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Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with Gay Talese

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Last night, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Gay Talese joined former New York Times Metro columnist Clyde Haberman at the Museum of the City of New York to reflect on the four-year period during which he witnessed the building of the bridge.

The night opened with an introduction of the bridge: How it helped Staten Island grow from an enclave of farms to practically a city in its own right, with 470,000 people living there today; how the residents of Bay Ridge Brooklyn protested the disruptive construction with signs that read "Who Needs The Bridge?"; how it was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years after it was built (it now sits at number 11, but remains the longest in the country).

"It doesn't make a difference to me how long it is," Talese remarked in his opening statements, emphasizing for the first of many times that he was interested in learning "who builds these things, who does the work?"

In his book, first published in 1964 and now re-released with an updated preface and afterword, The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, Talese answers those questions of the human element, detailing the stories of the boomers (as he calls them)—the men who build bridges and skyscrapers. He knew them, and remembers them still, by name. Over the span of several years, he wrote at least a dozen stories for the Times on the construction, and between reporting those and going on his own time, Talese developed an immense respect and understanding of these workers. He would go with them to bars after work ("Six, or seven, or whenever the sun went down") and once even drove through the night with a group of Native Americans working on the bridge to spend the weekend with them on the reservation back in Montreal.

Among those Talese talked with at the time were James and John McKee, sons to a former ironworker who was permanently disabled after a collapsed crane sent him careening two stories to the ground, and brothers to the late Gerard McKee, the third and final man to fall to his death while working on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. One chapter of the book recreates the day of McKee's death in harrowing, intimate detail with the help of Edward Iannielli, a friend and fellow boomer who had tried unsuccessfully to hold onto the much-larger McKee as he slipped off the south edge of the catwalk.

Following McKee's death, the workers union went on strike, demanding nets be placed below the precarious workzones. After that, there were six more falls, none of them fatal. One man, Robert Walsh, fell twice; fittingly, Walsh is now the president of the ironworker's union, Talese told the audience at the Museum.

Walsh isn't the only former bridge-builder Talese visited on the occasion of the anniversary. He even called some of the former Brooklyn residents who opposed the bridge, those who were forced to relocate. "Most say 'we're better off,'" Talese reported. "I don't know if this is a minority opinion, but it's an opinion."

Now in their '70s, James and John McKee are retired, still living on Staten Island. Both joined Iannielli working on the World Trade Center Twin Towers after completing the Bridge, along with other Verrazano alum. Some of those, like Eugene Spratt, who worked on the bridge and the Twin Towers, now have grandchildren working on the new World Trade Center. Talese says he is interested in their stories as well, these third-or-more-generation ironworkers whom he respects for being "part of a New York that celebrates hard work."

Fifty years ago today, there was a ceremony to mark the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, for the first time connecting all five boroughs of the city via roadways. The ironworkers who built the iconic structure were not invited to that celebration. Talese claims they didn't care, though—they were proud just to have built something that would outlive them.

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Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
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architecture
Vantablack Pavilion at the Winter Olympics Mimics the Darkness of Space
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

British company Surrey NanoSystems disrupted the color spectrum when it debuted Vantablack: the darkest artificial substance ever made. The material is dark enough to absorb virtually all light waves, making 3D objects look like endless black voids. It was originally designed for technology, but artists and designers have embraced the unique shade. Now, Dezeen reports that British architect Asif Khan has brought Vantablack to the Winter Olympics.

His temporary pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea has been dubbed the darkest building on Earth. The 33-foot-tall structure has been coated with Vantablack VBx2, a version of Vantablack pigment that comes in a spray can.

The building’s sides curve inward like shadowboxes. To break up the all-consuming blackness, Khan outfitted the walls with rods. White lights at the ends of the sticks create the effect of stars scattered across an endless night sky.

Child next to wall painted to look like the night sky.
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

Khan told Dezeen that the piece is meant to give “the impression of a window cut into space.” He was only able to realize this vision after contacting the scientists behind Vantablack. He told them he wanted to use the color to coat a building, something the pigment wasn’t designed for originally. Sculptor Anish Kapoor securing exclusive rights to artistic use of the color in 2016 further complicated his plans. The solution was the sprayable version: Vantablack VBx2 is structurally (and therefore legally) different from the original pigment and better suited for large-scale projects.

The pavilion was commissioned by Hyundai to promote their hydrogen fuel cell technology. The space-themed exterior is a nod to the hydrogen in stars. Inside, a white room filled with sprinklers is meant to represent the hydrogen found in water.

The area will be open to visitors during the Winter Olympics, which kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday, February 9.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Shari Austrian
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Design
You Can Order a Stunningly Detailed LEGO Replica of Your House on Etsy
Shari Austrian
Shari Austrian

LEGO blocks can be used to construct fictional starships and works of abstract art, but there's something comforting in replicating what's familiar to you. That's the concept behind Little Brick Lane, an Etsy shop that promises to custom-build detailed LEGO models of real homes.

Designer Shari Austrian tells Apartment Therapy that the idea came to her when her family was building their real-life house. Her twin boys had recently gotten her interested in LEGO, so she decided to construct a scaled-down, blocky replica to match their new home. She enjoyed the project enough to launch a business around LEGO architecture on Etsy at the end of 2017.

Austrian bases her designs off interior and exterior photos of each house, and if they're available, architectural plans. Over eight to 10 weeks, she constructs the model using LEGO pieces she orders to match the building design perfectly, recreating both the inside and outside of the house in the utmost detail.

To request a custom LEGO abode of your own, you can reach out to Austrian through her Etsy shop, but warning: It won't come cheap. A full model will cost you at least $2500 (the exact price is based on the square footage of your home). That price covers the cost of the materials Austrian invests in each house, which can add up quick. "The average LEGO piece costs approximately 10 cents," she tells Mental Floss, and her models are made up of tens of thousands of pieces. But if you're looking for something slightly cheaper, she also offers exterior-only models for $1500 and up.

For your money, you can be confident that Austrian won't skimp on any details. As you can see in the images below, every feature of your house—from the appliances in your kitchen to the flowers in your yard—will be immortalized in carefully chosen plastic bricks.

A bedroom made of LEGO

A kitchen model made of LEGO

The exterior of a house made of LEGO

[h/t Apartment Therapy]

All images courtesy of Shari Austrian.

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