bridge, I watched the island through the railing and said, "I live there." And my mom said, "You say that every time."

3 comments:

Jeremy said...

And it's in my backyard! wOOt!

John said...

So that's why it was lit up last night...'twas gorgeous. My favorite bridge. I once fell for a guy because of it, but he, like all the rest, broke my heart. I'll tell you about it sometime.

M. Alice said...

i grew up in rockland, too... hell of a place...

archives