New York

Imagine Coney


Send us your ideas for Coney Island! Tropolism means good ideas win.

The Municipal Art Society of New York today announced a new initiative to re-imagine Coney Island, called Imagine Coney. Coney Island, that land of mystery and wonder, the genesis of delusional fantasies both distant and contemporary, has been in decline for some time. New York City has taken some actions to spur its revival, but the plans that have come forth have been less than satisfactory. To that end the MAS is leading an effort that only they can lead: bringing the public and private concerns together. In addition, they are drawing upon their line of recent successful design competitions, where they solicit public input but wisely create their own design short list. Today they are announcing this effort, part of which is to solicit design ideas for their design team to look at in mid-November.

Tropolism is inspired by this public brainstorming session. We are asking all our readers to send us your ideas (especially visual illustrations) for Coney Island. Anything we get we will forward to the MAS; the best ideas we will post on Tropolism. This is open to everyone and anyone. Whether you're an architect or an admirer, t's time to fantasize again. Send whatever you can to [email protected]; the deadline is November 12.

Furniture Fridays: Nightwood In Brooklyn


Nightwood in Brooklyn is a shop that revives old chairs and recycles furniture scraps, all the while maintaining a clean look. But not too clean: the furniture keeps enough of its rough edges without getting too rustic on you. Our favorites are the Dusk Plank Dining Table and the Sunrise Chair (pictured). The shapes never get too modern, which means they rely almost entirely on the character of the individual scraps to push a design into new territory, meaning this is less the work of a designer and more the work of a curator/editor. Which is awesome.

Discovered through the always-fresh Remodelista.

Switch Bays


One of our favorite articles over the summer, during our sleepy time, was Daily Dose's piece about buildings with Switch Building like facades. While we will always have a fondness for the original Switch, we admit we are swayed by SHoP's M127 facade for its more elegant assembly of a diversity of typical New York materials: brick, metal, glass, into something entirely new. But still lovely.

Zaha And Chanel Do Up Art


The Chanel Pavilion Of Contemporary Art, Seriously or whatever it's called gives you all of its formal secrets before you get it. It's swoopy. It's modular fiberglass. It's Chanel! It's hard to miss that on the outside, but the utopian aspirations are given a distinct flavor. There are creepy helpers scurrying around in their black coats and black ball caps: they only look like jackbooted fascists in a retro-sci-fi movie, even though they say they're just taking tickets. It's helpful to write about this project in three parts:

Architecture: Zaha designed a swoopy container. It's interesting, but the swoops get old fast, and the construction is still very Early-Swoop-Technology: some great fiberglass panel stuff but all the connections are held together by schmutz. And a few well placed screws where things didn't quite work out. All the ceilings are made with a terribly cheap looking stretched tent fabric material. Things that art containers need, like lighting, are relegated to black painted openings between stretch fabrics. Often the unpainted 2x4 wood blocking under the track lighting is visible. Gorgeous. But the ambition is incessant, which is why we love Zaha, and you have no choice but to accept it (otherwise just go find a rock in the park to sit on). Check out the excellent slideshow at Curbed.

Art: With few exceptions, highly derivative or too understated to stand against/work with The Container. For some reason they all have Chanel as their theme. It's meant to be a theme that ties them all together. It's not a very good idea. However there is a powerful slideshow by our favorite bondage photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and some very disturbing photographs by David Levinthal. And a piece by Leandro Erlich called Le Trottoir (The Sidewalk) that one needs to experience for something like 50 minutes, not the 5 minutes they give you before you're shuttled away.

Narration: The Container cocoons you in many ways, notably by covering your ears with headsets and an MP3 player that you cannot touch without screwing everything up. They let you know. And so you are torn from your companions and given a decent soundtrack and narration by Jeanne Moreau (who we love). At first I thought it was Zaha. Easy mistake to make: the narration script is hilariously pretentious. The problem is that the art isn't really sequenced the way the continuous soundtrack and narration suggest, it's just a bunch of separate pieces (that vaguely relate to the space and Chanel, yes) and someone has put cinematic schmutz in the gaps between them. We applaud the idea of seeing what is mostly New Media Art this way, but it's light years behind interactive media as accessible as Call Of Duty 4. It's a way of seeing art that is under explored. The Container poses the problem, but the results are mixed.

Albert Ledner's Maritime Awesomeness


Regional Modernism, a great blog devoted to modernist buildings in the New Orleans Area, stopped by Albert Ledner's National Maritime Union while we were sleeping here at Tropolism. It sounds like some unwelcome modifications have been made to the exterior during its renovation.

Which then led us to more pictures of this freaky great building over at Alan Rosenberg's blog. Which of course led us back to good ole New York, where Ledner's other wacky building for the Union is in a preservation fight.

Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0: Now With 100% More Boulders And Dirt!


This is a big week for Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0 as it evolves from traffic control diagram to interesting for-real Pop-Up Park. Now with 100% more boulders and dirt! The boulders have already become a favorite of people looking for that previously-unavailable shot from +7' elevation of the Flatiron Building. And people who just want a boulder to sit on. Think about it: outside of Central Park, where can you really do that in this town?

Also of interest: installation images of the sand-like granulated covering. They put down an adhesive, rake the sand over it, and leaf blower it into final place. It's like a raked Japanese garden done by the DOT. Can you tell we're in heaven about this whole thing?

The topsoil (pictured in front of a truck from the installers, NYC's own Town and Gardens), is for the dozens of huge planters that are also arrayed on the park. Pictures as always in our Picasa photo album on the project.

The Madison Square Waterfall


Overlooking our first instance of Pop-Up Park 2.0 is a building (yes yes it's 200 Fifth Avenue, stunning new luxury la la la all very important) being powerwashed, as it has been for several weeks now. Complete with blue tarp and scaffolding you can walk under. I pass under this temporary structure several times a day, and always feel a little of the spray as I pass under it. The tarp glows a bright blue, and to get by it you need to jump over a little gurgling river of runoff all around the block.

Just as Pop-Up Park 2.0 is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous proto-park (TM) the powerwashing is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous art. Because all the elements of an Olafur Eliasson installation are there. And if you don't get the blue tarp reference, I have included a picture of Your Inverted Veto, an installation at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (a gallery I designed) in 1998.

Farther down the rabbit hole, you will see my implicit (and so far silent) appreciation for Olafur's NYC Waterfalls. I wholeheartedly agree with those who say that the falls fail as objects, or that their water is not like a real waterfall, or that the New Yorkness of New York City overwhelms these constructions. In fact, I think that accurately describes whole segments of Olafur's installations: they are uninteresting objects, and their surroundings are far more interesting. But these descriptions wildly miss the point. As serendipitous effects in the city, or in nature, they are incredibly powerful. They invert the relationship between surroundings and work. In case this point is being debated as an intention, I offer the title of this work (which I also worked with Olafur on).

I have yet to see the waterfalls up close, and do not intend to "visit" them. Instead, I have intentionally seen them unexpectedly, accidentally, without intention. On the F train crossing the Manhattan Bridge at sunset (when two were visible at once); on the approach to LGA from IAD, over Brooklyn (when all four were visible); on a taxi also over the Manhattan Bridge (when I could only see one). They are the perfect art for the vehicles of transportation infrastructure: moving, pumping, flowing, spraying, pooling. And yes, a little inadequate if you crop the picture. They make more visible (and more poetic) the intricate dance of heavy transportation engineering. The sublime nature of New York City is turned up to 11.

The Madison Square Waterfall recreates this effect. This is the first positive test of the success of Olafur's NYC Waterfalls.

See the expanded ever-experimental Tropolism Picasa Pop-Up Park 2.0 album for more waterfall pics.

Pop-Up Park, 2.0


Is this Pop-Up Park 2.0?

Since we first coined the phrase way back in ancient times, May 2008, the term has entered public consciousness. Dlandstudio has begun to own the term. But the DOT may come after them: their reorganization of the sea of asphalt just west of Madison Square Park, the place where many a tourist has risked life and limb for that oh so amazing shot of the Flatiron Building, has gone way beyond new traffic lines and asphalt paint for bike lanes. They have added a sandy granulated covering to the areas colored beige in their reorganization diagrams..

In a sense, this is 2.0 of pop-up park. Use some cheap materials (asphalt paint, sand, and some traffic cones) to see what happens when you create a little public space out of traffic re-egineering. All that is needed now is about a hundred Bryant Park tables and chairs and we'll be seeing them digging the whole thing up as a major park addition in 2011.

Check out Tropolism's highly experimental Picasa album of our walkthrough of the unfinished Pop-Up Park 2.0.

Pop-Up Park, In Action!


The Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Park, the very same park where we coined the term "Pop-Up Park", is suddenly open! Just in time for Olafur's Waterfall Day 2008.


Like a pop-up store, the pop-up park builds brand awareness. Except in this case, it's more like public-space-useability awareness. And nothing says public space awesomeness than the bare bones of what's there now: Lawn, benches, some plants, and a great place to get summer eats. And, refreshingly, it's all low tech, yet modern. We mean this as a compliment: it's not some overwrought construction for PS1 Warmup (SHoP, nArchitects, and Work AC's entries being the exceptions, of course). It has the feeling of a summer deck the community put together, BYO Lawnchair.


Pictures from special correspondent Susannah Drake, founder of dlandstudio, designers of this episode of Pop-Up Park.

Tropolism Exclusive: Pop-Up Park Updates


The Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Park--our favorite platform for viewing, er, lower Manhattan and whatever else might be down there--is getting refined as it gets closer to getting built (click the above image for full-sized goodness). What you're seeing there is painted asphalt (minus the multi-colored action in the previous renderings), grassy mounds, and the tree/sandbox area on the right. It's essentially the same plan, minus the super colors. Beyond is the asphalt wasteland that where the warehouses used to be, blocking the public's access to the water.

The inside story is as interesting as the design: almost all of the materials are being donated. The paint, trees, plantings, planter boxes, hay bales, plexiglas (on the perimeter fence) and some labor is all being donated. So not only is this a pop-up park, but it's becoming more open-source too.

Milliken Definitely Being Demolished


The Milliken Building, the 1958 box by Carson + Lundin Architect, appears to be in the process of full-on demolition. Our inside correspondant is Dam Trader, who sends along two photographs from last Friday's progress. Hopefully the Springs Building isn't going down too, we love these two. Again, if anyone knows what is happening on this site, drop us a line.


Milliken Building Going Down For Hotel?


We like to post news, not ask questions, but here is one people have asked us about recently: is the work happening at the Milliken Building (pictured here in 2004) a full-on demolition, or a renovation? One person who wrote us said the building had been sold to a developer, and an alleged hotel was being constructed on the premises. But we have been unable to discover what is actually happening. Any news, please drop us a line. We'd hate to see this one go.

Tropolism Exclusive: The Waterfalls Get A Park


Olafur Eliasson's waterfalls have created a rush of art tourism. The number of ways to see the waterfall, created specifically for the waterfalls, is growing fast. One approach is the generically luxury boat cruise for only $50,000. Another is potentially coming to Brooklyn: our friends and favorites at dlandstudio have designed a temporary observation deck at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.


The 26,000sf site had a Strober Brothers Lumber warehouse on it until a week ago, and has recently been deeded by the Port Authority to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy asked dlandstudio to develop a temporary park for the waterfalls. On a Brooklyn budget! Dland's design includes wide swaths of color painted in stripes over the asphalt to create both a more comfortable walking surface for pedestrians and add color and texture. The design is like a pop-up shop for the future Brooklyn Bridge Park on the waterfront. The park includes grass mounds for lounging (the future park will be lots of mounds), a sand area retained by wood beams with umbrellas for shade, and our favorite, hay bales that get seeded and grow grass like a chia pet as the summer progresses. The pop-up park is going to invite people to use the former warehouse-blocked waterfront as a park, allowing people to discover vistas of New York that were previously blocked. Way better than a cruise.

Click Continue Reading for another exclusive image from dlandstudio.

The Glass From Terminal 8


In February the 1960 stained glass window at JFK's terminal 8 was demolished. The window was over 300 feet long and 23 feet tall; it was designed by Robert Sowers for the 1960 American Airlines terminal. Our picture is of the terminal when it opened.


What the articles at the time neglected to mention is that most of the window was salvaged by Olde Good Things in Manhattan. That link has lots of juicy demolition details. We happened to spot one of the pieces in their store window while passing by. Some of the window was destroyed before OGT jumped in and took the remaining window to their warehouse in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They numbered the sections and it is now possible to buy large sections of the window for reassembly elsewhere. So while the window did not find a permanent home, and it will undoubtedly be broken up, at least it's in good hands. And it's possible to put large swaths of it back together, if you have the spot for it.