Curbed has a great profile on SHoP, the architecture firm behind a lot of New York City’s new urban development, most notably 2012’s Barclays Center. I really enjoyed their guiding philosophy, balancing theory and practice and seeing architecture as a wide field:
When the original principals—Christopher Sharples and William Sharples, who are twins, Coren Sharples, who is married to William, and Kimberly Holden and Greg Pasquarelli, who are married to each other—formed SHoP (the name is a combination of their last initials), the guiding idea was one of what architecture should and shouldn’t be, rather than a grand urban planning vision or even a shared aesthetic. “We wanted to…not fall into that trap of the ‘paper architect’ versus the ‘service architect,’” Pasquarelli says. “We really cared about theory and history and culture and beauty but we also really cared about politics and finance and technology and how those could come together. We thought that was what architects did best—that we understood a lot of different things.” The partners’ views were partly informed by their own varied backgrounds, which range from art history (Holden) to business (Coren Sharples) to political science and fine arts (Chris Sharples) to investment banking (Pasquarelli). Architecture is “the last great generalist profession,” as Pasquarelli calls it, one that let the partners continue hiring architects with similarly wide-ranging interests—current staffers have studied physics, philosophy, and other disciplines.
Greg Pasquarelli, one of the partners, outlines a great approach to their work at the close of the piece that could just as easily be applied to graphic design:
I think that we don’t even think about the form or the object at first. It’s really, what are the issues? What are the problems? What are we trying to solve? What are the prototypes? How do the prototypes work and not work? What do people love and not love about that building type or that neighborhood or that context? What is the effect that the client wants?” SHoP itself emerged and grew from similarly broad, open-ended questions: how can one group of architects change their profession? How can they can solve a construction problem, revitalize a neighborhood, build in a sustainable way, or give a superscraper a human sense of scale? “And once we have all of that information, the form begins to emerge.”
This surreal, Planet of the Apes-like image, taken in 1982, shows sand dunes seemingly at the foot of the World Trade Center towers, when Manhattan’s Battery Park was still a beach
Oh my, I love this.
At the beginning of the month I moved eleven miles across the city. After a year in East Harlem, I’ve moved south to Brooklyn. I moved from the north side of the city to the southern end. It’s a relatively small move—I didn’t move cross country and I didn’t leave the state—I just went from one end of the city to the other.
This moves gives me a new perspective of the city. I get to see it from a different angle. I find myself having to find new patterns, take different trains, learn the sidewalk etiquette of my new neighborhood. New perspectives shake you out of your routines and force you to see what you had previously missed.
With a new perspective comes a sense of wonder; a revived desire to explore, to seek out, to discover. It’s like after touching ground in a new city and the possibilities before you are endless. Sometimes seeing something from a different perspective makes it feel new. It’s still my city, but I’ve been given the privilege of seeing it with fresh eyes.
May I always see the world with fresh eyes.
It’s 11:00 on the uptown R train. At the 23rd St. stop, an older gentleman steps onto the car and pauses in the doorway as he scans the half-empty seats. A smile slowly speads across his face. Whispering, as if talking to himself, he slowly walks towards the woman in the corner seat. She’s smiling too, their eyes are locked. He slides into the seat next to her and she removes her headphones as they lean in for a kiss.
I quietly observe this interaction from the other side of the car. Something about these few minutes seem strangely ritualistic. I like to think they do this every night. After a long day at work, they’ve arranged to meet here.
In that seat.
In this car.
At this stop.
On this train.
The corner seat on the uptown R train is theirs. In the middle of the huge city, they’ve carved out a spot to meet so every night, at 11:00, they know where to find each other.
When I got off the subway a few stops later, they were exchanging stories about their days. I smiled as I stepped out of the car onto the platform. The city is moving all around them but to those two that seat in that car on that train was their universe. Because every night at 11:00pm, that’s the only spot that matters. Everything else fades away.
“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest for something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidarity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”
Somewhere in the midst of my internet browsing, I jumped down a rabbit hole of images of the construction of the Manhattan Bridge. (This one is great.) I was especially interested in the photo on the top, taken in 1908 in Brooklyn, looking North on Washington Street. It reminded me of a photo I took this past July, in roughly the same spot, looking North on Washington Street.
There is something endearing about seeing an image taken years ago of something you’ve seen recently. It feels familiar yet not quite the same, a simple reminder of our histories.
Central Park North
“I almost believe there is no New York; there is only a set of projections, and it can be anything you want. You hear it every day, so it must be true! It has the worst people, it has the best; it’s the worst, it’s the best. After all of these contradicting visions, you have to say there is no place like New York. It is the acceptance of the contradictions and illusions.”
Related to the last post, Milton Glaser talks about New York, his iconic I Heart NY logo, and what it means to be a New Yorker.
I love this bit he adds at the end:
The thing about New York is, it’s based on the idea of change. It is the most mutable of places; its strength comes out of that. It doesn’t cling to its own history and has been free to invent new ones. Some changes are horrible, others lead us somewhere. They’re discomfiting because no one likes change, but eventually, you end up somewhere else, and you discover you like that place.
As I look back on my life here, the city seems to have changed and grown and improved and challenged, this pattern of adaptation leading to a new moment, a new population. Look at the nature of the population, enormously affirmative and enhancing of life. You may hate Starbucks, but it’s done something, and eventually it, too, will disappear.
Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Uh, no, let me start this over.
The forgoing of his traditional white-Windsor-set opening credits on a black screen, Woody Allen’s Manhattan opens with a voiceover read by Allen’s character Isaac Davis, while black and white images of city slowly cycle through sets the film up as not just a love story, but as Allen’s love letter to New York.
There is a little bookshelf under the window in the dormer of my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house. On the bottom shelf, hidden behind some old issues of National Geographic and I large microscope, is a small photo album. My grandmother gave me that album close to fifteen years ago and it’s filled with images of trips we took together.
My grandparents took me on day trips every summer growing up. Sometimes it was to museums and another time it was a train ride. I remember a lot of these trips like they were yesterday.
I can’t remember exact year, but when I was in second or third grade, they took me to the Statue of Liberty. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite trip with my grandparents but if I had to pick one, that year’s trip would be close to the top. I remember brief moments from the day: riding the ferry to Ellis Island, walking up step after step inside the base of Lady Liberty, and my grandfather holding me up over the railing so I could look out over the entire island. I remember eating New York hot dogs on the bay, and I remember my grandmother taking this photo. It’s a photo of me, in a Don’t Mess With Texas shirt, standing in front of the New York skyline. Standing in front of the Twin Towers.
“Every magazine, television network, or radio station with an archive is sitting on gold. Get that stuff out of the basement and put it online for free, where people can link to, remix, and use it. But don’t just dump it there. Take advantage of what the web can do. Structure the work so that people can improve on your collection.”
Song of the moment: New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by LCD Soundsystem
New York City – A Photoset