Architecture Blog: New York Times Building Vs Kantipur Tower!

New York Times BuildingIt’s 10:22 PM now and I spent most of my last three hours with the Nehru autobiography that I started reading yesterday. The winter has arrived in Kathmandu for I find it very difficult to wake up early in the morning. Like yesterday, I slept today till 12 AM and I have decided to wake up early from tomorrow.

One thing that I feel good about today was reading a report in New York Times about the new New York Times building (see pic by Vincent Laforet via the Times) in New York. I found the story written by Nicolai Ouroussoff and titled ‘Pride and Nostalgia Mix in The Times’s New Home‘ very interesting. The story provides lots of insights about the building and is an example (for me personally) of how stories on a building could be done. A building is not just the block of bricks and cement (and the Times Tower is certainly not!), it’s more than that. It has to be lively and some sort of distinct personality and aroma. I have never thought that a story like that could be written. Nicolai has considered the building almost as a living person (with some star attractions) and has done wonderful analysis of the personality of that man/or woman. He has pointed out the good sides and lacking aspects of the building. My impression is that the building is really beautiful and a cool place to wrok.

Any building that houses the office of a great newspaper like that of the New York Times is a journalist’s dream workplace. It’s certainly a landmark of the city as has been with the old Times building. Even in Kathmandu, the Kantipur Complex (office to the Kantipur Publications where I work) serves as one of the key landmarks in the city. More so in the locality where a street has been named after newspaper. I remember enthusiastically posing myself to the camera at the main gate of the old Times building in New York in April 2006. I did the same with the Washington Post’s office building in DC.

While reading Necolia’s story, I tried to imagine doing the same with Kantipur building. Actually that would have been a nice story: that was the first time a Nepali newspaper had shifted to such a luxurious and majestic building. The news of Kantipur Publications buying the building (what is now famous as Kantipur Complex or our ‘Twin Towers’) actually made it to the pages of Himal newsmagazine then but it was just an informative piece about the transaction, not from the architectural/design perspective. Though no famous Italian architect like Renzo Piano designed the building which was briefly used as a shopping complex before Kantipur bought it, it’s beautiful and impressive if you see it from the front.

More so for a newspaper office in a country where journalism was it primitive state until recently and it was unimaginable for a newspaper to have such a big office building. The six-storey structure is definitely not as high as the 52-sotrye Times Building but, just like the Times building offers expansive views a section of New York City, Kantipur building provides the wonderful view of many parts of Kathmandu valley and Kathmandu’s International Airport. Well, there is really sometime more that could be seen from our office building (actually from fourth floor where I work) which reporters like Nicolai Ouroussoff at New York Times can only dream of! Yes, I am talking about the mesmerizing views of the Himalayas from the fourth floor! Nicolai writes, “I even like my fourth-floor cubicle, an oasis of calm overlooking the third-floor newsroom.”

And I write: “I like my fourth-floor cubicle (which might not be an oasis of calm always, especially during the rush hours of evenings) from where I can have wonderful views of glittering Himalayas during the clear days like these.”

Well, I don’t intend to challenge the New York Times here (New York is not New Road, I tell firends) but it feels good put forward Nepalese perspective to that NYT story!

Kantipur Vandalized

Third World View: While reading the story, thoughts came to my mind about the deteriorating security situation in Kathmandu that has propelled Kantipur to opt strict security measures. A mob vandalized the Complex in 2004 destroying the window glasses the cars parked inside the complex. I tried to compare between the situation in New York and in Kathmandu. How would a New York Times reporter like Nicolai Ouroussoff feel while writing stories like the one that I am discussing today when his office building becomes the victim of unruly mob attacks like the Kantipur complex became. I used to work on the second floor of the building and what I saw from a small hole (created by the vandal’s brick) on the window was the Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visiting the Kanitiur Complex to express the sympathy to the newspaper. Yes, we see world famous mountains from our windows and we also see vandalized cars from the holes of the window smashed by the mobs. This is the irony about the life in third world, I concluded. Photo taken by Wagle on 3 September 2004, two days after the violent demonstrations in the city of Kathmandu, protesting the beheading of 12 Nepalese in Iraq by the Iraqi terrorists. Kantipur Complex, along with many overseas recruiting agencies and a couple of mosques were attacked on that day. BTW, I will certainly put the photo of Kantipur Complex that displays Kantipur ‘Twin Towers’ tomorrow!

And here is a coincidence! A colleague of mine at the Kathmandu Post had given me a phone number of a foreigner to call. She had told met that this person was looking forward to talk to me. Somehow I had forgotten to call. This evening I called him as I saw his number stored in my cell. Guess what! This man turned out to be an architect, an American, and I am meeting him tomorrow. I told him about this coincidence and told him that I read a very interesting news article (Architecture Review) in the NY Times about the new Times building.

We have decided to meet at 11:30 in a hotel in Lalitpur which means I must wake up early in the morning (or at least at 10 AM!). I hate to be late in appointments and I am sure I will make it on time. With this appointment, I hope to wake up early in the mornings. [11:40 PM]