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Holy Gargoyle

Creepy gnomes make architecture fun.


Uninitiated sorts (relatives, college friends of yore) mock New Yorkers for raising their children without fields. What these rubes fail to appreciate is that the buildings that surround us are one of the many delights of a New York childhood. The Salvadori Center, which helps teachers incorporate architecture into curricula, is hosting a family gargoyle event on April 12. Located within the main City College of New York site, the center is neighbors with 600 of these sometimes ghoulish statues. Staffers will show parents and children of all ages around the campus, pointing out favorite examples, including a version with a bowl of soup (bring your zoom-lens cameras for closer peeks). “The whole point is to look around and notice things. We’re all about discovery and inquiry. We tell people they have to learn how to walk like tourists. We slow down and look around,” says executive director Leonisa Ardizzone. Post-gawking, everyone will head back to the center to make their own gargoyles (often gnomes with “out-of-whack proportions”) from clay and other materials. Conversation may address why they’re so spooky. (Ardizzone’s own 5-year-old daughter has “a low threshold for creepy.”) Gargoyle stories cover their use in warding off evil spirits (on holy buildings like churches) as well as their practical work of expelling things via gutters and spouts. Ardizzone’s favorite gargoyle tale concerns Paris’s Notre Dame: “One of the builders had a beef with the bishop at the time and made a particularly creepy one—with the bishop’s face! I don’t know if that’s myth, but my French teacher told me it.” That source is good enough for this parent-reporter.

4/12, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Salvadori Center, Room 2, 138th St. and Convent Ave. (212-650-5497 or; sign up in advance, $10 for adults, $5 for children.


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