LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Sitting in a coffee shop listening to a relative stranger tell her story, I was hooked. The story was the pivot of all pivots in a time when chaos ruled, and a virus had shut down life and seemingly hope… well not entirely. Everyone around the world suddenly reevaluating what their life’s purpose was, and then we cut to a family of three, a Uhaul and some hard decision to make in early March 2020. This is the story of a dream, upheaval, transition, and excellence in a period of a mere few months. Gives us pause for a little food for thought in this July edition of KARJAKA New York graced by the journey of Chef Jessica Masanotti.
Also featuring this rag tag crew as Kevin gets dirty with charcoal, Amanda grabs coffee, Kat messes with Met facades, Jeff illuminates in fashion verse, Alisha dumps the luggage, Craig talks LSD, and Nikki V drives it home with a playlist for your delectable delights.
Dig in and satiate yourself with KARJAKA.
Food For Thought
“Tell me about your restaurant experience”
“Well…I have none, but I have this feeling that I’ll be really good at this & I’m a super positive person, so I will smile every day. I thrive under pressure and want to have a chance to prove it.”
This interaction and conversation with the Head Chef and General Manager at North Miznon began the most beautiful, chaotic and dream-come-true adventures of my lifetime.
Back in 2006, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, my love for food and cooking began when I was 22. At the time, I found myself as a recent college grad and newlywed who only knew how to “cook” two things – scrambled eggs and “zhuzhed up” ramen from the packet. I wanted to learn how to cook and my path began with a little “Julia/Julia” experiment of my own. I cooked a different recipe almost every day for 6 months. There were SO many disasters but at the heart of it all, I grew in love with the process of cooking.
My interest became more of a beautiful obsession as I found myself reading cookbooks cover to cover like trashy romance novels. Any free moment, I was in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, eating any and all types of food, curating trip itineraries based on exciting restaurants and food experiences. I took all the cooking classes available in Charlotte, NC, from knife skills to pie baking to Southern classics and more.
In 2015 I was a Marketing Director/Graphic Designer by day, but at night, I entered the social media world first at Lovely Huckleberry and then The Freckled Fork. I became involved in any and all food experiences I could find. I started putting myself out in the world as a home cook, hosting dinner parties, catering small scale events and attending Charlotte Food Blogger restaurant events.
The more and more I did, the stronger I felt…in my bones…that I was meant to do this on a grander scale. I loved my career as a designer, but I had this deep rooted love growing inside of me for food, the culture and the community. I knew that I was designed to be a connector of people through food, and I wanted to start pursuing that passion on a grander scale.
Early in 2019, my dear friend Kriska and I started hosting pop-up dinner parties featuring 4-course curated menus and drink pairings. We connected people from all over Charlotte, providing this amazing dining experience where strangers became friends. I knew it was time. It was time to take the leap and risk it all to change careers and pursue cooking on a professional level.
Sure, it might have been easier to take that leap in Charlotte, surrounded by our closest family and friends and our enormously supportive community. However I knew myself and knew that I wouldn’t jump “all in” with that safety net. I needed to do this for myself and by myself. I talked it over with my husband and he agreed to take this leap with me. We sold all of our things, home, cars, etc., in March 2020 to move to New York City.
March 2020. Does anyone remember that month?
Covid hit and we found ourselves sitting in a Uhaul with our 4yr. old and all of our possessions, debating whether we should enter the epicenter of the pandemic. We held off, moved in with my parents in Columbia, SC, for about 7 weeks. Finally, the first week of May 2020, we packed up our belongings (again) and moved to the city.
Due to the pandemic and the catastrophic effect on the restaurant industry in particular, my dream of working in a restaurant was delayed for about a year. Finally in January 2021, I was hired as a private chef for a wonderful company, Meal Prep Chef. Each week, I curated customized dinners and meal plans for 5-6 clients. Through that experience, I learned so much about cooking, how to pivot, how to portion and order food, etc. One day, a fellow Meal Prep Chef, Zikki, invited me to help her with a catering event. I did, we clicked in a big way, and she invited me to interview the very next week with her chef at the restaurant where she also worked.
I entered North Miznon on the Upper West Side, interviewed with Chef Victor and General Manager Itamar (see first line for how that conversation went down…wink) and they invited me to join their kitchen as a line cook.
I came in on the first day in October 2021 with notebook and sharpie in hand. I wrote down every. single. thing. I soaked it all up and all at once, I became overwhelmed with the feeling that my dream was slowly coming true. From my first day on the line, I battled. I showed up every moment I could, I asked questions, I entrenched myself on the line to understand everything. I bought bags of onions and carrots on my days-off to practice my knife skills, to get faster, more efficient. I was hungry for more and more. I absolutely loved every minute of it (and still do!), even the hardest services where I found myself with full tickets, running behind on focaccias and oh shit, I just cut my finger or burned my arm in the oven..these moments and more, gave me life.
For 6 months, I worked hard and in April 2022, I was promoted to the full time position of Sous Chef. This was an incredibly happy and bittersweet moment for me. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time, I was moving up and trusted so much by my Chef and my kitchen family. In all the happiness and validation, it also meant my already limited time with my husband and daughter would be even less. It meant I would need to leave my personal chef job. It meant even harder work and higher stakes. With all of that, I knew I wanted and needed to keep pushing forward and further. I was peeling back layer and layer of who I USED TO BE to discover the woman I was MEANT TO BE.
This position and this job required a great amount of pivoting and flexibility…not just from me, but from my family. I knew that this wouldn’t be forever and had hoped that for THIS season, we could sacrifice together and make it work…the 5 night-per-week shifts, the late nights, the parts where all I could and would talk about (annoyingly, I’m sure) was the restaurant, the food, the life.
Despite the challenges and losses along the way, within my family and within myself (including breaking my ankle which forced me to take an excruciating 2-month hiatus to heal), I grew stronger and more determined. Sometimes you have to burn shit to the ground in order for something new, something better to have space to grow. I think that may be the prescribed burn concept that farmers use to clear out the old and make space for new growth…and that might be what I did. And man, did the new growth come.
In May of 2023, I officially became Head Chef of North Miznon. With the full support of my family, friends, my kitchen team and my colleagues, I stepped up to the challenge of building on the wonderful foundation set before me and continue to grow North into a truly special place where diners can come and for a moment, feel like they are seen, that they belong and have a place at our table in New York City.
It’s beautiful, it’s stressful, it’s chaotic and I am exactly where I was meant to be for this season of life. I see the woman I am becoming and I am proud of her. I pinch myself every day when I think about this amazing journey of going from “couch to Chef” in a year and a half. This dream is being realized and I am so happy. I hope when my daughter looks at me now or looks back when she’s older and thinks about me, she sees what passion, hard work and determination can get you in the midst of the seemingly impossible. That sometimes in life, we have to make choices and decisions that might not be popular, but in the end, are for the better. I am a mother. I am a co-parent. I am a chef. And hopefully, I am better.
Somewhere along the way I find
contentment beside the
couple at the café, happily dazed in marital
stupor, contemplating their thousandth crossword,
the epic 9-letter author,
minimalist piano composition…
Counting down minutes and refills behind the painted window, |
6-letter word for gong,
blond moment when I realize
that a repeat sign is the only appropriate formal tendency among friends,
And while you process the completion of another row,
repeating the tenth chord of Wed
until 42 across doesn’t align with Uruguay,
I begin to understand that electing my barista and listening to 70s folk pop
Could be the most logical solution to date. – ADB
The pairing of food and music is a partnership for the ages. Classical composers like Mozart wrote music specifically intended to be what we would come to call “dinner music”. Entertainment and dining were synonymous with each other; Royalty and the uber wealthy would have in-house minstrels and orchestras, on call and tuned up and ready to crank out hits for whatever decadent feast was being prepared. Think about it…eating in complete silence just hits different, and not in the good way, like Sprite from the McDonalds fountain as opposed to the can. There have been very few instances where I’ve enjoyed a meal without accompaniment of some kind, from the dollar slice corner joint blasting EDM at 1am, to the authentic Mexican taqueria and their abuelita’s staticky AM/FM radio blaring mariachi music, to the ever-upscale Michaelin starred Alinea or Per Se playing delicate contemporary tunes. Music and food go together like peanut butter and jelly…so let’s make some sandwiches.
Let’s get some science out of the way and talk pitch. Pitch has been proven to affect the way we taste. A study published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that “listening to a lower-pitched soundscape can help to emphasize the bitter notes in a bittersweet toffee while listening to a soundscape with a higher pitch tends to bring out its sweetness”. The study published by Crisinel & Spence was mostly rooted in synesthesia, the phenomenon where your senses are intertwined. Translated from Greek, it means “perceive together”. People with synesthesia associate words or sounds with colors or numbers, even smells. For example, you may hear the name “Ryan” and visualize the color purple, or see a square and associate it with the smell of gardenia. In this particular study, “participants in the experiment reported here also chose the type of musical instrument most appropriate for each taste/flavor. The association of sweet and sour tastes to high-pitched notes was confirmed. By contrast, umami and bitter tastes were preferentially matched to low-pitched notes”. That could explain why certain music akin to Ariana Grade and Mariah Carey is played at ice cream shops. I remember working at a Cold Stone Creamery in high school, which was the only job I was ever required to “audition” for, singing a few lines of The Beatles “Hold Me Tight” to prove I could carry a tune for tips. Now every time I hear “Freedom” by Wham!, I can’t help but smell the sugar cones baking on the waffle iron. In fact, I think I got a cavity just thinking about it. The tempo of music can also affect the pace at which you eat. Every morning I line up my daily queue of podcasts to listen to while I eat my breakfast. One day, I noticed that I had quite literally vacuumed up my omelet and was feeling a little sick. Then I remembered that I listen to my podcasts at 1.5 speed (because she’s an efficient queen with a thirst for knowledge, baby) which could be the reason I ate my eggs like Joey Chestnut at the Coney Island hot dog eating contest on a regular shmegular Tuesday. So instead of listening to Dream Theater while having dinner, I generally opt for something a little less chaotic like the romantic cooing of Bruno Major.
Restaurants will usually choose their music based on this principle as well; It’s all about ambiance and atmosphere, and music is a huge part of a restaurant’s identity. In the 1920’s the jukebox gained popularity in restaurants and soda jerks, incentivising patrons to stay longer and spend more money to hear the music they handpicked, but their popularity didn’t come without contempt. In Jan Whittaker’s article on music in restaurants, “adults shunned these cafes, and neighbors complained about loudness. Fights broke out over musical selections. The jukebox took on associations of low life”. The classic image of that lovable degenerate The Fonz of Happy Days’ fame wasn’t too far off…these kids and their rock n’ roll music were corrupting America one establishment at a time, making way for the more controlled, family-friendly (and arguably more boring) Muzak. Now, Muzak is “The World’s #1 Music Provider”, boasting an excess of 500k corporate clients. There are also some restaurants that cater specifically to the taste of their staff, which tends to blend with that of their patrons. Peter Meehan of the New York Times said of Babbo, “regulars [at Babbo] are accustomed to having plates of black spaghetti with rock shrimp served with an audible side of whatever Mario Batali likes, as loud as he likes, whenever he likes”. Restaurateur Danny Meyer finds the music in restaurants to be a vital organ, saying, “Just like I wouldn’t outsource one of my restaurants’ wine lists, I would never outsource the music”.
Whether you’ve got an artfully curated playlist of dinner songs ready for your next gathering or you’re just going to let someone else play Aux Cord Lord, there’s no denying that music has a tremendous part to play in setting the vibe in relation to food. A wedding guest will always remember the food and the music; If one of those sucks, you’ve got yourself a pretty shitty wedding, despite the couple’s undying love for each other and the $8k they might have spent on flowers alone. A sad salad under fluorescent lights at your corporate desk can feel like a king’s feast with the right soundtrack. And speaking of soundtracks, whoever was in charge of music for season 2 of The Bear needs a serious raise, because when I heard Liz Phair “Supernova” during the finale, I said to myself, “damn I’d eat there if it was a real restaurant”. Now as you know (and hopefully have come to love), there will be a playlist to go along with this article. Every single song either has food names in the title or has something to do with eating. Get yourself something delicious, prepare those utensils, and press play. Hope you’re ready to chow down…bon appetit, friends. -NV
Nicole is Sr. Manager, New Release Content at Warner Music Group. She lives in Jersey City, NJ and loves Oreos, puppies, and the smell of laundry.
“I’m talkin’ fear, fear of losin’ creativity
I’m talkin’ fear, fear of missin’ out on you and me
I’m talkin’ fear, fear of losin’ loyalty from pride
‘Cause my DNA won’t let me involve in the light of God
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that my humbleness is gone
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that love ain’t livin’ here no more
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that it’s wickedness or weakness”Kendrick Lamar
Verse One: exploitation
The fashion game, It’s deep. It’s complex. And when we talk about the struggles faced by people of color, it hits even harder. Let’s keep it real. In this industry, it often feels like (Poc) only gets one shot to make it, while our white counterparts can stumble, fall, and rise again like it’s no big deal. In examining the exploitative nature of the fashion system and the limited chances for people of color, I cannot escape the undeniable lived realities that many have experienced. The fashion industry, built upon the backs of marginalized communities, has long perpetuated a cycle of systemic bias, violence and inequality. This bias can be attributed, in part, to the scarcity of opportunities and the limited representation of people of color in positions of power within fashion. Those who hold the reins of influence—the executives, the designers, the gatekeepers—have predominantly hailed from white backgrounds.
Verse Two: the Tribe
I want you to understand something. You are not meant to fit into anyone else’s mold. You were designed to stand out, to bring something unique to the table. Don’t intentionally or unintentionally dim your light to conform to their expectations. Finding your niche is like unlocking a treasure chest of endless possibilities. It’s about tapping into your passions, your interests, and infusing them into your creative expression. Whether it’s streetwear, couture, or a fusion of cultures, your authenticity is your superpower.. It’s your secret weapon, the magnet that attracts opportunities and like-minded souls. When you stay true to yourself, you become a beacon of inspiration for others. Your unique voice, your story, and your experiences are what make you unstoppable. Surround yourself with those who uplift and inspire you. Build a community that fuels your ambition and celebrates your wins. And don’t forget to pay it forward. Lift others up, mentor the next generation, and create a ripple effect of empowerment in the fashion world.
Verse Three: The Tapestry
In the tapestry of life, we discover our most authentic self, a blend of different parts that make us unique. It’s like a colorful tapestry, with no one thing defining us completely. It’s the combination of experiences and elements that shape us every single day. From the core of our being to the light in our eyes. Life has this weird, maybe sometimes cruel way of shaping us, just like brushstrokes on a canvas. Big moments and small ones all leave their mark on us, like scars that tell our story. The whispers of inspiration and the soundtrack to our life guide us. Friendships and challenges plant seeds of truth within us, while the lessons we learn and the wisdom we gain seep into our very being. We’re constantly evolving, you’re constantly evolving. An ever-evolving canvas, curated by the art of life
Yet, within the masterpiece of life, there are false stories that can distort our view and cast self imposed shadows on our path. We possess the power to be architects of change, empowered to break free from illusions and unlock our destined path.Within this performance, we dance, composing our own lyrics and embracing the harmony of what feels right. Our triumphant melody should echo as we conquer every fear. – JK
Jeff Karly Drouillard is a Haitian-American multifaceted creative with many talents that allow him to affect different spaces of fashion. As a Creative Director, he brings his unique perspective to his independent fashion brand Unique Expozzure, while also working with well-known brands such as Baron & Baron, Alice & Olivia, Coach, Zegna, and more. As an Educator holding two Master’s Degrees in Strategy Design and Fashion Management from Parsons School of Design, he shares his knowledge and passion with students in the BFA Fashion Design, MPS Fashion Management, and MFA Fashion Design and Society programs at Parsons and GCNYC. As a storyteller, Jeff is also a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, The Fashion Policy Council, and the co-founder of a mentorship program that focu- ses on access and the college admissions pipeline, which disproportionately affects students of color. His capstone work “I am creative too: An Intersectional Approach to Understanding the Cost of Racism in Fashion” was just a starting point. He has been featured in various publications such as WWD, CFDA’s Future Fashion Designer Showcase, Creatively, and Fashion United.
In the ever-present world of “bio-hacking” and looking for the magic pill, there are claims of all sorts of substances that can mitigate certain human conditions and enhance a multitude of human performance measures. As much as I’d love to say Bradley Cooper’s metamorphosis in “Limitless” is a true story, there is yet to be an invention that can come anywhere close to the do-it-all genius pill his character was nearly killed for.
Being able to improve one’s brain processing speed and expanding the bounds the mind can eclipse have each long been part of modern and ancient culture. For thousands of years, Native Americans have used peyote for its religious ceremonies with its strong hallucinogenic attributes. Indigenous South Americans have been using ayahuasca for at least 1,000 years and its hallucinogenic properties have been well documented.
Psychedelics, such as early LSD-like alkaloids and psilocin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms better known as psilocybin now) have been traced back to Greek/Roman and Incan traditions.
And although these compounds above have been linked to religious or spiritual ceremonies, they are often believed to open the minds of the users and tap into regions of the brain previously untouched. Chasing an edge in the ability to think beyond what we currently think is capable is nothing new.
So while the above substances have been deemed (on the extreme end) dangerous in some societies and (on the more liberal end) risky in other societies, are there safer more ubiquitous sources of brain expanding foods and supplements out there?
Unfortunately there is no “Limitless”/panacea pill out there (despite assertions to the contrary), but there seems to be some specific sources that can help to improve a host of abilities. Cognitive enrichment compounds have been studied for a long time and there seems to be some foods/nutrients/supplements that can make a case for providing brain boosting benefits (say that 3 times…)
Can certain diet choices help to lead to some positive brain stimulating effects? Experts think so. Specifically, spices such as curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) can decrease anxiety by lowering inflammation and thus protect the brain. Saffron has anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic and anti-Alzheimer’s components and can even combat depression. Pretty cool.
There is a school of thought that the enteric nervous system (the gastrointestinal tract) is our bodies’ “little brain”. A happy gut micro biome can impact our brains’ effectiveness. Thus, many fermented foods can help lay good gut bacteria in our micro biome and help to make even better food choices moving forward. Kombucha, sauerkraut and certain Greek yogurts have shown powerful results. I make a homemade yogurt that I gently heat for 36 hours with 3 particular probiotics that exponentially replicate due to the long duration of heating. All my girls and I are currently eating it everyday after we’ve all had a bout with antibiotics given to us to proactively fight possible Lyme disease (and in my case a sinus infection).
Dark chocolate has flavonoids (used, among other things to produce more glutathione—the “liver antioxidant”) and other antioxidants. Avocados contain large amounts of magnesium to ward off depression. Walnuts, pecans and pistachios are some of the better nuts to choose from due to higher concentrations of omega 3 fats (macadamia—my favorite— is 4th).
Eggs contain choline. Choline increases memory retention and reduces inflammation. Eggs also contain tryptophan—an amino acid that is a key player in protein synthesis. And yes tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep as well as a host of other functions. Sleep needed for memory retention and processing of ideas.
And leafy greens contain vitamin E, flavonoids and folate. Folate is intricate in red blood cell formation and is significant in neurotransmitter function.
Other sources of potent cognitive benefits come in the form of supplements such as alpha GPC, creatine and certain racetams. While the first two alpha GPC and creatine have no side effects, racetams should be taken with caution.
And remember that just pumping the body full of the above list is only part of the equation. Sufficient sleep and exercise are needed to balance the body and utilize the above calories. Small intermissions of little breaks and/or meditation can give the body much needed moments of rest in between work sessions.
Stop multitasking. Singular jobs will support clearer thinking habits. It’s harder said than done, but creating an environment that is conducive to less distractions will beget more efficient creative and thinking patterns. So resist responding to texts and messages on your phone during projects or put your phone in another room altogether (airplane mode is a good one too).
Ultimately, the benefits of the aforementioned food and supplemental choices need to be complemented with healthy lifestyle choices as well. We don’t necessarily need to hallucinate to have transcendental thoughts to become smarter overnight. A healthy food selection paired with optimal sleep and exercise should be enough.
So although there is no one “Limitless” pill your doctor can give you to make your entire life better, many combinations of the above foods coupled with those healthy life style choices can synergistically compile a “pill: pretty damn close to being limitless. – CT
Have you ever wondered how some people book basic economy tickets and *actually* manage to survive off just a small backpack (for domestic) or a carry-on (for longer & international trips)? They just grab their things and waltz off the plane, past the baggage claim, off they go. How can these people fit their skin care routine, hiking shoes and also swimwear into a backpack? You are envious of them saving money and time, by not paying for luggage and not having to wait to pick it up? Then this article might just be the food for thought you needed to rethink your packing habits and make your next trip hassle free.
When we think about planning a week-long trip, we immediately assume we will need to factor in a suitcase (for some people, this also applies for just a long weekend trip but let us not be like those people). It seems that besides very travel experienced folks, anything longer than 5 days feels daunting for most to survive without a full suitcase. It makes sense – in the good ol’ days every airline had free luggage. Nowadays, almost no Economy class (except a few higher-end airlines) offers free luggage. Besides increasing prices to add a suitcase per flight (so times two, unless you are planning to lose your suitcase halfway through your vacation), the time you spend waiting at baggage claim plus the fun pang of anxiety that your luggage might be lost because it is taking forever, there is really nothing convenient about hauling around a large suitcase. And let’s be honest – do we really need 5 dresses, 9 shirts and 4 pairs of sneakers? Some might say yes, but in reality we more often than not bring unworn clothing items back home.
So the real question is – how to pack smarter and lighter. From personal experience, I know I can manage to get away with a personal item (small backpack/duffle bag) for a long weekend, and a big carry-on backpack for 5-9 day trip to Europe or South America, with varying climates.
Let’s start with the largest and often bulkiest items – shoes. There is some savvy footwear out there! You can get waterproof sneakers that can double for city walks or light hikes, as well as if it rains (works perfectly in humid rainy settings like Costa Rica). If you are planning on a day trip hike, some outdoor brands make hiking sneakers that take up a tad more space than sneakers but a lot less than hiking boots (obviously if you are going on a real Alpine hiking trip, you are better off investing in those and bringing serious hiking gear!). I bought some a few years ago before heading to Maui and they have proven a life saver – be it in the desert of Arizona, the jungle in Puerto Rico or the glacier in Patagonia. Besides stable walking shoes, and fashionable sneakers you wear on the plane, a pair of sandals for hot climate, or a pair of winter boots for cold (which you can wear on the plane instead to save space) is a good start. If you have space left, feel free to add more.
The second most asked question is about make-up and toiletries. There are several small pouches, containers and mini sizes of products you can buy which are TSA approved. I fill my expensive shampoo and conditioner in pouches. I take my day and night cream and fill a little bit of each into small round containers; and so on. Nobody needs a full size hair gel or skin product for a week of travel (a full size lasts MONTHS so think about how much you are really going to use). Everyone has different priorities on how many items they need, but traveling light does mean you will have to compromise on some ends, so be prepared to not bring your whole closet with you. If you rather have three hairbrushes and a curling iron, forgo a pair of jeans and a purse. If you’ll be in the water a lot and need extra swimwear, pack less hair styling products (don’t need those in the ocean anyways). You get the point.
Lastly, clothes and accessories are worth prioritizing by the likelihood of you needing them or the plans you have. If I am in a hotel or Airbnb, 99% of the time there will be towels. If you are not sure, always doublecheck before packing. If you are staying at a hostel, shoot them an email and ask. Usually you can rent a towel for a few dollars for the length of your stay. This will be worth it to forgo the hassle of trying to fit a towel into your carry-on, and also having to deal with a wet towel on the day you fly back home. If you have any set plans or day trips booked (experiences, excursions), always doublecheck their description. They should provide a list with items needed (bug repellent, rainjacket, water bottle,…). If you are going somewhere with multiple climates, wear your bulkier things on the plane. When I went to Argentina, I wore my warm water repelling half-zip sweater on the plane so I could use it for my glacier hike in Patagonia (40 degrees), and packed up all the warm weather clothes I needed for Buenos Aires (95 degrees).
On this note, I hope this is some food for thought you can digest while packing for your next trip and it inspires you to rethink how much easier and cheaper smart packing can make traveling. – AS
Alisha is a lifelong travel bug who grew up in Europe and has visited 39 countries so far. With a professional background in Tourism in Germany and NYC, she knows the ins and outs of travel hacking, budgeting and how to plan a successful trip. In her downtime, she is busy tracking flights and creating itineraries for her NYC visitors as well as her American friends traveling abroad. When she’s not on a plane, you can find her at the gym or enjoying the food scene in Astoria, New York.
“The Met is overwhelming” is often what friends and fam have said when I ask them how they feel about my fav museum in New York City. The Metropolitan Museum of Art IS overwhelming, but there’s a little bit of everything for everyone: crowd-pleasing Impressionist en plein aire flowers, the meditative water fountains in the Japanese art wing (by Noguchi!) and Islamic art wing, historic musical instruments from the beginning of music as we know it, the original Chicago Stock Exchange staircase by Louis Sullivan that you can actually use, and turn of the century earthenware and glassware that are the stuff of dreams.
The Met’s many facades (including ones that were exterior facing and are now interior facing) tell an extraordinarily rich history of this museum and its collection over the years. Not many folks know this, but the glass enclosed European sculpture garden is flanked with an original facade that once enclosed the bounds of the museum. The fired clay brick and white limestone masonry mass wall in this glass enclosed space was The Met’s original front entrance. It opened onto Central Park with a curved driveway so that visitors could pull right up to the door in their horse-drawn carriages. Over time and other expansions, that area became enclosed to great an interstitial space between the existing to a new expansion. Why not tear it down? Well…. Personally, I’m clearly biased, but there is beauty in facades. Why not embrace the look and celebrate The Met’s history? But also, this is an excellent segue and transition space as the wall is part of the Petrie Court, which is designed to look like a French garden with sculptures that were once displayed outdoors and is also the transition space to The Met’s collection of European decorative arts (aka historical interior design – to grossly simplify).
Food for thought: owner-operators (that is what we in the biz call clients who own and use their buildings like hospitals, schools, civic, etc.) that start with one building and expand with additions end up with buildings that are a rather unfiltered reflection of their institution’s history. It is like a physical timeline and manifestation of the institution’s function (or dysfunction) and day-to-day operations.
In contrast, campuses are a luxury afforded by some hospitals and universities that own or can buy continuous land and build from the ground up. Or, some institutions will start with one building and buy a building nearby.
The ones that have the choice to, do try to expand to existing buildings.
Think about this: Humans? We’re lazy! I sure as hell don’t want to walk across the street when I can stay inside and walk down the corridor, especially during the famous NYC rainy season, which these days… that’s year round. In short, these buildings look more like a plate from a summer BBQ where everything is touching. Campuses on the other hand? They’re like bento boxes with dividers. Which is lovely, but why not have everything touching? For this food analogy, I’ve been told mixing everything together is the surest way for flavor.
The tastiest bits I think on my summer cookout plate are when two good things touch to make a great thing. For me, cornbread and mac and cheese come to mind – absolutely bangin’.
For facade engineering, the interfaces at expansions to existing buildings are the most challenging and interesting. Tasty morsels for the brain – excellent food for thought.
To bring together two separate things, architecturally there is usually what’s called a narrative, a story that is told by subjective experiential concepts like look and feel, achieved with engineering – system design, materials, and etc.
For two pieces to come together and more than just fit together but function together, can require a whole team of folks. For facades, that means making sure that the enclosure is weather tight and structurally supported, and that differential movement is resolved. Separate structural systems will move differently (built at different times with different materials), so to make sure the facade doesn’t clash at the interface is a big deal.
With its imposing, symmetrical, monumental, and unifying Fifth Avenue facade, you’d never guess the extensive history of expansions that The Met has undergone. For a little history, The Met’s Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade (the main entry as we know it now!) and Great Hall were designed by the architect and founding Museum Trustee Richard Morris Hunt. Originally opened to the public in December 1902, by the 20th century, The Met had become one of the world’s great art centers.
A comprehensive architectural plan by the architects Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates was approved in 1971 and completed in 1991. The Met was constantly undergoing capital improvements and expansions during that time. Once the expansion of the building completed, The Met has continued to refine and reorganize its collection. On the north side of the Museum, The Met’s New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts reopened on January 16, 2012, signaling the completion of the third and final renovation phase of The American Wing, which is clad with the saved and reconstructed facade of a old building by Architect Martin Euclid Thompson. The Second Branch Bank of the United States was located on the north side of Wall Street, between Nassau and William streets, and in the 1850s, it was converted into the United States Assay Office. It was demolished in 1915, but the facade was saved and reconstructed as the front of the Museum’s American Wing in 1924.
Having peeled away the facade for you, for the next time you go, I recommend looking at the moments in the facades where new meets old and where newer meets new. Where things touch? That’s the good stuff – just food for thought. – KC
Katherine (Kat) Chan is a facade engineer with more than 10 years experience in the built environment, hyperlocal to NYC, where she calls home, and internationally. Her self-propelled desire for thorough analysis and a propensity for detail has enabled her to advocate for innovative approaches and materials. Her aim is to make facade design and engineering concepts accessible for more people, so they can have an engaged experience in the environment they live in. Kat has a degree in Structural Engineering from Columbia University, where she teaches as part of Adjunct Faculty in the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning.