Princeton University Art Museum
From: 23 July 2011
Until: 6 November 2011
The Life and Death of Buildings
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Thursdays: 10am - 10pm
Sundays: 1pm - 5pm
"The most amazing thing about The Destruction of Lower Manhattan is the name," says the American photographer Danny Lyon. This series of 72 images was made before the construction of the World Trade Center and documents the demolition of a sixty acre site below Canal Street which made way for it.
In 1967 Lyon moved into a building in Lower Manhattan, an area at the time colonised by artists, where all around whole streets were being torn down. He set about documenting the buildings, as he told Phaidon: "The story here is not about people. It's about buildings. And these buildings were old and it was quite upsetting for me. I like architecture. New Yorker's were destroying their own city."
The ensuing series of photographs are now part of a timely exhibition charting the life-cycle of buildings: The Life and Death of Buildings which opens this week at Princeton University Art Museum (23 July - 6 November). The show examines the lifespan of architecture through photographs which tell the stories of buildings by capturing a moment in time. It includes images from all stages of a building's development, including Lewis Hine's photographs of beams being laid on the Empire State Building; Frederick Evans' photograph of light streaming through the windows of Westminster Abbey and the dramatic image of the fall of Fresno County Courthouse.
As time passes, buildings change, they are adapted for different uses, they degrade and are redeveloped or are knocked down to make space for the next. Photographers document these stages and their photographs become the only lasting reminders of what the buildings once were.
"As it happened, architecturally speaking, nobody liked the World Trade Center at the time - the buildings were considered an architectural abomination," Lyon told Phaidon. "Then 40 years went by and 9/11 shook Manhattan and the rest of the world. Suddenly my phone started ringing for my series The Destruction of Lower Manhattan. The name was like a prophecy."