SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: I'm Susan Christopherson. I'm the chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. And I'm very happy to introduce the speaker for this morning, who is one of my most esteemed colleagues, Tom Campanella. He joined our faculty in 2013, but he has a long connection with Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell, and so, in some ways, it was like welcoming him home to have him join our faculty.
Tom is from Brooklyn and has had a long interest in New York. He's a-- what I call would a landscape historian. And that's historian of the city, of the landscape, and of urban plans. He is a very accomplished scholar. He has received both Guggenheim and Fulbright scholarships and is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. So he's a great asset to our program in Rome.
And one of the things that I think that Tom is most noted for, at least as far as I'm concerned, is his great titles. He's always coming up with great titles. So I'm really impressed with this title, "All About Town-- The Public Works Legacy of Clarke and Rapuano." I think Tom has got a couple projects going. One's on the history of Brooklyn, and this is the other one. I'm really looking forward to hearing about it myself.
I should also say that Tom is a very generous and wonderful colleague. He actually runs our Urban Studies program and is-- yeah, see, I'm getting high fives here. He spends a lot of time with the undergraduates and took them on a field trip to Pittsburgh last weekend. So Tom has a lot to say about cities, a lot to say about landscape. You're going to hear about his research on the American city today, and hope you'll give him a welcome.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Thank you. Thank you, Susan, and thank you, of course, Mister Ezra Cornell for having founded this great university a century and a half ago. And as you all know, this is truly a magical place-- it certainly has been in my life-- and unique in the Ivy League in fusing the intellectual and practical hand and mind. I'm pretty sure it's the only Ivy League school where you can go from a course on hip-hop to one on 18th-century aesthetic theory to-- and I quote-- Exotic Avian Husbandry in a single day. You can actually do that. I checked.
Cornell has played a formative role in the lives of thousands of men and women who passed through this magnificent campus. I want to talk about two such individuals today-- Gilmore D. Clarke, class of 1913, and Michael Rapuano, class of 1927. Two individuals whose life work began here at Cornell and who left a mighty mark of their own on this world, especially in that great capital of our rapidly globalizing, urbanizing planet in New York City-- Cornell.
My story today starts on a spring day in Manhattan in 1908, when, on a lunch hour stroll, a curious high school kid noticed that the doors to the old Temple Emmanuel on 5th Avenue and 43rd Street were open. And drawn inside, he wandered the aisles in awe of the great synagogue's Moorish revival decor. Sometime later, as the boy was about to leave, and elderly gentleman in the last pew spoke up-- "Young man, you're interested in architecture, I notice." "Yes, sir, I am," the boy responded, somewhat startled.
The man rose slowly and introduced himself. They talked for a while, and the boy walked him, then, to his destination, which was the Century Club just around the corner. In parting, the gentleman encouraged the youth to consider Cornell University for his college education. That boy was Gilmore Clarke, and the man was AD White, Ezra Cornell's counselor and confidant, and the founder of the College of Architecture.
And it was largely through White's encouragement that afternoon that Clarke did indeed eventually come here to Cornell in fall of 1909. And he chose to major in a program that no longer exists as such, the-- he chose to major in rural art. It's actually-- it was the forerunner of what we know today as the undergraduate program in landscape architecture.
Clarke knew plants very well. His family owned one of the largest floral nurseries-- one of the oldest floral nurseries in New York City. He wasn't a star student, but he was ambitious, and focused, and a natural leader. This is the earliest project I could find that he did as a student here. It's actually a layout or a site plan for the East Hill School on Stewart Avenue, which is now a condominium.
After graduating, Clarke served as an officer in the Third Division of the United States Army in the first World War. He builds bridges at the front, and he's seriously injured in a poison gas attack during the Somme Defensive. He's also asked to design the insignia that is used to this day on Third Division uniforms. Clarke actually made the insignia you see there in the embroidered patch. He actually made it red and white for Cornell, of course, but his commanding officer was a Yale man and forced him to switch the red out to blue.
Right after the war, Clarke takes his job as field superintendent on a very innovative road project in Westchester County-- one that ironically began not as a road, but as an effort to clean up the terribly polluted Bronx River, which was actually so badly polluted, it was sickening animals in the Bronx Zoo. The idea here was to purchase and restore the land on both sides of the river, all the way up into Westchester County, and basically turn it into a linear park.
And it's really only afterward that the decision is made to weave a lovely motor road through this port-- what eventually becomes known as the Bronx River Parkway. And originally, it was actually hyphenated-- park-way was hyphenated. It was park dash way, as in a way, or a route, through a park.
Clarke plays a major role in the layout, or the design, of this new road. It opens in 1922 to huge acclaim. And it's so successful-- now, this is a little hard to believe, given the way roads function today, in terms of property values-- but it's so successful that it actually boosts property values all along the route, right? It's seen as this is lovely park, and linear corridor, and so forth.
And this convinces Westchester County to build more roads like it. And in rapid succession, the county builds the Saw Mill River Parkway, the Hutchinson River Parkway, the Cross County, the Taconic, and others. And these roads are really the most sophisticated pieces of motor infrastructure anywhere at the time. They're gracefully contoured into the landscape, they-- using minimal cut and fill, right? So they almost appear to be part of the natural terrain. They lay very lightly on the land.
They are the first modern highways in the world. And by that, I mean a limited-access, high-speed motor road with defined points of egress and separated grade crossings. This is really the first time we see this. And there's not a highway in the world today that doesn't share some of the DNA of these early projects in Westchester.
Planners and engineers from all over the United States come to study them, and from all over the world-- from as far away as Australia and China. The German Autobahn, which are routinely and correctly described as the first highways in the world, were themselves actually modeled on the Westchester parkways. And in fact, Clarke himself actually hosted a delegation of Berlin engineers in the 1920s and guided them on the basic points of good parkway design. He later also excoriated them for not following his advice.
This road up here is actually one of the German roads, and you can see, that's what Clarke would have called a broken back curve. You can see, it's got that little straight segment that makes for a very nasty little jerking of the steering wheel to navigate through. He emphasized the use of the smooth spiral curves, where you just sort of sashay back and forth through the landscape.
What really makes these roads interesting is that they are transitional artifacts. That they have this transitional, hybrid quality. They are machine age infrastructure, but they're rooted in the design ideology of the Olmsted park, and even earlier, in the English landscape garden, right? They're both forward looking but also very nostalgic, right? They're highly engineered, but they are trimmed out in details that are very rustic and pastoral in quality. The late Marshall Berman described the American parkway, and I quote, as a "kind of romance bower in which modernism and pastoralism could intertwine."
It's also worth noting that these-- the early parkways is also a masterpiece of spatial illusion, right? It was meant to give drivers and their-- and the passengers in these cars an almost cinematic impression of passing through a landscape of unlimited extent, right? And this was done by-- you're actually traveling through a relative narrow corridor here, but by an ingenious use grading, and plant materials, and plantings, they actually blocked out any kind of off-site views that might disturb this sense of reverie that you have, moving through this-- what appears to be this very large pastoral landscape.
Now, Gilmore Clarke designed all of these Westchester parkways, played a very neat role in that. But his real contribution comes in seeing these roads as something-- as connective elements, right? As the connective ligatures for-- of something greater still, a vast regional network of parks and open space, all held together by these parkways. This is-- you could almost imagine this is as Olmsted now-- Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park and Prospect Park. This is like Olmsted in the motor car, right? And you can almost see the bounded sanctuary of Central Park expanded, now, out to an entire region along these lovely green filaments, these parkways, in response to this new technology, this new transportation technology.
And Clarke becomes the director of the Westchester County Park Commission, which builds this system, this-- really, the first park system of the motor age. And you can see here a couple of maps of it. This is a watercolor rendering that's unfortunately not too clear, but the one on the right will give you a better sense of how this system of parks and parkways spread out northward across the entire county.
Now, Clarke's time is, by now, pretty much wholly consumed by management and administrative responsibilities, and he's very good at that. He's also very good at recognizing talent, and he fills the Park Commission headquarters with exceptional young planners, designers, and engineers. Clarke effectively trains the first generation of parkway and highway builders in the United States
One of these talented young men is another Cornellian named Stanley Abbott, class of 1930. You can see him up there on the right. He goes on to design the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another is Michale Rapuano. Now, Rapuano is a working class Syracuse boy, son of Italian immigrant parent. He comes to Cornell on a football scholarship in the fall of 1923.
By this time, landscape architecture-- the landscape architecture program is no longer in the College of Agriculture. It actually goes back and forth. That's a very long and boring story. But it started as Department of Rural Art over in the New York State College of Agriculture. And then in the fall of 1923, it actually moves back to the College of Architecture, where it stays for a while. And it's actually in White Hall and the studios are up in the-- under the rafters, up in the attic in White Hall. This is a view of the studios around that time.
Now, Mike Rapuano is a real rock star. He takes the campus by storm. He's an All-American center on the football team. He's charming and handsome. He performs in theatrical productions on campus, and he's very involved in many aspects of campus social life. You can see him there, with the red arrow on the right.
He's also got a wealth of knowledge about landscape design and plant materials from his father. His father was a much admired groundskeeper with the Syracuse parks department, and his son, Michael Rapuano, is really bubbling over with raw design talent, which is very effectively focused and directed by his mentor, the gentleman you see in this portrait on the left, Edward Lawson. Edward Lawson was the first Rome Prize winner, the first person to win the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture, and was a-- educated a whole generation of landscape architects here at Cornell.
Now, Rapuano goes on, himself, to graduate at the top of his class and becomes the fifth Cornellian to win this very coveted honor, this Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture, this Rome Prize fellowship, which, at the time, gave you three years in-- on the Janiculum hill in Rome. It's a lot less now.
Anyway, he becomes the fifth to win. Edward Lawson was the first. And incidentally, I should mention that, since we're celebrating all things Cornell today, between 1915, when they inaugurated the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture-- between 1915 and World War II, Cornellians won 12 of the first 19 Rome Prize fellowships in landscape architecture. And it was actually derisively known, especially in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the Cornell Prize.
And so Rapuano wins this, and this is-- these are-- this is essentially the thesis project that he does there, this measured drawing of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli. And you see him on the right at some event of unknown purpose, but you know, that's not his natural beard.
Now, Clarke, of course, through alumni channels, hears about this young hotshot and loses no time in recruiting him to work at the Westchester County Park Commission once he gets back from Rome. This is around 1930. And there, the two-- first, this is-- when they first start working together, Rapuano designs a number of parks and parkways in Westchester, does exquisite watercolor renderings like these for a number of the projects-- Tibbet's Brook Park on the left. On the right, some of you may recognize that's Playland Park in Rye. That was actually the first-- and I think it's still the only municipally owned amusement park in the United States.
Now, this is-- as I said, this is circa 1930. The stock market crashed the previous fall, the previous October. The Great Depression is now spreading. And the economy, even in affluent Westchester, is really starting to falter. But down in New York City, the brilliant and ruthless Robert Moses, on the upper right there, is just getting started. He's about to make New York City the single largest recipient of New Deal funds in the nation.
Moses is appointed commissioner of the parks department-- the first unified parks department citywide. Before, each borough had its own parks department. So he's-- he makes that a condition of his-- of taking the job. He's the first park commissioner of the whole city, appointed by the newly elected fusion administration mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia.
So this is 1934 now, and one of the first things that Moses does is hire Gilmore Clarke to effectively be his park czar, his park planning-- parkway planning czar. Moses had actually tried to recruit Clarke some years earlier to help him plan the Long Island State Park System. The Long Island State Park system, crowned, of course, by Jones Beach on the lower right there, was very much modeled on the Westchester project-- the Westchester County park system.
Well, in any case, this time, he agrees to come down to New York. And Clarke, in turn, brings down many of his top staffers with him to the city, led, of course, by his star designer, Michael Rapuano. He puts Rapuano in charge of a kind of skunk works-- this office that is tasked with coming up with a design aesthetic for the entire park system-- for all the parks and all this work that's undertaken. This is the largest park reconstruction and expansion campaign in American history, right?
And Rapuano really leads this, in many ways. He leads his team to develop a whole new aesthetic-- a whole new design aesthetic for the city's parks and playgrounds. And this is where Rapuano's Italian experience-- his time in Rome-- really comes to the fore. What he and his team do is cultivate this wonderfully youthful, modern interpretation of Italian-- the Italian Baroque design style that he studies there-- the great villas in the piazzas of Rome and other cities.
I've described it elsewhere as a kind of public works baroque. It's very lean, very spare. It proves ideal for urban-- intensive urban use, and it also compliments nicely the city's earlier parks-- this legacy from the Olmsted era, of a much more romantic Anglo kind of design tradition. So I want to show you just a couple of examples of how Mike Rapuano is channeling his Rome experience here to really make a lasting mark on New York City. And I'll show you two examples in particular.
The first of these-- the first of these involves a design move, or a design motif, that he-- that Rapuano learned initially from his mentor, Ed Lawson. And I'm talking, here, about the use of forced perspective in the design of parks, and playgrounds, and so forth. And this is-- this notion of forcing the perspective is used to extend or foreshorten the apparent depth of a space, bet it a garden, or a mall, or a piazza, depending, of course, on your vantage point.
And this is actually something that Rapauno writes a student paper about when he's here studying with Lawson. But it's really in Rome that Rapuano gains perspective, no pun intended. He studies, for example, Borromini's exquisite little garden at the Palazzo Spada. Some of you may be familiar with it. It's that teeny little garden-- it's that teeny little garden up at the top there.
And it really works, right? This is-- there are two photos of the space, one without and one with somebody standing there. And the second-- you really-- once somebody moves in there, you realize how much you've been tricked by this. So he studies this. He studies the Campidoglio, where Michelangelo actually used the-- and existing angle of one building and mirrors it to work with this notion of forcing the perspective here.
And even more so, he studies Bernini's St. Peters square in the Vatican here, especially as it was originally meant to be built at the Tiber River-- Tiber River. Those of you who have been here know that once you get past the colonnade there, it actually-- that long section to the right is mostly built up. The Catholic Church was very powerful, but they didn't have enough power to get rid of those-- to buy out those buildings that were the properties there.
So anyway, but this was-- these are some of the things he studies. Now, Rapuano first uses this motif in almost seed-like, or experimental, form in Westchester. This is the original plan for Glen Island in New Rochelle on the Long Island Sound. And you can see, this little play area is using this notion of forced perspective.
But it's really in New York City, once he starts working with Clarke and Moses after '34, that Rapuano turns this into a real-- a kind of leitmotif or trademark of his design work. You can see it in a number of schemes. This depression era scheme for City Hall Park, for example-- this has been destroyed, by the way. This was-- it's all been dialed back to the Victorian Age now. Or Battery Park, on the right, there, which-- oops-- which, I'm sad to say, the Parks Department just destroyed about a year ago. That corridor, that mall, is no longer there.
Well, here, this still exists. This is at Jacob Riis park in Queens. And when I was out there a year ago or so, I realized that Rapuano lines this thing up with-- of all things-- the Empire State Building. So you have, like, a gun sight view of the Empire State Building down that mall.
And for the site plan of the 1939 New York World's Fair, which Clarke and Rapuano collaborate on, you see Rapuano using it here. And he's actually channeling Bernini here at almost the exact same scale as the Piazza San Pietro in St. Peter's Square. And you can see the form, and--
And this, by the way, the '39 site is reused for the 1964 World's fair. And it's Flushing Meadows Park today. And you can still see that motif there. Any of you have flown into LaGuardia Airport, you go right over this.
Now, the second keepsake from Rome that Rapuano brings back to New York is the tree, in effect-- the London Plane tree. I have an article that I did for the Wall Street Journal a couple years ago about this, that you can pick up here if you didn't get one.
I'm sure many of you are familiar with this tree. The London plane is really the iconic tree of New York City. It's the single most prevalent tree species in New York City and is as-- it's really as much a symbol of the city as the American elm once was in New England. And despite its name, the London plane actually comes to New York City, really, via Rome, and thanks, largely, to Mike Rapuano.
Rapuano falls in love with this tree in Italy. He sees it on the Janiculum hill here, right? It's actually a stone's throw from the American Academy in Rome. He sees it along the Tiber River. If any of you've been to Rome, you know that this tree is very common in the Eternal City. And
And with all due respect to Ottorino Respighi, it is-- Rome is actually a city of planes, not a city of pines. And you can see here, there's Otto and Mike. Platanus acerifolia is the London plane. And you can see in this-- this was a study actually done in 1898, of the tree species that you could see. The London plane is way more prevalent than the pines of Rome, there, with-- it's a great piece of music.
Now, Rapuano and Clarke plant plane trees in almost every park and playground that they design or redesign with Moses in the '30s. And this tree quickly becomes Robert Moses's favorite. Moses even makes the plane-tree leaf the symbol of the parks department. You can see it here, in a circa-1940 medal, and then formalized and stylized. Of course, we still use it, today. This is the recently redone graphic identity of the parks department.
But that is-- it is not a maple leaf, as I'm always pointing out to my students. It isn't America. It's a London plane leaf. And Rapuano's planting technique, here, is also something he picks up in Rome. And I'm talking, here, about the planting of these trees in a dense grid-- in Italian, it would be a "boschetti"-- like a small woods. But very formal, very rectilinear.
And it's something that he first encounters in one of the villas in Rome, not far from Rome, the Villa Aldobrandini, in Frascati. I mean, you can see-- this is a photo from [INAUDIBLE], but you could see that grid-- these are actually oriental, the oriental plane, which was--
The London plane, I should note, is actually a hybrid of the American sycamore and the oriental plane tree. It was hybridized very early on, I think in the 18th century, in England. That's how it got the name "London plane."
Anyway, these are those trees, planted in this grid. And he carries this backing effect. The day I was there, a thunderstorm had knocked one of the trees down. And I actually later planed and finished a chunk of it. So, if anyone wants to see one of these, this is a 400-odd-year-old, 400-year-old piece of plane tree. You're welcome to come up and check it out, later.
Well, just a few examples of how Rapuano uses this idea. You could see, this is the lower sections of Riverside Park. Right? You've got the Henry Hudson Parkway coming through along the water. And some of you may be familiar with this place, Bryant Park, which was designed, actually, in a competition by somebody else, but it's handed to Rapuano and Clarke by Moses. And Rapuano does his boschetti thing there.
Cadman Plaza Park, in downtown Brooklyn. Another example. Again, this is directly taken from Rome.
Now, in 1939, 75 years ago last fall, Gilmore Clarke and Mike Rapuano establish a formal partnership. They had been working together, as you know, from 1930 or so. But this is when they actually form the partnership Clarke & Rapuano.
This firm really becomes one of the first interdisciplinary design-planning-engineering firms in the country. And it really becomes a powerhouse, within a few years. They become effectively the go-to design-and-engineering firm that Roger Moses will rely upon to help him carry out what is really the greatest physical transformation of any city in American history and one of the greatest periods of urban transformation anywhere, really.
And, because New York is New York, all this urban renewal and highway building work really becomes a kind of exemplar and template for the redevelopment of American cities coast to coast, this surge of redevelopment that occurs in the wake of World War II-- for better and for worse, as many of you, I'm sure, know. It's a bittersweet legacy.
But the influence of this firm and these men and the work that they're doing in New York City is immense. Laurie Olin, the landscape architect, has called the partnership of Clarke and Rapuano and Moses, and I quote, "one of the most fruitful design collaborations in American history." You really cannot throw a stone anywhere in the metropolitan New York region without hitting one of their projects, one of their many public works.
And projects, I should add, executed both with Moses and also independently of Moses. They design, for example, hundreds of playgrounds, large and small, throughout the city. [INAUDIBLE] this is a good example of that classic Moses-era playground, very stripped to its elements, very formal, very functional. Clarke and Rapuano are largely responsible for these.
Larger parks, Orchard Beach. I think this part of it, on the lower left, was never executed, but the part up there was. The Central Park menagerie, the Central Park Zoo, in effect, is one of their projects. The conservatory garden, further up, just off Fifth Avenue.
They also designed, with a number of leading engineers-- half of whom were also brought down by Clarke from Westchester County-- and they design what are really the most sophisticated play machines, urban play machines, in the world. In a single summer, 1936, you have 11 of these great pools opening, one after another. This is one of them, the Red Hook Swimming Pool. And they're really magnificent creations. They were designed to both be swimming pools but also be used as skating rinks in the winter and sustain a whole range of other athletic and play activities. And, by the way, you could see there Rapuano's boschetti plane trees.
They design-- this is actually the last great watercolor rendering that Rapuano did by himself. This is actually the initial but unrealized scheme for the United Nations world headquarters, in Flushing Meadows Park. I'm sure many of you are familiar with--
Flushing Meadows was one of Moses's dream projects. He very ably channeled monies that were going toward a world's fair in the 1930s, a world's fair that, for a while, was actually being considered for Marine Park, in Brooklyn, right where I grew up. But he channeled that money to reclaim what had been the great Flushing ash dumps. Which is evoked in The Great Gatsby as this otherworldly landscape, this surreal, almost apocalyptic landscape where all the ashes from the whole city were being dumped.
He transforms this, of course, into a park, into Flushing Meadows Park. And the world's fair site is the first occupant of that site, the world's fair grounds. But then it becomes Flushing Meadows Park.
So he, through the years, is always trying to channel his projects there. This is not built, but. And you can see, here, even at this late point-- this is into the '40s, now, later '40s-- that Rapuano's still playing with that forced perspective and that pool-- long element that goes out to that little terminus, there.
They also do the site plan for the United Nations headquarters as it is finally realized, on the East River. In fact, the United Nations project brought leading architects from around the world. It really was an international project, in the sense that you had these leading designers-- Le Corbusier, for example, was one of the main figures-- come together in New York. And there was a colossal clash of egos. If you can imagine, like, leading architects in each country, all thrown together.
So what Moses does is he installs Rapuano and Clarke into this process, to make sure that he gets what he wants.
Let the egos battle it out. At the end of the day, it was Clarke and Rapuano and their staff who really anchored the plan. And, again, you can see a forced-perspective mall at the top, there.
They do plans for the first airport in New York City. This is actually Floyd Bennett Field, which has a rather short history-- interesting history of its own. It proved to be a little bit too far away from Manhattan to get the air-mail contract. Which really meant getting the passenger service, as well, because passenger planes carried the air mail at that time.
And then they do, later on, the master plan for Idlewild Field, which is later named JFK. And here, too-- this has been destroyed, but there again is Rapuano's forced-perspective mall at JFK.
Urban-renewal projects, they are very heavily involved with. In fact, Clarke and Rapuano carry out the very first federally funded-- under Title I of the 1949 Housing Act-- the very first urban-renewal project in the United States, in Memphis, Tennessee. Very destructive project, in retrospect, but one that did start with noble, if misguided, ambitions. They do the civic-center urban-renewal project, here. That's Cadman Plaza Park and the war memorial, there, up in the top part, there.
And public-housing projects. Something like 52 of the housing projects in New York City were executed by Clarke and Rapuano. They did the master plan, the site planning, working with a great range of architects. This is one in Williamsburg.
They also worked on some very innovative private-sector housing projects. The Parkchester, for example, in the Bronx, which, at the time, around 1940, was really the largest housing project in the world. Worked on the Harlem River Houses, Peter Cooper Village, Stuyvesant Town. Those are all Clarke and Rapuano plans.
And I mentioned earlier that the 1964 world's fair, largely due to Clark's intervention, is not built on another site. It actually reuses the 1939 site, in Flushing Meadows. And Clarke actually designs the Unisphere. He designs it on the back of an envelope, flying back from Cleveland for some business meeting. And my students are always reminding me that in Men in Black they blow up. up. I don't know if anyone's seen that.
I'm very fond of the Unisphere, partly because it was excoriated by the artistic community when it was first designed. It was called this terribly conservative, corporate piece of aluminum-- or steel. It was actually built by US Steel.
But it's come to be such a wonderful symbol of this polyglot borough of Queens, which, in many ways, is the gateway-- it maybe competes with LA, in this regard-- but it's really one of the great gateway places for immigrants coming into the United States. Really what Brooklyn used to be, years ago. And it's really become a symbol of Queens.
Now, really the greatest and most lasting legacy of Clarke and Rapuano is a bittersweet one. With Moses, they really helped turn New York City into a city of expressways, one in which the automobile and the motoring lifestyle that it encouraged both physically destroyed large swaths of New York City but, worse, helped decant much of the city's population to the suburbs. Right?
Clarke and Rapuano design not only all of the, or the vast majority, of the earlier parkways in the metropolitan area-- so, the Henry Hudson Parkway, here, the Grand Central Parkway, the Belt Parkway, the Palisades-- later on, the Palisades Parkway-- and, in New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway. The Garden State is really the largest parkway project that they do. But that's a bit later on.
I should point out that many of these parkway projects, especially the ones in the pre-World War II era, were replete with pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. And, by Moses's insistence-- I wrote a piece, not too long ago, for the Wall Street Journal about this, just trying to correct the misrepresentation of the Moses legacy. Moses is routinely excoriated for having not, for example, put bike lanes on the Verrazano bridge. And he deserves to be excoriated for that. But in the pre--
You know, Moses's career really cleaves very cleanly into this angelic first half, before the war, and this demonic second half, where he becomes really a monster. But in the prewar Moses, and working with these landscape architects, these parkways actually have-- the largest-- the longest segments of Class I bikeway in New York City were all Moses. Right? They ran parallel to a lot of the parkways.
This goes, this vanishes, after World War II. And if you look at-- so, what happens after World War II is, this is the era when-- and Clarke and Rapuano are fully complicit in this. They are the agents that design and carry out a lot of this work.
This is when you have the much more destructive expressways. No more sashaying through the pastoral landscape. Get me from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Right? These are much more destructive. They're very antiurban, these roads. They destroy a lot of neighborhoods. And they're involved with a number of them.
The Gowanis Parkway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Van Wyck Expressway, these are designed largely by Clarke and Rapuano. The BQE, the Brooklyn-Queens, actually destroyed my own mother's neighborhood, near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It came sailing through. And it really was the tipping point that depleted that place.
And it's these projects that move Clarke and Rapuano further and further away from that ideal of union between landscape and automobile, that exquisite sense of equilibrium that we see between the city and the machine in, say, the Henry Hudson Parkway, here, at 79th Street. Some of you may be familiar with this. This is the 79th Street traffic circle, at the Boat Basin-- is right here on the Hudson.
Much of the infrastructure you see here is actually pedestrian paths and bicycle paths. Right? All of these, down here. Those two big clover-leaf loops, those are bikeways, actually. Right? So this is--
And in the center, some of you may have visited it-- there's this exquisite fountain, and this Roman kind of romanesque arch around that courtyard. Which was designed by another architect who Clarke had brought down from-- his name is escaping me now, but-- had brought down from Westchester County.
So this is a fleeting moment. This is a fleeting moment of balance and equilibrium between the machine, between this new machine and the city. This is a very urbane piece of infrastructure, here, even though it's a piece of motoring or automobile infrastructure.
Or this. You know, Rapuano-- this is really Rapuano's ingenious design, this triple-stacked tray that carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway around Brooklyn Heights, below Columbia Terrace. One lane is going, is on one tray, and the other direction on the end, at at the top, there, you have really one of the--
So, here you have motor-vehicle infrastructure, highway infrastructure, that also gives the city, on the top tray, there, really one of its great open spaces, one of its great public spaces. And this is the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. But this, again, is a rarity. This is an ideal that proves increasingly elusive after World War II. This is a postwar project, right after World War II.
But, you know, and it's partly because Brooklyn Heights was a very well-organized neighborhood. Even as many of the older neighborhoods in Brooklyn were being depleted, and people were going out to the suburbs on all those lovely parkways, Brooklyn Heights was pretty well organized and fought Moses. Moses wanted to sail right through the heart of Brooklyn Heights and put the road in a trench, like-- and it was an image I showed a moment ago. And they forced him to play nice and do this.
A half a mile to the north, where the BQE goes through my mother's old neighborhood, there was no such nicety. It just went through like a battering ram.
So, for a time, you know, it really did seem reasonable, indeed, that to expect that, with good design, right, with good design and careful planning, that the motorcar and the city could be made one. And, of course, we know now just how elusive and just how unrealistic that goal has proven to be. Thank you.
SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: Tom will take questions [INAUDIBLE] for 10 minutes, till noon, so--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, if anybody's got any questions about any-- how many of you, in coming up here for this weekend, drove on some segment of road that was designed by Clarke and Rapuano? Yeah, [INAUDIBLE] good number of you. A lot of these roads have changed. The early parkways--
Those of you familiar with Westchester County, the Bronx River Parkway, for example, has been, in many places, straightened out and widened and is really not the road that existed in the '20s. By the way, you saw this in one of the early photos, the Bronx River Parkway had no superelevated turns, curves. Superelevation is basically banking the curve. So they're really flat turns. And so they really limited the speed that-- I think the design speed was 40 miles an hour on that Bronx River Parkways--
AUDIENCE: It still is.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Is it? Is it, really?
AUDIENCE: Still 40 miles an hour, but nobody does that.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, I remember that. Any questions? Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Any other projects in New Jersey, other than the Garden State Parkway?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: They did a lot of campus-planning work with Princeton, I know, and the-- what's the Educational Testing Centers? Is that in Princeton?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: There were others. They're not coming to mind right now. Rapuano actually lived in Pennsylvania and commuted into New York every day-- which must have been a grueling commute. He lived on a farm in Bucks County-- I think it was in Bucks County.
And so he had connections at that end, in Pennsylvania. I know he worked very closely-- and this is something that it's been hard for me to find, really, good archival material about this. But he worked pretty extensively with Edmund Bacon, in Philadelphia. Ed Bacon was another Cornell grad who went on to become a very prominent urban planner and really led, in many ways, Philadelphia's modernization, in a similar way that-- less ruthless than Moses, but similar in other ways.
But in New Jersey, other than the Garden State, I can't think of anything. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: One of the plans that you put up showed the Kensico Dam.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Showed what?
AUDIENCE: Showed the Kensico Dam?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, right.
AUDIENCE: And I just wondered if you could tell us whether the dam was built before or after the highway reached it and whether or not [INAUDIBLE] were involved [INAUDIBLE].
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: I think the Park Commission was involved in the plaza-- I think. The dam, I think the dam predates the-- I'm not sure. I know the other great reservoir dam, up there, goes back to the turn of the century-- the Croton Reservoir. I think Kensico was a little bit later, but I'm not sure. But they were certainly not involved with that. But the commission, and thereby Clarke, I'm pretty certain, laid out the plaza at the base.
AUDIENCE: Actually, some of the stonework is fairly Italian [INAUDIBLE].
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: But unfortunately they don't run the water through it anymore.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Is that right?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, all the pools and [INAUDIBLE].
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, that's interesting. There's certainly an Italian connection with the men who built the Croton Dam. In fact, you know, my family has been going up to that little park-- Croton Falls Park, or Croton Dam Park. It's a little-known gem in Westchester County.
My family's been going up there since the 1920s. And the reason was, my grandfather knew these elderly Italian guys in Brooklyn who had worked on that. And they told him about it.
And, ever since, it's been this tradition in my family to go up there. I was just there last fall. But I think the Kensico Dam, I'm pretty sure the stonemasons were probably Italian, as well.
AUDIENCE: I think your Italian ancestors had cars about three decades before mine did. So--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah. I think my grandfather got a car right around the time my dad was born-- the late '20s.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Oh, Roger, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Didn't Gilmore Clarke become dean at the College of--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, I didn't mention that. He was--
AUDIENCE: How did that fit into--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah. Clarke, really-- by 1935 or so, Clarke is already-- I mean, still a young man-- he's already really at the top of his profession. The Westchester County work gains him an international reputation. And he's appointed to the Fine Arts Commission, in Washington, which is--
And so, in that role, he has an enormous influence on the shaping of Washington, DC. That's one of the chapters I'm working on in my book. He also becomes the first professor of Urban Planning here at Cornell and, in fact, is the founder of the department in which I teach and Susan is head of, the Department of City and Regional Planning.
A couple of years into that, he's asked to be dean of what then was the College of Architecture. And he serves in that role for about 13 or 14 years. Commuted, by the way, twice a week back to Manhattan, on the old Black Diamond, the Lehigh Valley's Black Diamond overnight train.
Which sounds grueling, but I think it was not a bad way to spend a night! You fall asleep. The train left Penn Station at 7:00 or so. You have dinner, fall asleep, you wake up, and you're in Ithaca.
SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: I actually knew people who--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: John Reps?
SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: --who did that.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, John Reps was telling me he remembers taking it. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Did that train go to Penn Station, or Hoboken?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: I don't know.
AUDIENCE: I don't think the Lehigh Valley went to Penn--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah, you may be right about that. I'm not sure. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Are there any contemporary projects that you're particularly excited about, or anything that might show some of the DNA transposed to today's--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: That's a great question. I think the Brooklyn Bridge Park-- which another Cornellian, Michael Van Valkenburgh, designed, is the lead designer on that. Brooklyn Bridge Park has a very innovative funding model. But, in creating a magnificent waterfront public-- series of public spaces, I think that, to me, is the most exciting example of that public-spiritedness that characterized the Moses era of parks and these projects that Clarke and Rapuano designed. I just am in awe of what is being done along the waterfront, there, in Brooklyn. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Did they do any work in Chicago?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: No. Not that I know. You know, one thing that they did was a series of planning studies that Robert Moses, in effect, was the author of, although the work was done by Clarke and Rapuano and their staff, for a number of cities. Portland, for example. Pittsburgh. Memphis, Tennessee. There was a whole series of planning studies in the immediate postwar period.
But Chicago was not one of them. In fact, I've seen no evidence of any penetration in Chicago of this firm. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned the angelic versus demonic stages and this equilibrium.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Was there any self-awareness, self-questioning, any evidence that these guys began to question what they were doing?
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yes. That's a great question. Clarke, especially. Clarke was older than Rapuano. Clarke was really a product of a different age. He was coming out of that Beaux-Arts traditional stage of landscape and architectural design, whereas Rapuano was more on the cusp of Modernism.
Clarke was fiercely anti Modernist. I mean, his rantings against projects like the-- is it the Hirshhorn Museum, on the-- the circular building on the Mall? He called that a World War I gun emplacement. He-- you know, I can't quote him on the Johnson Museum. It's not printable.
He also had a huge battle, here, with-- in fact, he had a sad falling-out with Cornell, toward the end of his life, over Boardman Hall and Olin Library. He fiercely fought that project-- pulled out every--
This was a man who had enormous political connections by the end of his life. He knew everybody. He was a wealthy man, by his elder years. And he pulled out all the stops to stop Olin Library and to preserve the original Arts Quad and its architectural containing wall,
And I think it's pretty much unanimously the sense that he was right, that Boardman Hall should never have been torn down. And, ironically, all the papers, all his hundreds of letters to the trustees and I forget who was president-- Malott, maybe-- I forget.
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Is it Malott? All that archival material is in the belly of Olin.
But he was-- to get back to your-- Clarke really does start expressing some misgivings about these expressways being punched through the city. He actually doesn't want to have any part of them. And he just kind of turns a blind eye to that-- you know, the engineers in the firm doing this stuff. And he writes quite eloquently about how we've lost something, there. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: When Boardman was torn down, there was a plywood demolition fence around Boardman. And the students painted, on the fence, "Boardman Razed"-- R-A-Z-E-D-- "tuition ditto."
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah--
SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: Maybe we should--
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Yeah. That's interesting.
SUSAN CHRISTOPHERSON: Thanks to Tom for this [INAUDIBLE].
THOMAS CAMPANELLA: Thank you.
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Inventors of the modern highway and the most prolific park builders of the 20th century, Gilmore D. Clarke (class of 1913) and Michael Rapuano (class of 1927) were the creative giants who enabled New York masterbuilder Robert Moses to transform Gotham into America's first metropolis of the motor age. Thomas Campanella, associate professor of City and Regional Planning, tells the story of Clarke and Rapuano as part of Cornell's sesquicentennial celebration, April 24-27, 2015.