Field Trip :: Downtown Albany


By Angeline Focht, BArch

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon in downtown Albany, New York. In a few hours, I explored the First Church in Albany, spent some time in the Empire State Plaza, and sketched 'The Egg.'

We started at the First Church of Albany, designed by Philip Hooker and built in 1798. Fun facts about the church: It houses the oldest pulpit in the US, dating back to 1655, and one pretty famous guy, Thomas Jefferson, attended services held at the church while he was Governor. I was impressed with the stained glass windows, which were installed nearly 100 years after the church was built. They are vibrant against the warm stone, and reminiscent of European cathedrals.

From there we walked over to the Empire State Plaza, also called the South Mall, to walk around, explore, and sketch. The Plaza was designed at a massive scale so it would be seen as the dominant skyline from across the Hudson River. The sprawling monumentality is inspired by sites such as Chandigarh, Versailles, and Brasilia. The plaza is made up of a large reflecting pool, four large agency buildings, the Cultural Education Center, and the 'Egg,' a performing arts venue nicknamed because of it's unusual shape. 

The vastness of the space was serene. There is a long reflecting pool down the center of the plaza, similar to the one at the Christian Science Center in Boston. The scale of the buildings surrounding the plaza was a great contrast.

It takes about three hours to get to Albany, depending on the traffic. Here is a map of the downtown area. If you are headed west by car, make plans to check it out.