January Megapost








Fractals 02

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”).

One thought on “January Megapost

  1. Really pleased to see the new pages you have done for the portfolio since they do exactly what we discussed before the break in terms of building up the background context for your unique discovery that connects East Harlem and Central Park. Defining the uncanny, explaining intangible flows of capital at a global scale and then zooming in to understand the many, and often arbitrary ways that the city is zoned, divided, portioned, and organised really helps the clarity of the portfolio. The photos taken on site are beautifully framed and laid out to expose differences between the two areas. I agree that its not about which culture is ‘stronger’ but more about the contrast between the two and how through the arbitrary census tract and corrupt fund appropriation, they are brought into close proximity – how do you start to draw that breaking down of boundaries and clash between these two cultures/ areas/ peoples/ architectures?
    At the moment the final drawing is still too abstract and formalistic to show how it applies to the site, a strategy of manifesting the intangible and your overall intent. Its important to think about what you want to achieve through intervening in this situation. Do you want to provide a solution (is that even possible) or do you want to expose the intangible flows present in the city through this specific scenario? Your work from early on in Semester 1 with the gates and the hyrbidised architectural language you developed should be reintroduced here as a strategy to create a new hybrid between the spatial languages of East Harlem and Central Park South. Specificity in understanding the coding of each areas existing architecture will help you understand the inherent logic of each and then how they can be combined. Rather than proposing to solve this weird re-appropriation of funds, perhaps your architectural proposal is to redesign the Park Lane Hotel to be a more authentic or honest expression of the forces that shaped it? The project then will not just be about the design of this tower but really how it manifests all the intangible elements at play. It requires a really deep analysis of the two areas to understand how they come together to form a new understanding of the area. The passage you excerpted from Kundera made me think of this where it describes how “incongruous things came together” which is something considered normal in New York where the city is a random composition of elements but what if you bring intentionality to this composition, not to make it any less incongruous but to use that trait to expose the unseen, uncanny forces within the city. Looking forward to seeing this develop for tutorials on Friday!

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