Plastic City

I have started to think about where this project might be heading and had started to map out an appropriate site response. In doing so, I’ve thought about the two main ideas over the past week in NYC that I would like to explore in depth. This is just an initial idea to help me formulate a first brief/proposal for the museum of the present.

  • Hollowing as an act of site research.

What do you carve out from the city and what distinction can you make of this solid + void (existence of parade within the city and its removal after Thanksgiving) relationship with time? Does the annual reconstruction of the parade destroys the context it runs through? What relationship can you draw between the parade and the city it inhabits? 

In Picon’s Anxious Landscapes, he discusses at one point the implication of moments that arises within the city,

“…to clear the way in every direction without a final calling, to open the comings and goings of events rather than advents. Things and people, words and acts, are not disposed towards finishing and then erasing their traces, but rather towards starting again, getting back into movement, passing again through the passages, the operations, the divisions, exchanges and combinations, in the impetuses that come from everywhere and end up nowhere but at another invention in the journey, through houses and palaces, churches and hotels, always by the streets and by the highways.” (Picon, 2000, pg. 76)

This excerpt is really interesting as how events in the city is perceived and somehow highlighting that the streets/highways become the main site for operations and exchanges within the city. I am starting to think of the streets that the parade occupies as a museum that is not define by walls or permanent structures but somewhat imagining the inflatables as inhabitable museum spaces that is elusive in the city. An installation that runs on a specific timeline and how people could experience the them. From the book that I was referring to on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the author once describe the sky space that the balloons inhabit as the “Blue Sky Gallery”, and what they wanted to show within the frame of the street it occupies became the most important question when designing the balloons/floats/parade timeline.

“The collection is a form of art as play, a form involving the reframing of objects within a world of attention and manipulation of context. Like other forms of art, its function is not the restoration of context of origin but rather the creation of a new context, a context standing in a metaphorical, rather than a contiguous, relation to the world of everyday life.” (Stewart, 1993, pg. 152)


  • Testing the conventions of the museum. 

What are you collecting? What do you pick up and displace within the museum? How do you test authenticity of the objects/display within the museum? Should that be important, yes or no? 

I am looking to collect moments of the parade within the museum. Maybe displacing the parade would be a good way to start testing the impact it has (shortening the timeline of the event, manipulating elements of the parade). And to address the element of authenticity within the museum, I want to highlight the fictional context that the parade creates as ‘fact’, not being representational of a holiday hoax but as having the minimum and the complete number of necessary elements for a legit and autonomous context within the real world that people could experience.

“The set of objects the Museum displays is sustained only by the fiction that they somehow constitute a coherent representational universe. The fiction is that a repeated metonymic displacement of fragment for totality, object to label, series of objects to series of labels, can still produce a representation which is somehow adequate to nonlinguistic universe. Such a fiction is the result of an uncritical belief in the notion that ordering and classifying, that is to say, the spatial juxtaposition of fragments, can produce a representational understanding of the world.” (Stewart, 1993, pg. 162)

Having the role as collector and architect in this project, the aspect that is important to test within this project is the dialectic relationship between the gigantic versus the miniature (macro versus micro) aspect of the collected object in relation to its spatial environment. The idea of testing existence within the city interests me from the start of the project (Henri Lefebvre’s idea on plastic time and space), as events are malleable. They can ‘collapsed into partiality, perception becomes fragmentary, and above all temporal’ (Stewart, 1993. pg. 79).

“The collection does not displace attention to the past; rather, the past is at the service of the collection, for whereas the souvenir leads authenticity to the past, the past lends authenticity to the collection.” (Stewart, 1993, pg. 151)


With that I am going to attempt to answer Toby’s questions…

1) NAME: Does the project have a name?

The name of my project has been changing every week after many attempts of exploration and testing; currently I am thinking of ‘Macy’s Mausoleum : Dead Parade Collections’ or ‘A Macabre Ritual : Macy’s Death March’ . I think it is an interesting way to frame the investigation on the parade’s life cycle and relationship to time. Sounds a bit theatrical but I kinda like it.

2) QUESTION: What is at stake in the project? (Something political/ social/ economic..?) What is being questioned and why? What is the research question?

The project examines aspects of time and space relations by investigating the life cycle of one of the biggest parade in NYC, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The annual repetition of the parade within the city plays an important role in looking at captured moments in time and how they survive/die/reincarnate to host the holiday event. This inquiry relates directly to the studio theme in questioning the ideals of the museum and what it is today; how it is framed, viewed and portrayed. The investigation of the parade also looks as social and political aspects within the city of Manhattan that questions the role of mega companies such as Macy’s and its influence on the city (what this does and how it affects culture and perception within the city).

3) PROPOSITION: How is the question answered: what is the proposition?

Using forensics as a methodology to investigate the parade; it is dissected into several components (parade elements, route, timeline, site) and investigated thoroughly to understand how it survives and die within the city. Taking on the role as a collector/curator and architect, the dissection of the parade would help inform and give awareness on historical evidences of the site and in turn a wider understanding of the city and its relation to displaced objects (the event) within it (macro versus micro). This gives a poetic reading of the city and would help push and test the boundaries of conventional museums and how they function and exist in the city.

4) LANGUAGES: Drawing languages/sound model making or film technique: how do these languages support the project?

The project is explored by a series of material exploration and testing (object making) as well as timeline drawings/mappings/collages that is done as a research method in understanding elements that exists within it.

5) REFERENCES: Are there art/architecture/literary/historic/unit trip stuff or other references used?

  • Anxious Landscapes, Antoine Picon
  • Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas
  • The Manhattan Transcripts, Bernard Tschumi
  • On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Susan Stewart
  • Time Warped, Claudia Hammond
  • The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre
  • Images of Conviction: The Construction of Visual Evidence, Diane Dufour
  • Archigram, Peter Cook
  • Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture, Stephen Cairns & Jane Jacobs
  • The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard
  • Remembrance of Things to Come, Jorge Otero-Pailos

6) SITE: What is the approach or relationship to site? Is there a site? How well is it understood? How does this knowledge inform the project? Is there a reinterpretation of site in some way?

The site is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade route. It has 5 iterations so far and this has been mapped out and studied in relation to its historical narrative and timeline. The site has been looked at from the lens of the parade and being studied in terms of its importance within Manhattan.

7) MATERIAL: Materiality (or immateriality): what is the approach to physicality in the project? What is the approach to time? Is the project spatial? What is the ‘space’ of the project?

The project has been focused on plastic as material, in relation to Henri Lefebvre’s plastic space and time theory. In the beginning, plastic has been investigated in terms of its capacity to embed and retain information and data (influenced by the Janet Cardiff audio walk and how the tape recorder and cassette became the gateway between the past, present and future). As the project developed, plastic has been looked at as a material that could be embedded within the city (parade elements: balloons/floats) and in a wider context of plastic time (an event being embedded in the city, frozen within plastic moments). The investigation on plastic is also investigated based on its lifespan and technical capacities as a physical material and structure in the context of the parade within the city.

8) CLIENT: Who is the proposal for? Is there an audience in mind? How is this made evident?

Not decided yet.

9) PROVOCATION: How real is the project? Is it a paper project in the sense of a provocation or a ‘real’ project with practical constraints such as planning, construction strategies etc.?

Not decided yet.

10) PRESENTATION: How is each piece of work to be presented? How does the physical paper/any physical models work with the on-screen parts (if any)?

Forensic drawings/infographics/collage/material testing. The portfolio is presented in a hybrid case-file and vinyl record sleeve/cover.

11) SPACE: What is it like to be inside your project? Is there logic to the spatial arrangement you are proposing? Can you tell a story about the relationship of one space to the next?

Not decided yet.


For the cross crit, I am hoping to present all the drawings that I have, completed to include the new research ideas (written above) and some sample portfolio pages to show how the drawings are put together and presented. Here is a sample drawing of the site that I have just started to study scene staging on site. Hope to develop this into a more elaborate site drawing.

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One thought on “Plastic City

  1. Your thesis is well developed and great that you are able to bring in your past interest in collecting. It sounds like you have really thought this through and will be prepared for Tuesday. The titles you are considering are interesting choices. In referring to death and the mausoleum you suggest a timeline of life and end points. But you are looking at the life cycle of the parade – the death and demise of balloons but also resurrection in the repeating of the parade and re-presentation of the balloons. This is the core thread of your project so your title should reflect that you are complicating an expected timeline of life, demise, and death. And look again at how Picon describes the lingering of materials such as plastic – your material of interest – and how this complicates the ‘death’ timeline.

    It is unclear at present how you intend to develop your new site drawing. What unique information from the scope of your project will you be able to present / acquire from showing this one part of your site? Will it refer to one moment of the route also or will it be an opportunity to show density of repetition and what changes and what stays the same over one small part of the site?

    Enjoy Tuesday!

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