In advance, sorry about the meandering involved in this post. I’m still trying to flesh out exactly what this proposal is going to be doing, and what the elements of my project so far are pointing to!
Ok so I feel that after the crit, I need to clarify a lot of my work. All the pieces need to build together in a rational manner and explain the thesis properly, however, this needs to be done in conjunction with the working up of the brief. I feel it was a good crit as it showed me where the weaknesses were in communication, and alsy some good ideas came out of it. I really liked Max’s idea of the book, which is something I’d looked at earlier with Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Your House’. Now I can really see it coming in useful in demonstrating becoming and mutation.
I’ve been thinking about the brief and moving the project forward in a way that fully exploits the research and experimentation done so far. So being on site, one of the things I noticed was the aspect of gentrification and appropriation of cultural images and signs. Professionals and white collar workers are typically moving into luxury flats surrounded by monuments which still speak of blue collar work, production, and everyday labor, while also benefitting from images associated with artists and creatives. The sites history speaks of all these various functions and points in time, and the signs which belong to each, and are being exploited to suggest a nature of authenticity. This is one facet of a gentrification process which includes many. Neoliberal economic policies push free markets, transnational investment and competition between cities at a national and global scale, the emergence of which is said to be in the 1980’s colliding with gentrification process affecting DUMBO.
Having been subject to gentrification by Two Trees real estate and various other factors, all existing at different scales and spatio-temporal coincidences, the project could begin to critique the appropriation of culture which occurs as a by product of mainly economic forces and policy. An interesting note is this advert produced by Two Trees Real estate in which they realise that ‘market rents are not feasible for all’, and attempt to give back to the community which gave the area the success and diversity to pull in further investment, by offering up 50,000 square feet of space, rented at below market rent, to artists, community groups, creatives, and educational institutions which are able to ‘demonstrate their capabilities and intent to provide a social benefit to DUMBO and the broader Brooklyn community’. This phrase itself embodies individualism and self-interest quite well, and speaks of the overarching themes which lead to gentrification.
Investors and architects who produce luxury flats seem to pick and choose, curating the layers of time with which they produce space. Renovated buildings in DUMBO containing (The language Two Trees use to describe these buildings is that of containment, of holding apartments, which suggests a superficial relationship) bear very little of the original surface and spatial qualities inherent to factory buildings. Flats are whited over, the promise of the rusticated facade betrayed by a blank canvas inside.
So elements are chosen depending practicality and economy, but much of this appropriation is skin-deep. The project could begin to critique this superficial exploitation, calling for a more meaningful engagement with history and the ongoing site conditions through a kind of exhibitionism, a museum of labor possibly displaying a real form of struggle between residencies that don’t have the benefit of the tabula rasa, in whiting over walls and creating architectural interventions which allow a detachment from the realities of the labor on which the site was formed, and the architectural reality in which they have to make do.
In this way we can possibly critique what is authentic, and what is not, although I do not want to push the idea of the site as a geography of production or labor as the one true authentic view of the site. Gentrification and renewal are all, excluding social groups, propagating others are all very much symptoms of what the site has become, has mutated into. Maybe the critique somehow questions a reliance on image, when the image is superficial, by embodying these forces of change within the building. Forms mutate onto other forms, architectural details converge aluding to various time periods and functions, and within this setting social games are played out which mirror the sites progress. Individualistic gain is promoted, people move through the building occupying different tenancies, workspaces according to their finances etc.
Possibly the spaces set up a microcosm for gentrification, an incubator, allowing residents to do as they like with the space, however, in alternate forms to the ones already existing on site. The element of transparency and display will attempt to shift attitudes to wealth and existing conditions, how the site has progressed, posing questions about how it is to progress and continuously progress.