Oculus - Winter 2011/2012 - (Page 39)
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Up Against de Waal
Bell near Zuccotti Park
Consider the momentous event in architecture when the wall parted and the column became.
—Louis I. Kahn, FAIA, 1971
We don’t need no education We don’t need no thought control... All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
—Pink Floyd (lyrics by Roger Waters), “Another Brick in the Wall,” Part II, 1979
We built a higher fence around a decaying infrastructure – and the cracks are beginning to show.
—Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, 2008
escending into the massive excavation that is the future Second Avenue Subway, one is struck by the enormity of the space and the sophistication of the drilling equipment. The tunnels needed to relieve the overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue line will stretch 8.5 miles from 125th Street to Water Street at Hanover Square. But it is not the volume or length that captures our imagination. It is the tunnel’s walls, carved from Manhattan schist, which take on the poetry of survival, resilience, and permanence. The word “wall” comes from Old English weall – and thence from the Latin vallus, meaning “stake” or “palisade.” The earthen wall on “de Waal Straat” was the northern limit of New Amsterdam. The Dutch West India Company needed not so much to mark a political limit as to create a barricade against the Native Americans, who had very different notions about property rights, trade, and profit. The four-meter-tall stockade on Wall Street was maintained by the Dutch through a sin tax on imported beer. Wall Street, since then, has become less a symbol of infrastructure than a metaphor for the conjunction of capital and consternation. In New York, protests have taken place under the banner of Occupy Wall Street, in the shadow of Mark di Suvero’s extraordinary sculpture, “Joie de Vivre,” located in Zuccotti Park, née Liberty Park. Between the park and the street, at 111 Broadway, the AIA was founded on February 23, 1857, at Richard Upjohn’s office. That was the year of the Panic of 1857, which, according to Marx and Engels, was the world’s first worldwide economic crisis. Virtually all construction stopped for lack of investor confidence and lack of capital. If our infrastructure determines our future, New York City, through the construction of the Third Water Tunnel and the start-up of East Side Access, the Second Avenue Subway, and the No. 7 Line Extension, has shown that the future is now. And yet we duck the issue of the infrastructure needed to prepare for significant sea-level rise, as Columbia Professor Klaus Jacob decried at a program of the AIANY Risk and Recovery Committee
at the Center for Architecture. Do we build sea walls and sea gates to limit the risk of storm surge damage? Or do we count on the softer reinsertion of mitigating wetlands, as shown in MoMA’s “Rising Currents” exhibition, to shortstop Gotham’s tsunamis? On any given day, hordes of tourists, New Yorkers, activists, and acolytes swarm the High Line and, in a significantly different manner, occupied Zuccotti Park. What are both groups demanding? Can we use Recovery Act money to guarantee social equity and bring design quality to our infrastructure? Answers to these and other questions came from Teddy Cruz, speaking at the Occupy Philadelphia encampment in October. He led a communal chant of demands, including: · We demand that the municipalities rethink their own fragmented bureaucratic silos and resources. · We demand intelligent public spending on education, culture, and transportation. · We demand the right to culture and education, not as expendable commodities but as civic responsibilities. Is this a platform or a foundation for validating the role of architects in society? With the American Recovery Act funds acting as stimulus for transportation infrastructure projects from the Fulton Street Transit Hub to Moynihan Station, the terms of engagement are different. The elected officials were assembled at Eighth Avenue and West 32nd Street, not with shovels to dig into the post office pavement, but with sledge hammers to symbolize breaking through barriers to connection. The common theme I hear in New York’s Civic Center and Financial District, from City Hall Park to Zuccotti Park, is more aligned with the Athenian Oath quoted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his last inaugural: “We will transmit this city, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” That starts with people and infrastructure. Up against the wall.
Rick Bell, FAIA Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter
Up, Down, and Sideways
Winter 2011 Oculus
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2011/2012
A Word from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
From NIMBY to YIMBY
Complete Streets: If Only Mumford Had Lived to See This
Regional Transit: The Next Generation
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Winter 2011/2012
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