Leaving New York a Billionaire: Arriving Bankrupt

From our discussion on Tuesday, I decided to look into one particular story of the Chelsea Piers to narrow down the amount of stories and history the Piers have been a part of.

In the book, My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson, the author, Jessica Dulong describes the events surrounding the Wall St. stock market crash of October 29, 1929.

These events (stated previously) though tragic, bore no direct impact on the Chelsea Piers themselves, but the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, was a harbinger of port decline. A few days after the crash, when the Cunard Line’s ship, Barengaria, docked at Chelsea Piers, throngs of reporters pounced on arriving passengers to ask what it felt like to have departed on their voyage welthy and returned bankrupt.

The crash happened when the ocean liner was mid-atlantic and many of the passengers on board were unable to sell their shares, meaning they lost everything between England and New York.

I started to wonder how these people would see the city differently between leaving and arriving home, which has led to the drawing.

In the drawing, I wanted to portay the same city, but in 2 different ways, so I used a 2 point perspective to draw a street of chelsea leading to the pier, with it reflected on the other side, allowing one side to show these wealthy people leaving and the other side to show how they saw the same city upon their return.



I started by drawing the perspective by hand before using CAD so I could work out what I wanted and where.

The left hand side shows the people going out on their voyage to England (which can be seen by the horizon faintly at the top of the page) and the right hand-side shows the same chelsea street by different. The buildings are taller which makes it more intimidating, the ship is smaller as it is less important, the buildings cast a shadow wich makes it seem darker. It will also include people working and other similar features to allow people to study the drawing and try to work out what each of the things represent.

I also hope the buildings will represent a timeline of the area of chelsea, with the buildings representing chelsea though the ages, such as the people who lived there/ arrived there and worked there. Hopefully this will incorporate nicely into the overall drawing. The piers are at the back because from my experience of chelsea, it has managed to keep a lot of its character and history, but the piers are a distant memory as none have survived, hence being at the back of the drawing and ending the timeline.

I’ve started the drawing on 2D CAD, which is taking a while because I am drawing everthing from scratch in 2 perspectives, which is very time consuming. I didn’t want to find an existing chelsea street or 3d model because I felt it would take away from what I was trying to do.

Perspective drawing

I have also commented below to show the ideas I have for the drawing (with hand-drawn above):


Initial CAD with comments 2

The piers play quite an interesting part in the drawing as they almost frame the whole view.


Chelsea Piers Image

I needed to know what the piers looked like in their heyday, so I found an image online and re-drew it out on CAD using these images. It was interesting to see how large they are in proportion to the people on the ground. They really seemed like magnificent structures, and they were designed by the same architects who designed Grand Central Station, so I wanted them to be these structures in the drawing.

Perspective drawing Pier Zoom 1

I am hoping this drawing starts to  represent how the area has changed over time and included a story of how people percieve the area after a huge historical economic disaster.


One thought on “Leaving New York a Billionaire: Arriving Bankrupt

  1. Great beginning of the drawing and its good to focus your interest on the two changing views of the city and its nice how the perspective becomes a sliding scale between past and present. The placement of the piers in your drawing successfully suggests a threshold between New York and beyond and also a threshold between before and after. How does this story impact the present though?

    You might want to also include on the horizon a chart of other voyages and shipwrecks to contextualise the specific one you are talking about, and as a way of documenting the research into the Chelsea Piers that you have already done. Look at some shipwreck maps for inspiration and keep going – http://www.heritagepublishing.com/ccp51/media/images/product_category/channelstraits.jpg

    What are the buildings that you are beginning to draw in the centre? Is this a current/ past landscape or a composite? How will you now show the changed relationship of the returning passengers to the post crash city? You mention one strategy as using taller buildings and shadows to appear intimidating. Have a look at this short article by the author Will Wiles, writing about the haunted house in fiction:
    http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/comment/its-coming-from-inside-the-house/8687834.article# (titled elsewhere by Will as ‘a rotten age leads to haunted houses’). What is very interesting and (we think) unique about how Will thinks of the haunted house is the link he makes between abandoned homes and financial downturns. Is there something particular about the state of architecture of post crash New York that you could begin to explore? Were buildings inhabited or used differently? Did their maintenance change? And did any of these changes lead to changes in the way that the city was reacted to? Such as the abandoned house being threatening and a space for people to project fears on to.

    As the project develops it could be interesting to do a comparative drawing of what impact the recent 2008 recession had on Chelsea now that the economic centre has shifted away from the ports.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished drawing as well as the exploration study and updated portfolio on Tuesday!

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