Public Effect

James Corner Spotlights

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James Corner, he of Field Operations (warning: totally annoying website navigation ahead), gets a lot of attention over at Landscape+Architecture last week. First he got a perfectly good mash note on November 24th: "The savoir [sic]... of course is James Corner and his firm Field Operations." This was the extended illustrated commentary on an article in the New York Magazine about the Fresh Kills park. But then he shows up in Metropolis for the highline (with really awesome pictures), and gets what can only be described as a mash note that further illustrates why we should love him. Frankly, we think he deserves it. He is redefining the profession of landscape architecture: there is no hyperbole in that statement. Will his built work be a success? That remains to be seen. But his influence on my generation is unmistakable. His desire to make beautiful, workable, urban spaces keeps his solutions looking decidedly non-theoretical. Yet somehow they look new. James Corner has many imitators, but few peers, and the mark his ideas leave on New York will be unmistakable.

Tropolism Exhibitions: Actions : What Can You Do With the City

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Tropolism means taking action.

Fittingly the CCA is opening a show November 26th titled Actions: What Can You Do With the City. The exhibition explores 97 actions that "instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world". Our favorite part, however, is an online toy that generates specific actions you yourself right now can take in the city, actions that are outlined in the show, essentially putting the exhibition to work. Worrrk! Now this is Jane Jacobs for the 21st Century.

The High Line: Save The Spur

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Anyone who's walked The High Line knows about The Spur. It's that totally awesome elevated rail thingy that is more like a rail pier than a piece of a rail line. Like an appendix to the main High Line it isn't continuous with the flow of the rails. Yet it offers a really wonderful view from all directions, and it is the most visible architectural element of the High Line when approaching from the East (as in from where the rest of Manhattan is). If you'd like to see it included as part of the High Line park as much as we do, please get over to the public forum on December 1. Details here.

Imagine Coney: First Glance

From our roving correspondant, Saharat Surattanont, we get this report on Imagine Coney:

Last night, the Municipal Art Society (MASNYC) showcased their proposal for the redevelopment of Coney Island. Underscored by the financial realities of such an endeavor, their master plan of “big ideas” outlined the process for revitalization. The stated goal was to develop a viable economic paradigm without sacrificing the authentic flavor of Coney Island.

Step right this way to read the rest of Tropolism's coverage...

The Pyramids In Today's Egypt

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Today The New York Times posts a little memo from Cairo touching on the relationship of modern Egypt to its ancient past. These are issues touched on in the book we finished recently, and the article stars Zahi Hawass, the cultural minister so prominently featured in Loot.

“A man without history is a man without humor,” said Galal Amin, an economist and author who has written about Egypt’s modern decline. “A man with history is more likely to have humor, because he is more likely to see the irony in things, how things were and how they turned out to be. And patience.”

Favela Painting

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Favela Painting is a project by Dutchmen Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn that creates home-grown artworks out of the density of the Rio favelas. The project has raised the cash to fund several large paintings already, creating a pretty brilliant virtuous cycle out of all the money that was flowing through the art world. Compare this to, say, that Burning Man burn out a few years ago, which talked community and sustainability, but didn't really play at this level. This is microfinancing for communities engaged in the production of neighborhood-scale art.

We invite you to support Favela Painting directly.

Via Plataforma Arquitectura.

GPS Film

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Picking up where we left off in last week's newsletter, we bring you GPS Film, a new cinematic concept that attempts to integrate traveling through the city with a cinematic, authored experience. The films sense your location with your GPS-enabled smartphone. So far only one film has been produced with the system (you have to travel downtown Singapore to experience in situ), but we think this is a type of film that we're going to see a lot of in the coming years. We are imagining films hooked to every nook and cranny of the city, and an infinite chain of films to walk through.

Imagine Coney: Now A Real Website

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Ha ha, joke's on us. Here we thought MAS was just going to accept ideas for its Imagine Coney project through public forums and such. No, they were just hanging onto a wonderful website where you can click "Submit Idea" and it goes into their internetwork (text only, images need to be emailed in). Or, you can real-mail them something called a "CD". The website is really beautiful, too. Be sure to submit your stuff before November 12th.

PS if you still want to go rogue and send us your stuff too, we'll still publish the best ideas we receive.

Imagine Coney Reminder

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Reminder: send us your ideas for Coney Island! Tropolism means good ideas win. 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 Municipal Art Society; 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.

Bureau Of Architects

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The latest wave in social networking has finally come to architects with Bureau of Architects. It's a nifty network for everyone in the design sphere, but without the extraneous geegaws of The 'Book. What's particularly great about this micronetwork is that it turns out to be not so micro: the applications and feeds that are included are going to be stuffed full of images, competition dates, and news feeds before too long, making this a very useful meeting place for the architecture world.

Be our friend?

Imagine Coney

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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.

Boulders Building

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Filed under buildings we just love: Biblioteca Parque Espana by Giancarlo Mazzanti in Medellin, Columbia. The idea is brilliantly simple: create an artificial natural formation as a landmark for the city. The building is covered in a gorgeous dark stone that gives it the coloration of the surrounding mountains. There is also a wonderful public space surrounding the boulders, creating a true acropolis for this special site. The boulders frame the views, making the experience one akin to the view one gets after a long day mountain climbing.

Tipped off (long ago) by Eikonographia.

Albert Ledner's Maritime Awesomeness

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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!

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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

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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

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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.