Finding Serenity in the Crush of Manhattan
February 6, 2013
“Any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake.”
– Luis Barragan (1902 – 1988), from The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom, ed. Laura S. Dushkes
You can find respite from the bustle of New York City in numerous places, for example, by stepping inside any of its churches and places of worship. They were always an oasis of calm. We checked out St. Malachy’s Actors’ Chapel while we were waiting for the lottery for Book of Mormon tickets. The low-lit interior was a refreshing contrast to the glaringly insistent neon of Times Square, just a couple of blocks away.
Another very special retreat in Midtown Manhattan is the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Saint Peter’s Church. This space and its wall sculptures and furnishings were designed by sculptor Louise Nevelson. It brought to mind the chapel Matisse designed in Vence, France — such an all-embracing work of art. (Thank you, Linda, for the suggestion to see this.)
Of course, wherever I travel, I know I can find a contemplative place in its libraries.
“The library is often the place where you can find the spirit of the monk: in silence, the lustre of old woodwork, the smell of ageing paper, reading, retreat from the world, rules and authorities, tradition, volumes of wisdom, catalogues for contemplation.”
– Thomas Moore, Meditations
I loved the traditional look and quiet rooms of the Morgan Library and Museum. I regret that we did not take the time to enjoy the Beatrix Potter exhibit there, but you can see an online version of the exhibit, which featured some of her letters with pictures, here.
We walked from the Morgan Library to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Even before we got there, I knew this would be a special experience because the street leading up to the front doors is called “Library Walk,” and it is lined with plaques embedded in the sidewalk that feature literary quotes.
This library has a beautiful reading room and grand spaces.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges