The Gowanus Canal has been in the news a lot lately, with its superfund designation and sunken schooner. The canal and surrounding neighborhood have long fascinated architects and urbanists, and has been the subject of numerous architecture school design studios. A new ideas competition looks to develop that fascination into a series of proposals for the site, which would improve connectivity across and around the polluted waterway and take better advantage of the area’s unique history, character, and economic potential.
I assumed he would be articulate as all OMA graduates are, and I’d heard he was as intellectually entertaining as only those TED Talk types can be, but I was surprised that Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect recently taking the city in a storm of media, could also simply converse. And he did so with ease last night in a Q&A with The Architect’s Newspaper as part of a Design Trust for Public Space council member drive at the oh-so-private Core Club. The theme was “New York After Bloomberg,” which frankly scares some people, especially architects, as the mayor has been a practically unprecedented supporter of the building arts and enlightened zoning throughout his three-term tenure.
New zipper benches designed by WXY are in place at Peter Minuit Plaza. The skateboard-proof benches in front of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal got a proper workout yesterday, despite the cold. The sinuous design begins as two benches facing opposite directions before zipping up and melding into one surface offering the sitter a choice of two views.
Morphing benches seem to be making statements in more places than just New York as well. Last week’s AN Fabrikator story spotlighted subway benches in Philly that scrunch up to discourage people from lying down. It would seem that firms are taking on bad behavior by pushing the design envelope.
The Brooklyn-based Chilean artist Ivan Navarro will take to the floor at the Amory Show tonight, as well as to the walls at the Paul Kasmin Gallery on West 27th St. and 10th Ave. “The Armory Fence” installation outlines the entirety of the gallery’s booth as a humming neon riff on a conventional suburban fence. At 23 by 36 feet it cuts quite a substantial swath of real estate at the fair. At the gallery, neon wall sculptures inspired by some of the world’s most famous buildings suggest a disco take on the familiar icons, but a second glance reveals a deeper sense of gravity, with words like “surrender” or “abandon” subtly etched atop the glass.
Last week, we came across illustrator James Gilliver Hancock’s series of playful block elevations titled “All the Buildings in New York.” It turns out this impulse to sketch block upon block of New York’s architecture has been around for quite some time. In 1899, the Mail & Express newspaper company published a graphic journey down Manhattan’s Broadway in a book called A Pictorial description of Broadway now archived at the New York Public Library.
The stroll down Broadway 112 years ago reveals just how much New York has evolved over the past century. As the NYPL says, “The result, as you can see here, is a 19th century version of Google’s Street View, allowing us to flip through the images block by block, passing parks, churches, novelty stores, furriers, glaziers, and other businesses of the city’s past.”
The dialogue between architects and artists in New York is one of the great-if often over looked- strengths of practice in this city. In fact, many architects visit New York not to see the latest building, but the exhibits in its galleries and museums. It has been the case, at least since MOMA’s epic modernism exhibit of 1932 and later Frederic Kielser’s Endless House series of exhibitions that the conversation between architects and artists in this city is endlessly complex and without equal in any other city.