Albany's Egg: No corners for you

The Egg, exciting and old/The Egg, you'll do what you're told/The Egg, the Egg, no corners for you/The Egg, when was it new?/The Egg, there's nothing to do/The Egg, the Egg, no corners for youPoured concrete flowing into organic shapes/Carpet, wood trim, and some velvet drapes/Combine to make one perfect place/From the outside I am thinking/I'm a number, not a man/From the inside I am thinking/What were they thinking?/The Egg, exciting and old/The Egg, you'll do what you're told/The Egg, the Egg, no corners for you/No corners for you/No corners for you
Albany/The Egg (2004) by They Might be Giants
Perennial geek-rock duo They Might be Giants has perhaps perfectly captured the essence of Albany’s most unique building: The Egg. The band’s homepage, TMBG.com continues:

"The Egg was built as part of Nelson Rockefeller's dream to reinvent Albany as New York's state capital. It was designed by Wallace Harrison and contains virtually no straight lines or corners. Construction began in 1966 and finished in 1978. The Egg's performance center continues to flourish and is They Might Be Giants' home away from home, in Albany. The friendly Egg is nestled among Albany's state buildings, which are perhaps the harshest example of modernist brutalism on permanent display. Former residents of Albany have described the song as capturing the essential Albany-residential (or Albanian) experience."

The bizarre structure has, in the eyes of some, come to architecturally represent Albany the way the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building or the Sydney Opera House have for their respective homes. Of course, Albany residents might have some reservations about seeing an example of harsh “modernist brutalism,” bloated state building projects and gubernatorial narcissism (some say Rockefeller created the entire Empire State Plaza as a monument to himself) as the architectural summary of their lives. Of course, for the majority of Upstaters, “Albany” refers to all of those things first and a city where people live second.

TheEgg.org, however, takes a different take on the building:

Architecturally, The Egg is without precedent. From a distance it seems as much a sculpture as a building. Though it appears to sit on the main platform, the stem that holds The Egg actually goes down through six stories deep into the Earth. The Egg keeps its shape by wearing a girdle - a heavily reinforced concrete beam that was poured along with the rest of the shell…

The Egg houses two theatres - the Lewis A. Swyer Theatre and the Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre… Wrapping around fully half The Egg is a lounge area for the Hart theatre…

The building's curved exterior defines the interior statement as well. There are virtually no straight lines or harsh corners inside The Egg. Instead, walls along the edge curve upward to meet gently concave ceiling light for celestial effect. The backs of performing areas are fanned - inviting one inward - providing an intimacy impossible in a conventional theatre. And throughout, walls of Swiss pearwood veneer add warmth and enhance the acoustics in the theatres.

Visually distinctive, yet ingenious The Egg is a beautiful synthesis of form and function. We invite you to use it for your organization - and hope you visit and enjoy it frequently.

Regardless of your opinion on the Empire State Plaza, all must agree that the Egg is a spectacular monument (to what is the question I suppose): an odd bowl perched at a precarious angle hanging over an abyss, like the great rocks one sees suspended on rock pillars out west. I personally have to hand it to the building’s designers, at least they used a little creativity; I reflect upon another example of Upstate mass architecture, the Dome in Syracuse, and the fact that the designers there seemed to try their best to avoid approaching aesthetics like a smart cat does to Solvay.

-by Jesse

1 comment:

Dr. Akankunda said...

Thanks for this useful information on this amazing building