Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

Kathy, The Phenomenon of Culture

Cities are built on tradition and cultures. Tradition is a value that enhances our history. Culture is what marks the differences for every society. In the north coast of Colombia there lays the golden gate of Colombia, a city that is characterized by the warm and charismatic people. This city is also known as “Curramba la bella,” and for good curramberos the carnival represents the climax of the year. In the El Espectador by Lorena Machado, she illustrates the aura of the carnival. She describes how the city transforms on the Carnival’s commencement:

“La ciudad se supende en el ritmo. Uno déjà de caminar las calles para bailarlas porque de cada recoveco se escapan los sonidos de los tambores que anuncian que el Carnabal comienza.” (The city is suspended in rhythm. One stops walking the streets to dance on them because the sounds of the drums escape from every corner, announcing that the Carnival is about to begin)

With a Calvino essence, Machado in the first line shows how influential the music and the dance during the festivity. Barranquilleros know that during these days the best way to travel in the city is by following the rhythms of the traditional cumbia, characterized by the drums and the flute. As Machado said, during these days “La pena no existe y el descanso tampoco” (Being embarrassed does not exist and resting either).Sadly, this is the only instant in the newspaper article where true Carnival tradition is portray.

The article is essentially a tour guide, revealing the three most important events in the carnival, and giving explanations as to why they cannot be missed. It shows the different concerts during the four days. It also shows where to go eat and what to eat in the famous restaurants and stands. At the end, Machado turns from a guide, to an observer. She illustrates interactions between different characters such as George Bush and Hugo Chavez dancing together along with Fidel Castro. Moreover, she mentions the story of the tourists that become infatuated by the hip movement of a young costeña, or the one that come to be part of a comparsa (dance group). At the end she implies that everyone without exception gives themselves to the frenzy.

Although the article serves as a guide for the tourist, it is simply a guide. It doesn’t commemorate on the traditions that are held during the carnival, it does not talk about either the dances or the music, which are so important for the festivity. Her goal was to commercialize four days of tradition. The city of Barranquilla has always prepared year round for this festivity, and even though there is only 4 days of carnival, Barranquilla has pre-carnivals since November. Also, people are in constant celebration. The Barranquilla Carnival is what shapes the city, it is the legacy. In fact in these four days tourists and the rest of the world get to know what Barranquilla is about.

To me, I was born in a city where our cultural heritage and our folklore was the symbol the distinct us from other cities; therefore, it is represented everywhere from city-buses to streets. Culture is what transform my city, Barranquilla.

http://www.elespectador.com/revistas/buen-viaje-vip/articulo-254172-carnaval-de-barranquilla-el-verdadero-arrebato-de-fiesta

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September 28, 2011

Reflections on “Spatial Metaphors” and Neoliberalism

In Felix’s post on “subversive” and “spontaneous” public spaces, he points out the necessity of free unregulated space for collective action and the formation of social connections.  He describes how our contemporary urban culture, being driven by the endless accumulation of capital and a corrosive consumer mentality, confines these vital spaces to the unseen parts of society, to the “parks, alleyways, housing project pathways, etc.”

I found his insights particularly interesting in light of an essay I just read from an academic journal “Capitalism Nature Socialism” entitled “The Leaf Blower, Capitalism, and the Atomization of Everyday Life.”  The author, Jules Boykoff, uses the leaf blower as a “spatial metaphor” to show “how technology can reorganize space and alter social relations.”  Boykoff demonstrates that apart from its harmful effects on the environment and human health, the leaf blower also further entrenches anti-social “hyper-individualistic” behavior that perpetuates the consumer mentality mentioned above.

Consistent with what we have discussed in class so far, he acknowledges the significance of how the political/material organization of space in society has a significant effect on how society functions.  The question for many is: does the space organized by the political institution and the technocrat limit or expand the prospects for genuine community relations and dissent?  Boykoff and many others would argue that the capitalist enterprise organizes society in such a way that individuals are cut off not only from their physical environment but also from one another.  We become atomized consumers with little interest in genuine participation in the public sphere.

What’s interesting about Boykoff’s analysis is his emphasis is on the way “spaces of resistance” can also be eroded by everyday practices, behaviors and technologies that are taken for granted, his primary example being the leaf blower.  I have posted the link below, thought you all might enjoy it.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10455752.2011.593896

September 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street- Armaan Alkazi

Occupy Wall Street is a protest which intends to, as the name suggests, occupy Wall Street from September 17th onwards.( For a indefinite period of time) The symbolism is obvious; they want to protest the massive amounts of money Wall Street had gambled away along with object to the overwhelming influence of corporate America in politics. However as the proestors made their way towards Wall Street they found it was blocked off by the New York Police Department. The Police Department had blocked the apparently ‘public space’ in response to the protestors call to occupy it. The protestors, who were intent on staying, eventually had to settle in Zuccoti Park which is privately owned. In response to this move the owners of the park have issues set of rules forbidding the setting up of tents, tarps etc essentially rules aimed at the protestors.

The question which this demonstration raises is how free are our public spaces? Public dissent is an essential part of any healthy democracy, but what happens when we cannot rely on public spaces? Does the government have a right to privatize spaces if a protest is to be held there? Does public space imply that it is a space in which we should be allowed to protest? Should we only have specific public places in which protests are allowed? (as is done in many countries) Does curtailing the right of citizens to protest in any public space impinge on our right to expression?

PS A number of Bard kids are heading down to Occupy Wall Street on the weekend to understand what this movement is about. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page.

Here are a few Useful links if you’re interested in Occupy Wall Street

Guardian Article

Occupy Wall Street Main Page 

Al Jazeera Coverage

Chris Hedges Interview on Occupy Wall Street

September 28, 2011

Roofs- Lia Soorenian

Roofs was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about neglected space. Whether it be the roof of a home or the roof of a building, I believe it is an important space to focus on. Even though roofs on buildings are easily accessible, they are usually regulated by security in order to prevent people from loitering there. Here, we can see the lines blur between public and private space. A conventional use of roofs would be to create space for parking lots; however, there have been more sustainable and productive ideas for roofs.

One idea that has been proposed is to create green roofs by planting vegetation on top of buildings’ roofs in since they are unoccupied sources of space and receive the most sunlight. Also, there is a drainage pipe system to prevent flooding during times of rain. This becomes sustainable as it helps clean the air by providing more oxygen.

Another way of using roofs would be to simply paint them white. This way, the sunlight will it the white roofs and reflect the light back into space. According to scientists, this would help low down the process of global warming.

You can find the articles on green roofs here and here.

September 27, 2011

Unexpected Bus Stops – Hannah Otto

They are the start of the day and the end of the day.  You meet people, run into lost friends, talk to your neighbor, and spend time with buddies.  They are the perfect place for human interaction and daily congregation.  Bus stops are one of the most frequented places in a city. This necessary mode of transportation makes a city mobile from boring daily commutes to exciting evenings out.  They provide a place to interact with people and get to know people.  Commuting to and from the same high school for four years, you really start to realize how important the bus stop is to city-dwellers.  Friendships were determined by the bus you took; I remember as a freshman always looking for friends to take the bus with and really getting to know a person while sharing a bus ride.  The bus stop is for informal congregation and also they mold and define the spaces around them. Restaurants and businesses want to be located right next to a bus stop for easy customers. Even the bus stop location effected some of decisions within my daily routine.  I would constantly be worried about how to get ahead of the crowd after school.  When events happen in certain areas of a city, the urbanites know to avoid those areas.

Above, I included some photos of innovative new bus stops and some of them make you think about what the purpose of a bus stop is? What should bus stops cater for? There are so many diverse riders can there really be an ideal bus stop? What is the political involvement in bus stop placement and maintenance?

 

For further reading: http://www.spa.ucla.edu/critplan/past/volume006/02%20Rojas.pdf

September 26, 2011

Violeta Borilova- Tape-it!

Street art is what I thought of first when thinking of unexpected places. Graffiti and other forms of art, like tape art, are generated at specific places (specific because not all can have that purpose). I found this website where a group of street artists post their videos. Their motto says: “art, when made in unexpected public places, infuses the urban landscape to produce effects different from the everyday experiences citizens walk through in their same old streets.” It is interesting to think that what is defined by unexpected is something that all of sudden receives credit, and people begin to notice it, and give it a new meaning. There is a space in Barcelona by the beach which at some point people began to decorate it, and from there it evolved into a skateboarders space. The space is between a park and the beach but is secluded from the main ‘beach walk’ which is what makes that space attractive.

http://vaffanculomagazine.com/0211/multipraktik/multipraktik.html

September 26, 2011

Violeta– I (heart) Public Space: Putting the Unexpected in the Public Realm: Part I

I (heart) Public Space: Putting the Unexpected in the Public Realm: Part I.

September 26, 2011

Jin Jun – Bus Stops

For a space to become a public space is to present itself as a place of public interactions and ownership.  Bus stops usually force the commuters to mingle in a tight “public” space with complete strangers, while each of the passengers have equal ownership of the that space.  The extent of conversation you may carry out with them is totally up to you.  It is simply a place where people who occupy the same residential space gets to acknowledge the presence of each other.

More often than not, commuters on the same bus will have similarities with one another.  First, they probably live close to one another.  They may not have a car, which might speak to their occupation (perhaps a student) or their socio-economic status.  It may also speak to their political views or awareness of environmental issues.  Or simply their support for the local, public transportation.  Regardless, bus stops become a place where the diversity of preselected group of people can intermingle.

I also wanted to discuss the impact of architecture on bus stops.  The relationship a commuter has with the bus stop may be heavily influenced by whether or not the space is enclosed in as a “bus stop.”  For example, consider the differences between these three bus stops:

1. Sign

2. Covered Bench(es)

3. Hub

They all serve the same function, while create a totally different feeling and a sense of place for the commuters.  Especially in the first image, where do you draw the line between the street and space occupied as the “bus stop?”  How would the experience here be different than – let’s say – the third image where the street itself is specifically designated to bus riders?  Then, in turn, is one more public than the other?

Lastly, what becomes of this space at Bard (a private institution), where multiple different “buses/shuttles” (both public and private) utilize the same stop?  Or the fact that this bus stop made of, by, and for the Bard community is sharing the space with a state road (that is, Annandale Rd)?  Can we safely say that this is a public space?

Side note: “15 Unusual and Creative Bus Stops”

September 26, 2011

Subversive Public(?) Spaces

I think it was Jane Jacobs who said something along the lines of “people go where there are other people.” In a general sense, many public spaces are created by this phenomenon. People use parks that other people use, walk with more regularity on more crowded streets, and consume where other people consume. Of course, the prerequisite of heavy use of a space does not only fulfill a social interactional need for potential users, but speaks to a slew of other signifiers including public safety, product quality, and ideas of social status. Additionally, public spaces often grow around ideologies or collective identities, attracting active users and more passive flaneurs.

But I am particularly interested in spontaneous public spaces, or those that form not because of a normative social prerequisite, but precisely because they are unused. These hidden, more un-surveilled public spaces, like public parks after dark, un-trafficked industrial neighborhoods, alleyways, or housing project pathways are so “dangerously” public that they might as well be private. They form sites of political, economical, and social resistance, whether by offering a secretive meeting place for sexual encounters, a removed space for unregulated trade (drugs, stolen things, resale, art), or by generally creating an accessible and largely free space for non-normative behavior. Fortunately, these places remain un-intruded upon by groups that might meet them with hostility–a product of their unsafe or uncouth reputations. Unfortunately, these critical zones of illegal (maybe we should say anti-legal?) , queer, or political interaction are constantly being labeled as blights, unused or wasted parts of the urban landscape that should be absorbed back into the whole. As a result, we should problematize the concept of the brownfield, of the “unsafe” street, of the Jacobsian “pervert park.” We should interrogate all public safety and urban development measures as possible means of destroying subversive spaces and communities.

In terms of specific examples of “anti-public” public spaces, we have:
Tompkins Square Park of the 1980s, which became renowned as a space for drug trade and as a homeless site.

Bushwick, Brooklyn, much of which is industrial (It is referred to by the city government as an Industrial Business Zone) and deserted, making it ideal and indeed utilized by visitors and residents as a safe space for non-legal gatherings, performances, and other activities.

That area behind the Stone Row dorms, Bard College, where it is safe to drink a beer or do drugs outside, and it is also safe to assume that if anyone is already there, it is because they are doing the same thing.

A part of the East River waterfront, Manhattan, where you are sandwiched between the river and the FDR drive, and the waterfront becomes too narrow for police cars to patrol. Nice view, no police harassment, and company on similar business.

As we can see, these non-normative public spaces vary in formality and presence in the landscape of social knowledge. They also vary in function, or at least in primary or common function. But the commonality that all such spaces share is their resistance, their existence out of necessity, and their lack of surveillance by normalizing agents.

-Felix

September 26, 2011

Gabe Adels-Abandoned Garages

Growing up half in Philadelphia, and half in a suburb outside of the city, I sometimes didn’t know what to do with myself when I came downtown to visit my dad. I didn’t really have friends in the city. I might go for a long walk with my dogs, or to a sort of shopping district to mosey about the bookstores. But eventually this repetitive routine started to feel stale, and I became interested in a more “genuine” experience of the city.

On the train ride to the city, I had always been fascinated by the empty warehouses that lined the tracks in North Philadelphia. I had dreams to fill those buildings with skateboard ramps and host concerts in them. A friend of mine got into urban exploration, and ventured into a lot of these buildings just off of Broad Street. She showed me a picture once of a huge tree that had rooted in the floorboards of the 3rd story of an old brewery. She almost died a few times toying around in places like that, and decided that the people she was doing it with were too seedy.

The closest I ever came to this was an infatuation with an empty parking garage about 4 blocks away from my dads house. It was owned by the Toll Brothers, a big fat real estate conglomeration that had bought up the old Navy Yard to turn it into condos. Now, the building is carefully sealed up, because of people like us. My brothers and friends and I used to sneak under the boarded up bars in the windows, especially at night. We’d bring skateboards and roll down the ramps without any fear of getting hit by a car. The ramps led up 5 stories to an open roof. It was higher than the town houses that surrounded it so we had an amazing view of the skyline,, all lit up. We’d scream, and throw rocks at the windows, and do illegal stuff. Sometimes I also came by myself to sit quietly.


My brother went there with his friends one time on a saturday night, maybe on the 4th of July or something. A bunch of other groups of kids were up there as well getting drunk, and I think they had a little run-in with a violent crack head or something. Anyway, they closed off the space a lot more securely, and we haven’t been back for a while.

I wonder if the space fulfilled a basic need I had as a teenager, and whether that had to do with the fact that it was off limits, or the fact that it was suspended high up in open air. For me it wasn’t a place to be destructive, but a place to feel like I could do absolutely whatever I wanted without being particularly noticed.

September 26, 2011

Stillspotting and Improvising – Jess Lambert

A rough sketch for stillspotting by Arvo Pärt

The beauty of public space is the fact that it belongs to the public. I don’t mean literal ownership, but it’s use and purpose is decided by those who enter the space, and what they do there. In NYC, the hectic and rushed lifestyle that most New Yorkers live is greatly dependent on the public spaces they use and occasionally inhabit – for example, sidewalks and subway cars. However, despite the streets being designed for only efficient means of travel, there’s more than just the occasional social interaction happening.

One of the upcoming exhibits for the Guggenheim Museum is called stillspotting. It takes public spaces with the city of New York and transforms them into serene rest areas to block out the rush of everyday city life. For some people, these places might already exist – many people seek refuge in libraries, and other quiet spaces. However, stillspots are so subjective, that clearly defining areas as stillspots doesn’t always work. One person might enjoy classical music and a hot bath to relax, whereas other might feel like going to metal concerts – and with that in mind, people have the opportunity to work and create their own stillspot for the museum. There are five already designed areas, and music is composed minimally by Arvo Pärt  and areas are decorated by the furniture company,  Snøhetta. In addition they are assisted by Improv Everywhere, a group with millions of v0lunteers that redefines spaces through human actions, instead of physically adjusting spaces.

The reasoning behind the stillspots.

The purposing of public spaces has been going on as long as public spaces existed. Have you ever noticed while in the city, that no one ever looks up? I guess because I was born and raised in a small town, skyscrapers still hold a bit of wonder for me – but most of New York’s constituents don’t seem to notice that some of the most beautiful architecture is not on the ground level, and never noticed, since people are so tuned into their business meetings, the taxi they have to catch to an interview, running to catch the next subway. One of the goals of both Improv Everywhere and stillspotting is to minimize the mundane. The ride back from work can be a little bit better when you have a hundred people performing a synchronized dance in your train station (IE) and maybe you can take a second on your lunch break to appreciate just how nice the silence can be (Stills). I can’t help but think that if the Guggenheim considers this art, that it’s a step in the right direction for city dwellers.

Just watch this quick video, and you’ll understand a little bit more about how they transform space with sheer numbers. The one thing that really sets aside Improv Everywhere, is the fact that they’re all strangers coordinating with other strangers, and making a statement with just the amount of people that show up. Considering that for most meetings here at Bard, you’d be lucky to have 15 people, that says a lot about how important it is to these people – that everyone takes a second out of their day for something other than routine actions in a public space. What do you think?

(If you have a minute, definitely check out this website for more info on stillspotting: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/16214/snohetta-arvo-part-to-a-great-city-at-stillspotting-nyc.html,

and http://improveverywhere.com/ for some of their great projects. Enjoy!)

September 26, 2011

Skateboarding in a “public park” -adam skinner

It seems like a park should embody the idea of a public space.  When I think of the word “park”, the word “public” immediately comes to mind.  The word itself creates an image of freedom and inclusion.   But a public park can also function as an alternative public space depending on your identity and purpose in the park.   Any seemingly foreign identity or questionable purpose in a park can create a tension between groups of people.  This tension ultimately fosters a blur of seclusion in a public space creating a private existence in a public space.  Perhaps this private sphere does not exist in all public parks, but I lived in the private sector of public parks for most of my childhood.

I used to skateboard everyday when I was a kid. In particular, I loved to skate at my local recreation center. —A center that was new at the time.  Even though the park was not built for skateboarders, the architecture was great for the skate community. —It had stairs, ledges, rails, and a big flat stage. (All perfect obstacles for skating).  Naturally, it became a daily habit for different clans of skateboarders to skate on over to “the rec” after school.  The space took on a different meaning from what the recreation center wanted or had originally envisioned.  Instead of family picnics, there were ratty-looking skateboarders and the occasional crew of hip, break-dancing Asians.   Even though we dominated the space, there was a threefold conflict between us and the rec center, us and the families trying to enjoy the space, and us and the police.  These conflicts ultimately created a sense of privatization where the skateboarders were being pushed out of a public space.  As time went on the tension got stronger. Tickets and running from the cops became a daily thing. Even the families began to show there irritation as they began to yell at us and one man got so angry one day that he hit my friend with a hammer. The private sector of the public park became hostile towards the outsiders.  Eventually the tension became so strong that the city had a skate park built across the street from the rec center in order to separate us.

Ultimately, we did not fit the profile of the park. Perhaps our “destructive purpose” in the park created this private subdivision in the public space. Even though people still skate at the rec center, it no longer is the scene that it used to be as the skate park across the street was successful in pushing skaters away from the rec into the skate park.

Here is a Link to the new skate park website:

http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/centers/carmelvalleyskate.shtml

This is not at the rec center, but this is a similar sight to the rec center conflict.

September 26, 2011

Barbara Haupt- Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Central Public Library was opened in 2004, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.  As a library tends to be, it’s a very important building for our city, but also controversial (you can probably see why) architectually. It has 400 computers open for public use, creatively designed regions for various book collections and small art or educational displays throughout eleven floors, a couple of which are only discovered through aimless wandering, mysteriously wedged halfway between other more official levels. The exterior walls are enormous, glass with steel cross-hatching, oriented in all directions to let in all sorts of light. The building is LEED certified, has the space for 1,450,000 books, and sharply contrasts the buildings around it. Some people think the building feels impersonal, confusing and cold, while other people think it’s beautiful, open and an innovative approach to what can be a stuffy, conventional space.  But whichever side a person is allied with, it’s impossible to walk through the library without thinking about the space.

The design is amazing I think, but certainly caters to a particular taste (and probably alienates people of certain SES and certain age groups) and it does take some adjustment to make sense of the layout. There is a fancy gift shop and coffee bar, somewhat like an art museum would have.  At the same time, many of the computers are used by poor people who wouldn’t have access to the internet otherwise, and many of the benches are napping spots for homeless men and women, of which Seattle has plenty. I’m not sure what the library’s official policy is, but I don’t see anyone ever getting kicked out. I think this contrast of a space clearly designed to appeal to a certain set of society, while being open and frequented by all kinds of people, is very interesting. Obviously the people who sleep on its benches or use the 400 public computers cannot afford a quick afternoon croissant and a latte at the coffee shop, or an umbrella covered in modern art. It’s hard not to note this dynamic anytime you enter the building since evidence of this stark contrast pervades the space. It may be alienating to many, but at least the building is designed to be explored fully and discovered. It’s extra-modern, complex and confusing, but safe and warm, as a library should be. In the end I’m pretty sure that as long as a person keeps their voice down, they can stay as long as they want.

September 25, 2011

Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc” – Liz Castle

An open plaza is clearly a public space–it’s a multipurpose area for traffic, meetings, encounters and performances to take place, and artwork is often used to augment the ambiance of the space. But since plazas are usually devoid of other landmarks or structures except for occasional artwork, does the passerby fall under the control of the artist, and therefore does the artist control the space?

Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, which was established in Federal Plaza, NYC in 1981, created a huge controversy revolving around issues of intention and use of public space, the power of the artist, and democracy within a public space.  Tilted Arc is a 12 ft high, 120 ft long steel wall that divides the plaza in half.  It was created as a piece that forces the viewer/passerby to re-evaluate the surrounding space and forcibly draws attention to the immediate environment.  In part of his artist’s statement, Serra wrote, “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.”

In this case, many of the people who crossed the plaza frequently found that they had taken their previously empty courtyard for granted.  Tilted Arc did literally force the viewer to re-evaluate the space by forcing them to walk around the wall each time they crossed the plaza.  Most office workers and pedestrians who used the plaza regularly hated it, and many in the art world (who probably did not use the plaza) thought it was genius.  Eventually it became a space for graffiti, it collected and directed snow, rain and wind, and some claimed that it bred rats, and in 1989, after much testimony from both sides of the debate (the art world versus the pedestrians and office workers), Tilted Arc was cut into 3 pieces and removed from the plaza.

So, who decides what is best for a public space?  Who should be in control of a public space?  How much power should the artist have?  How much power should the pedestrians have?

PBS article on Tilted Arc:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/visualarts/tiltedarc_a.html

September 25, 2011

Redefined Space

Cars and hallways were both spaces that were used in strange ways at my high school. Hallways and cars, by definition, are supposed to be used for transportation, but at my high school they were used as social centers.

Everyone had the same lunch period at my high school. From 11:06 to 11:58 nobody was in class (teachers or students). We had an open campus, and students of all ages were allowed to leave campus during lunch and free periods. During the warmer months, older students would leave in their cars going to restaurants in the surrounding area. The lacrosse bros would leave and go to Chicken Joes to get fried chicken, french fries, and iced coffee with lots of cream and sugar. Preppy girls would walk down the street to Esys Cafe or drive to Stanz or Wraps, getting salads and frozen yogurt. Skaters would sit outside the McDonalds down the street (I still am not sure if they actually ate McDonalds). Everyone had their spot.

During the winter, space was limited. Our school had one small cafeteria, that was not really set up to function for a student body of 1,200. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors would find their hallways throughout the school. Freshman year, my friends sat in the Overpass, but Sophomore and Junior year we “upgraded” to a quiet hallway near the math classrooms in the Post Road building. I remember one day when we were particularly silly and loud  and a math teacher came out of her classroom and yelled at us. Space was constantly being redefined. Students would go to the library, not to do work, but to socialize. Ms. Pangenis, the grumpy librarian, would kick students out within minutes, and people would move on to the next hallway or spot. Hallways became the social center. For Seniors, the senior lot was the social center. People would make lunch like a tailgate party, everyone congregating in the parking lot with their lunches and music blasting. At 11:50,  everyone would rush back to class, and the hallways and parking lots would return to their original state, except they would be covered in brown paper bags, tinfoil, and empty water bottles.

Halloween in the Hallway

My friends eating lunch in “our hallway” on the last day of high school

Hallways were also used in alternate ways during after hours. For plays, there was no backstage area. So, the hallways would turn into a backstage. The girls bathroom near the auditorium would become co-ed as people changed costumes and put on makeup.

“Backstage” before a play

September 25, 2011

The Stoop- Rosemary Ferreira

As Larry Ford wrote in Spaces between Buildings, the stoop, or the steps leading into a building, is where the private sphere of the home meets with the public sphere of the street. New York City has its fair share of stoops thanks to popular nineteenth century architecture in the city which incorporated the stoop into the face of buildings as a measure of protection from the grime of the unpaved street. Today, the stoop provides a public/ private space that allows people to feel at home with their neighborhood.

Brooklyn is famous for its brownstone architecture and the stoops that are included in the “skin” of the brownstones have played an essential role in shaping the Brooklyn landscape as well as providing a space for social interaction and for the community development that arises from the inevitable conflict of people living together in such close proximity. In Brooklyn, the stoops project the lives of those living within the buildings onto the social setting of the street.

Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing follows a pizza delivery man through the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant on a hot summer day in the late 1980’s. Do the Right Thing is one of my favorite films because it depicts the sense of community and the potential for conflict that is embedded in the urban landscape. Spike Lee, a Brooklyn native, illustrates in his film the power of the street and the stoop as an arena of social communication which, by the end of the movie, erupts into a full out riot. If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it especially if you’re interested in the role of ethnicity in the city as well. I posted the trailer below:

September 25, 2011

Elyse Foladare- Punch Drunk

Although I have never been to the “Punch Drunk” performance, “Punch Drunk” is a theater group that redefines space and the theater experience. Unlike the normal theater performance where the audience are detached from the performance because they are sitting separately, the audience of “Punch Drunk” is required to walk around and be physically in the performance and art work experience. The boundaries between public space or audience space and private space or the performer space are redefined. Even though there must be a boundary between what is the performance and what is not, all the space of the physical building can be considered part of the production. The website explains, “Lines between space, performer and spectator are constantly shifting. Audiences are invited to rediscover the childlike excitement and anticipation of exploring the unknown and experience a real sense of adventure. Free to encounter the installed environment in an individual imaginative journey, the choice of what to watch and where to go is all theirs alone.”

My friend told me that certain people are taken into secret spaces where only the audience member and the performer interact. The performer takes you into his or her own private world for just the two of you to experience. Overall, the performance is not about an established story that every person in the audience experiences in the same way. The performance is about becoming one with the environment and making one’s own decisions about how they will use the space provided; thus, each audience member has their own story to tell. My friend also explained that she came with a friend, but because the performance was very much about individual experience, she lost her in the midst of the performance and found her again when the performance was over.

Even the website of “Punch Drunk” redefines space and blurs boundaries. The viewer must look through this mystical/ eerie world to find the different places to click. Things are not set out clearly. Instead, each view must create their own personal experience.

September 23, 2011

“Urbanized”

Trailer for a documentary about the architecture of cities:

Filmmaker’s note:

“Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanizedframes a global discussion on the future of cities.”

About the film

Other films by the director Gary Hustwit:

Helvetica

Objectified

September 22, 2011

kathy Garzon: An endangered landmark for “airbrush art”

The Mecca of “airbrush art” is located in Long Island City, Queens. The Infamous “5Pointz” building vibrates with rainbows of tags and murals. Graffiti artist have transform the breaking walls of this old warehouse to swirls of letters manifesting their souls. This building main purpose is for artist, rappers, and break dancers to have a spot that they can relate to. 5Pointz brings underground culture to the mainstream society. Tagging is illegal in New York except in old “art center” located at 45-46 David Street.

“Writing’s on the wall (Art Is, Too, for Now)” is an article in New York Times that expresses the concern and the opinions of the building. The article indicates that In many “foreign guidebooks” this site is describe as “the hippest tourist attraction in Queens, and out-of-doors paean to street art;” however its not thought as a cultural destination for the community. The building is though more in simplistic terms: “graffiti building.” The community does not connect it with any kind of art form.

This community would not miss this massive icon that has given “legal life” to this form of art.   In the article, the owner of the building has reveal that he is thinking of destroying the building, and it would be replaced by residential towers. Serious! Residential towers! what would happen to all the graffiti artist that see 5pointz as their only way to express their talents, which has been undermined and criminalized by society. “5pointz is the united nation of graffiti” to demolish it is to say how art is censored.

Is funny how to think that New York is such a liberal city where everyone could express themselves in the way they dress and talk, or their values, beliefs, and opinions. But graffiti is penalized, talented graffiti artist have no where to go but in alleys, rooftops, and train tracks. These places allow them to interpret their emotions in form of words or messages. Sometimes, taggers just want to be remembered. 5pointz is the only building in New York City where it is legal to state the graffiti soul.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/nyregion/5pointz-arts-center-and-its-graffiti-is-on-borrowed-time.html

September 22, 2011

Katy Schneider

On the subject of sort of undefined spaces, I wanted to address Temples.  Temples are a sort of vague, undefined space because of who is and isn’t supposed to come.  In my Temple in Madison, Connecticut, you have to pay a membership fee to come to major holidays and services.  However, anyone is ostensibly able to come for regular Friday night services, etc.  But then, on the most important and holy nights of the Jewish year, you are only able to pray amongst fellow Jews, in a holy space, if you pay an expensive yearly fee that enables you to get the required ticket for services.  I am not sure if this fits in to the example of alleyways, etc.  But it is somewhat undefined, and sort of hypocritical, because a space that is supposedly so open and accessible requires an expensive fee that limits it to only a small group of people, and not necessarily those that really want to pray, or want to spend the holidays there (I, for example, go to Temple each Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, and had a BatMitzvah, but for my whole childhood was dragged like I was being taken to my death before Yom Kippur services).