Announcing Issue #27
Our March Issue
For our March issue, we asked NYRA writers to write what we’ve dubbed “Buildings in Brief”—short reviews of buildings going up in their neighborhoods or along their commutes, maybe designed by architects no one knows about, and yet inhabited and looked at by dozens or hundreds or maybe thousands of people every day. The format is intentionally abbreviated; without delving deep into history or references or speculating about what the architect might have been thinking when they designed it, what do you see? What is a building doing? How do you know?
The same prompts can be used to look at more notable works, namely proposals for 2 World Trade Center and Governor Hochul’s massive redevelopment of Penn Station, urging us to cut right to the chase when engaging buildings whose purpose has been widely narrativized. When we leave the press releases and pompous rhetoric aside, what do we find? Who are these buildings really serving?
We’re not the first to ask these questions. Among many others, June Jordan, co-creator of this month’s post (Skyrise for Harlem), imagined that good buildings could serve the people living where they are built. Instead of razing and displacing, public development could house. While that ethos is largely absent from most architecture going up today, we are here to bear witness to it all.
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#27 is a limited edition Risograph print of 1,000. Our graphic designers for this issue, Clara Syme and Owen Nichols of Chibernoonie, are actually also our printers, and they really pushed the risograph to do a few things we have not done before. Included is a full page, 11x17 print of June Jordan’s Skyrise for Harlem. Read on below for some excerpts.
In the Issue…
INSCRIPTIONS: MATTHEW ALLEN REVIEWS A NEW BOOK EDITED BY K. MICHAEL HAYS AND ANDREW HOLDER
Inscriptions feels comprehensive—it presents a representative slice of contemporary “progressive” architecture. (That’s Holder’s preferred term, replacing “avant-garde.”) But why this architecture now? Architecture has experienced a serious mood shift in the past decades, and I’m not sure that Hays or Holder adequately explain where recent obsessions with the ineffable and the primordial (for instance) are coming from. Why do all these piles of rocks leave us dumbstruck?
UKRAINE: DMYTRO SOLOVIOV GIVES A REPORT FROM THE GROUND
Everything changed overnight, as fire fell from the sky onto unsuspecting Ukrainians across the country. Several missiles hit Kyiv. As the air-raid siren was lifted, I drove through the suddenly empty streets to inspect a Soviet-era residential building heavily damaged by shelling. Walking on broken glass, remembering how I’ve walked the exact spot now occupied by a shell crater, felt surreal. Yet my mind quickly adapted to the new reality. I felt no negative emotions as I resolved to continue my documentation and communicate to my foreign audience what was happening.
NAIROBI: KAHIRA NGIGE VISITS THE NAIROBI CONTEMPORARY ART INSTITUTE
Further along is the former sleepy agricultural village of Ruaka, an area that now houses Nairobi’s growing middle class. The former rural roads are crowded with apartments built in seemingly random fashion; many of them at real risk of collapse. NCAI therefore sits at a unique nexus of speculative real estate, making it part of the city’s present condition and future; it leverages the miscalculations of the “free market” to create spaces of beauty and creative potential.
SO LONG: NICHOLAS RAAP SPECULATES ON THE LONGEVITY OF THE CORONA SHACK
Mostly anonymous, the streetery accounts constitute a kind of nostalgic archive, but only when viewed as individual scenes, arbitrarily collected and ordered by a profile. When viewed in the stream, however, these documents became part of transmitting the collectively—if not equally—experienced transformations in the city under Covid. While no individual account or photograph is particularly notable, the collective phenomenon was—if for no other reason than to mark an experience that soon may disappear from our streets, and soon after our memories.
WHAT IS AN ARCHITECT: CHRISTINA MOUSHOUL DELVES INTO THE WORK OF JUNE JORDAN
Jordan’s own words centered the human subject in this way, Cunningham noted. In her poetry, direct address helped the reader position themselves relative to the page. Might the same be done with respect to world-building, of which architects, writers, visual artists, and others all partake? How does this medium help people to speculate beyond categorical confines?
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Props to Chibbernoonie for graphic design.
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For their support, we would like to thank the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Thomas Phifer, and Stickbulb.
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