Guest Blogger: Heather Shimmin, architectural photographer

heather met roof 7Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Pierre Huyghe
Every summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art commissions an artist to create an installation for the roof garden.  This year, the commission went to Pierre Huyghe (pronounced hweeg). The Parisian has also created a nineteen minute film, (Untitled) Human Mask, that can be viewed in Gallery 916 through 9 August 2015. The film follows a mysterious creature in the aftermath of a natural and man-made disaster.heather met roof 13

Describing Huyghe’s work can be challenging and frustrating. It is like trying to describe what salt tastes like without using the word salty.  Information about his projects are never handed to the viewer on a silver platter; they are left to fend for themselves.heather met roof 9.

In an article by Randy Kennedy in the New York Times, Huyghe is described as “one of the most admired and intellectually formidable European artists of his generation.”  His projects are layers of meaning, intellect, and innuendo. He takes the concept of mixed-media to another level entirely, often integrating living creatures and the rhythms of nature into his work.  He collaborated with scientists at Rockefeller University to engineer living replicas of the whimsical, fictional butterflies that obsessive lepidopterist Vladimir Naboko had sketched for a wife, including one with checkerboard wings.  On another project, Huyghe created a grotto-like sculpture based on the interior walls of the intestinal tract as taken from video footage from a camera capsule swallowed by a patient.heatehr met roof 10

Huyghe has been heavily influenced by Raymond Roussel’s 1914 novel “Locus Solus,” about a mad scientist who keeps cadavers who react scenes from their past in a giant aquarium (aquariums are a recurring theme in Huyghe’s work).  Huyghe calls his work Relational Aesthetics, a subset of Conceptualism, which is an “approach to art making that emphasizes participation, social interaction and chance.”

His work seeks to control the viewer’s experience, which is evident in his installation at the Met.  Pavers on the roof have been taken up and moved around, giving the impression of a construction site.  Guests are then required to move about the space with caution and only in areas which are “open to the public.” The centrepiece of exhibition is, not surprisingly, an aquarium.  Inside is a giant piece of Manhattan schist and a slew of tiny sea creatures which will evolve and interact as the summer progresses.  The aquarium is slowly leaking water into the ground, releasing organisms, including worms, into the spaces the cement pavers once occupied.  Puddles are forming and weeds are sprouting.  The outcome of all of this is unknown, which is what Huyghe finds the most intriguing.heather met roof 4


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New Year’s Eve Rooftop Tip for great FIREWORKS Views

I love fireworks. And I love Central Park.

For most of the past several New Year’s Eves, I have walked-jogged-run-hung out at the Midnight Run in Central Park. Thousands show up for this annual event. There is a fabulous, free dance party with live music before the run (starting at 10 PM), and FIREWORKS as the race begins.

If you’d prefer a little bit dressier New Year’s Eve, here’s my hot rooftop tip: The Roof at the Viceroy Hotel on W. 57th Street.This is the ONLY rooftop bar in NYC to look right up the center of Central Park. There will be an unobstructed view of the 15 minute firework display that will be ignited about 15 blocks away – super close in fireworks terms!

It’s The Roof’s first New Year’s Eve (the bar opened in Spring 2014) and they are going “all out” according to Matthew Charles, the venue’s charming General Manager. There will be a Gatsby theme, as well as a gold and black color scheme (gold on the inside roof bar, black on the outdoor terrace) so dress accordingly.

This is a ticketed event

Photo from The Roof website - unparralled view up center of Central Park

Photo from The Roof website – unparralled view up center of Central Park

so the link is below. If the package you’re interested in is sold out, Matthew asked that you call the and talk with him 212/707-8008. They can probably work you and your party in, but don’t wait too long. This is a cozy rooftop bar and only a lucky few of you will get this exclusive rooftop view of the Midnight Run in Central Park’s fireworks.

photo from The Roof's website. Interior bar at The Roof

photo from The Roof’s website. Interior bar at The Roof

Wishing you a 2015 full of inspiring rooftop views.


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How I Found Laura Rosen – a NYC (true) Tale of Magical Mystery

"Top of the City: New York's Hidden Rooftop World" by Laura Rosen

“Top of the City: New York’s Hidden Rooftop World” by Laura Rosen

New York City is magic.

That’s why we live in small spaces with large rent bills. That’s why we drag our laundry to the scale at the fluff and fold. That’s why we pay $7 for a loaf of bread at D’Agostino. We aren’t really paying for rent or laundry or bread. We’re paying for the magic.

On July 24, 2014, I discovered an out-of-print book published in 1982 called “Top of the City: New York’s Hidden Rooftop World” by Laura Rosen. When it arrived, I was fascinated by the skilled architectural photography depicting NYC roofline and rooftop details, and thrilled that the author carefully documented where the buildings are (were?) located so intrepid roof explorers can venture out and see for themselves. I read the text and studied the photos, and knew in my heart that this photographer/author loved NYC and would never leave. It was 32 years since the book was printed, but I had to find her.

I began with her publisher, tried Google, Linkedin and even askNYPL. I found out a few things about Ms. Rosen but I couldn’t find her. Then the magic happened.

NYC Rooftop writers, Laura Rosen and Leslie Adatto

NYC Rooftop writers, Laura Rosen and Leslie Adatto

I was invited by the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library to give an “Author Talk,” my first-ever public speaking engagement. The room was filled to fire-code capacity and I had to speak into a microphone so the nearly 200 New Yorkers in attendance could hear me. Midway during my talk, I mentioned “Top of the City.”

“Does anyone know the book’s author, Laura Rosen?” I asked. “If so, please let her know I am dying to meet her!”

After the talk, I was approached by “Brian” who told me he has known Laura for 20 years. I gave him my phone number to pass along and went back to signing books without thinking much about it.

The VERY NEXT morning, I got a voice mail from Laura Rosen, and last week we met for lunch at Rosemary’s because the food is delicious AND it has a public-access rooftop farm.

A beautiful water color by Laura Rosen

A beautiful water color by Laura Rosen

I was right. Ms. Rosen never left NYC and says she never will. A few years ago, she retired from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels after two decades as their archivist. She spends much of her time making beautiful sketches and water colors of New York City interiors and exteriors. Perhaps best of all, she plans to attend my next “Author Talk” at the Jefferson Market Branch (Greenwich Village) of the NY Public Library on October 8 at 6:30 p.m.**

As I said, New York is magic.

** If you are in the NYC area, I hope you will also come to the Author Talk on Oct. 8. Post-talk, we’ll be going across the street to see the rooftop farm at Rosemary’s and to enjoy an extended Happy Hour with $4-6 beer and $7 wine options.


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Feelin’ Groovy at Penthouse 808 in Long Island City, Queens

The view from Penthouse 808

The view from Penthouse 808

For the best ever close-up view of the 59th Street bridge, that same bridge made famous by Simon and Garfunkel in “Feelin Groovy” and by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his American masterpiece The Great Gatsby, you’ve got to visit Penthouse 808 in Long Island City Queens.Dancing at Penthouse 808

This sixth floor lounge and restaurant with a view of Manhattan to die for was recently revamped, and is new and gorgeous. They have happy hour seven nights a week from 5-7, a Sunday jazz brunch with live music and a weekly Wednesday night event they call the Starlight Social with a great deal on a prix fixe dinner and more live music.Brunch at Penthouse 808

Meanwhile, Frank Alessio, Director of Operations for Penthouse 808, took us up to the part of the bar that will be open in 2015. They are building a sister building next door that will have a rooftop pool and a bridge connecting to this upper level of the rooftop bar. Penthouse 808 is spectacular now and it’s hard to believe, but it’s going to get even better next summer!

Long Island City might seem far away, but it really isn’t. I did it via subway and it was less than a 10 minute walk from Court Square-23rd Street subway station E and M trains, plus the hotel offers a shuttle to the station when you’re ready to head home.

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Goodbye BMW, Hello Bicycle – Another New York Rooftop Love Story

If I had to choose the one thing that makes living in Manhattan the most radically different from my previous San Diego lifestyle, no doubt, it would be how I get to where I’m going. I used to drive a massive, gas-guzzling, shiny black BMW X5 most everywhere I went. I worked from home, but still managed to drive a lot – to the tune of as much as $300 month in fuel costs! I don’t even want to think about what my galavanting around in that beast of a car did to the environment.blessing of the bikes

Now I live in Manhattan and my main mode of transportation is still black and shiny, but this vehicle has only two wheels and uses completely renewable human power. My bike, with its attached folding panniers, is used for everything from grocery shopping to going to the Metropolitan Opera House to numerous photo shoots for “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops.”

Alongside Heather Shimmin, the fantastic photographer (and terrific athlete) who shot more than 40% of the book, we biked all over the Boroughs and across the East River’s famous bridges in pursuit of rooftops. When I worked with Ari Burling, the amazing architectural photographer who shot about 20% of the book, he took the subway (another very eco option) and I met him at rooftop locations on my bike. Invariably, when we would go to a second site on the same day, I’d get there on the bike before Ari who was using the subway.

This week, I’ve been attending “Rooftop Films” (various locations – see Roof #100 in Roof Explorer’s Guide) and another rooftop film series called “Czech That Film” on top of Bohemian National Hall in the Upper East Side (Roof #95 in Roof Explorer’s Guide) to promote the book – all via bicycle. Bob Aiese (one of my two super art directors) and I went to Eataly’s La Birreria (Roof #34 and the only rooftop brewery in NYC) and Riverpark Farm (Roof #78, a 3,200 cubic foot rooftop chef’s garden planted in milk crates) to make videos yesterday – I got there via bicycle, even in the 90 degree heat and monsoon-like humidity.

I walk a lot, which is one of the great pleasures of living in New York City, use subways occasionally (one of the lesser pleasures of living in New York City but a great convenience), and, once in a blue moon, usually when I need to wear a dress and high heels, I take a cab. But I can say with confidence that the vast majority of the roof exploring I’ve done across all five boroughs has been, and will continue to be, on two people-powered wheels.

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Love at First Sight – A New York Rooftop Story

The glass pavilion and ivy wall

The glass pavilion and ivy wall at the public access Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Rooftop with NYC Skyline in the background.

**The first time I got here, in the first moment I got out of the cab on the corner of Broadway and W. 111th Street, I fell in love with New York City. It was 1997 and I was 34 years old with a 5-year-old child and a full life a continent away in San Diego. After deciding it was true love and not just a crush, I planned to move to NYC as soon as I could – which turned out to be on July 27, 2010, nearly four years ago, a few weeks after my son graduated from high school and embarked on his “gap year” abroad.

While planning my escape from the easy life in San Diego to the urban whirlwind of NYC, I became increasingly passionate about New York City, read what I could, visited when I could and discovered I was always looking up and wanting to see the city from “up there.” When I finally got to rooftops, it was even better than I’d imagined. Like a middle aged woman at a candlelit dinner, rooftops show off NYC in her best and most romantic light, and I fell even harder for Gotham.

Around 2008, I began looking for books about NYC rooftops and found, much to my surprise, that there were none (this was true until 2011). I saw my opening and decided to go for it! After visiting scores of fantastic private rooftops, it became clear that my passion was really public access rooftops – so friends, family and other rooftop enthusiasts could enjoy the same thrilling experiences I was having – and Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops was born.


**I was recently asked to guest blog about what motivated me to write my book, “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 NYC Rooftops” so I thought I’d post my response here as well.


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The Met Roof is Open!

Gothamites know summer is on its way when one of our most beloved New York City rooftops opens for the season. The Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents Dan Graham with Günther Vogt from April 29 – November 2, 2014. This is not to be missed!

The glass pavilion and ivy wall

The glass pavilion and ivy wall


In sharp contrast with last year’s roof installation that evoked bloodshed and horror (the artist’s paint work had to be sandblasted off the stone pavers), Mr. Graham’s site specific work this year is cheerful and full of life. In fact, it is the first time in Met roof exhibit history that something living is part of the installation.

living ivy planted in soil on the roof of the Met

living ivy planted in soil on the roof of the Met


Don’t be fooled by the Astroturf. Although I have to say it is an excellent facsimile and fun to walk on, it certainly isn’t a living thing. But the two walls of ivy on either side of the glass structure are planted in soil and are very much alive. Bravo for this small foray into greening the roof of the Met!

Dan Graham, artist

Dan Graham, artist


The curved, two-way reflective glass pavilion situated between the walls of ivy plays with light, reflecting endless varieties of the city, sky, and the Met roof visitors. Central Park and the surrounding skyscrapers meld with museum goers in the convex to concave glass, making for an ever-changing funhouse effect.

Lawn furniture replaces benches

Lawn furniture replaces benches


The rooftop’s benches have been replaced with a few pieces of scattered modern patio furniture, and the stone pavers have been covered almost completely by a huge swath of bouncy Astroturf. With many less seats available, I wonder if agile visitors will plop themselves down on the turf and enjoy a rooftop picnic.


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