The first seven images address some of the themes we discussed before the break and Ronnie’s question of ‘which is the stronger culture between East Harlem and Central Park South?’ I did some reading into a report that was published to accompany proposals by the NYC Districting Commission’s for the redrawing of the city’s legislative boundaries which contained some insight into the demographic and socio-economic disparities between the two neighbourhoods. I would struggle to say that one culture was ‘stronger’ than the other, but there are certainly distinct differences in the balance of power and wealth as well as ethnic and occupational diversity.
I have also revisited the ‘drawing’ of the site with the extracts from Delirious New York and redrawn this to place emphasis on the phrases that have accumulated significance for me in the intervening period. The drawing/diagram charting the funding of the building under the EB-5 legislation has been reworked to include information from recent journal reports.
I have been reading Kundera’s The unbearable lightness of being over the holidays and came across the following passage where he describes the dispositive effect of the architecture of New York, which seemed to resonate with the idea of the accidental, the disjunctive and the ‘unhomely’:
Franz and Sabina would walk the streets of New York for hours at a time. The view changed with each step, as if they were following a winding mountain path surrounded by breathtaking scenery: a young man kneeling in the middle of the pavement praying; a few steps away, a beautiful black woman leaning against a tree; a man in black suit directing an invisible orchestra while crossing the street; a fountain spurting water and a group of construction workers sitting on the rim eating lunch; strange iron ladders running up and down buildings with ugly red façades, so ugly that they were beautiful; and next door, a huge glass skyscraper backed by another, itself topped by a small Arabian pleasure-dome with turrets, galleries, and guilded columns.
She was reminded of her paintings. There, too, incongruous things came together: a steelworks construction site super-imposed on a kerosene lamp; an old-fashioned lamp with a painted-glass shade shattered into tiny splinters and rising up over a desolate landscape of marshland.
Franz said, ‘beauty in the European sense has always had a premeditated quality to it. We’ve always had an aesthetic intention and a long-range plan. That’s what enabled Western man to spend a decade building a Gothic cathedral or a Renaissance piazza. The beauty of New York rests on a completely different base. It’s unintentional. It arose independent of human design, like a stalacmitic cavern. Forms which are in themselves quite ugly turn up fortuitously, without design, in such incredible surroundings that they sparkle with a sudden wondrous poetry.’
Sabina said, ‘Unintentional beauty. Yes. Another way of putting it might be “beauty by mistake”. Before beauty disappears entirely from the earth, it will go on existing for a while by mistake. “Beauty by mistake” – the final phase in the history of beauty.’
And she recalled her first mature painting, which came into being because some red paint had dripped on it by mistake. Yes, her paintings were based on ‘beauty by mistake’, and New York was the secret and authentic homeland of her painting.
Franz said, ‘Perhaps New York’s unintentional beauty is much richer and more varied than the excessively strict and composed beauty of human design. But it’s not out European beauty. It’s an alien world.’
Didn’t they then at last agree on something?
No. There’s a difference. Sabina was very much attracted by the alien quality of New York’s beauty. Franz found it intriguing but frightening; it made him feel homesick for Europe.”
(Kundera, 1984, pp.97-98)
The final drawing is a bad first attempt, derived from a series of sketchbook drawings, to describe a nascent architecture of the New Society that aims to hybridise the biomorphism of the first semester’s work with a sense of the morselated, the fragmentary and broken (Koolhaas’ “metaphorical and irrational”).