S K Y L I N E | Escape from New York
Archi-tourist travelogs for the discerning reader.
Issue 80. Need to escape the cycles of online archi-media? Relax, and subscribe to read us in print.
As summer comes to a close, many people are returning from sojourns abroad or across the country, sneaking in one last waterside weekend, or seeing a few last sights. No matter how far they are traveling, they are all engaging in what Marco D’Eramo calls “the most important industry of the century:” tourism.
Architecture has a funny relationship to tourism. In certain instances, tourism is the constituting factor of architecture. In The World in a Selfie: An Inquiry into the Tourist Age, D’Eramo remarks how “it would be interesting to know how many fewer buildings would be built if it were not for tourism.” Las Vegas is the ur-example of this, the definition-bar-none of a “tourist city…a novelty peculiar to modernity” where the city’s entire infrastructure is oriented towards tourist usage.
But architecture is fundamentally constitutive of tourism. One must only think of the oft-discussed “Bilbao effect,” which spurred Joan Ockman and Salomon Frausto to coin the term “architourism” in 2002. But on an even more fundamental level, what are the “sights” to be seen when one goes “sightseeing” if not “sites,” as in buildings and landscapes. Even in “nature,” the architecture of tourist infrastructure creeps in through roads, rest stops, wayfinding devices, clearings, lookouts, trails, walkways…
Tourism is also fundamentally constitutive of architecture. The aristocratic and bourgeois appreciation of architectural antiquities on the Grand Tour forms a foundational element of Western architectural history—to put it provocatively and simplistically, is architectural history a touristic guidebook made by and for ruling-class taste?—and travel, whether as a study abroad trip (a nouveau Grand Tour), or as a studio site visit taken during education, quickly familiarizes architects-to-be with the “tourist gaze…a watch that is literally ‘out of place.’”
This week, Skyline presents travelogs from what might be called petit tours, radiating outwards from New York’s touristic heart, Times Square and landing as far away as Kosovo. Read on to see where our writers take you.
— Nicholas Raap
Times Square Marriott Marquis
1567 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Despite having never booked a stay, I can easily imagine a first-time-in-NYC arrival at the Times Square Marriott Marquis. Walking toward the Hudson River down W 46th St amidst the crowd of tourists, one would miss the unassuming first entrance and walk past the second, thinking it was a parking garage for the Marquis Theatre. The “front” of the building on 7th Avenue would provide few means of of wayfinding, since it’s mostly obscured from the street by characteristic billboard advertisements and ground-floor retail. It’s a massive hotel in the middle of the city, and it’s almost hidden.
At its 1985 opening, critical reception of the John Portman-designed hotel was less than positive, understandable given its impractical and decadent atrium oozing with what was then already dated 70s cliché. The fortress-like exterior recalls the urban crime panic of times past. But today, the interior is an otherworldly respite right in the center of the busiest part of Manhattan: an analeptic oasis with power outlets, climate control, clean bathrooms, commodious seats, and a perfectly inoffensive hotel bar. They all make an environment so labyrinthine and anonymizing that it’s hard to imagine ever being asked to leave the lobby.
The Chase Sapphire® Lounge
19 Fulton St, New York, NY, 10038
For seven years, I worked in Manhattan’s Financial District at the visitor experience department of the South Street Seaport Museum. Each summer, a parade of tourists would visit the museum to learn about the neighborhood’s mercantile history: the stevedores, printers, and workers who built New York City into a global metropolis. About halfway through my tenure at the museum, the Howard Hughes Corporation erected a pavilion in the middle of the pedestrianized Fulton Street. The pavilion was soon home to a pricey bar—a swarm of finance workers in light-blue button-downs and fleece vests clustered around it on weeknights. Next to the bar, ropes sectioned off an area verdant with potted plants and sumptuous with cushioned patio furniture. This area was called the “Chase Sapphire® Lounge,” a section of a public street available only to Chase Sapphire® cardholders.
In the lounge, you sit adjacent to early 19th-century buildings, once warehouses for goods unloaded from the incoming ships or hotels for sailors. To sip a tiki drink on their special furniture, you’ll flash your Sapphire® card, a metal rectangle that seems an artifact from a new economy: one increasingly reliant on financialization and digital transactions.
On one wet fall morning, two people emerged from the Greyhound looking for work unloading fish from the boats that used to dock there. They looked stricken when I said the fish market had closed around a decade ago. “But what do people do for work down here now?”
The Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Rd, Queens, NY 11106
Although in Queens, the fact that the Noguchi Museum is not directly off a subway line puts it sufficiently out of the way to call it an urban escape. The museum’s bright, intimate galleries are often sparsely occupied by anything other than the mid-century sculptor’s works, allowing visitors to experience modern art sans a sardine can–like atmosphere. In the outdoor garden, paper birches grow alongside Japanese flora. Cut off from the noise on Vernon Boulevard by lofty stone walls, the space is so quiet you can almost hear Noguchi’s basalt and granite sculptures. It’s the kind of silence you’d usually have to go upstate to find. But if, like me, you find the Hudson a bit overrated, rest assured you only need to go so far as this stop off the Q102 to find a few trees and tranquility.
Jacob Riis Beach and the former Neponsit Beach Hospital
157 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Park, NY, 11694
Every summer, I am haunted by the memory of the queer piers of Manhattan’s West Village waterfront. Following the demise of New York as a major port, the network of piers that once lined the island’s waterfront drifted into abandonment, and, in certain section, became essential queer urban space. People met at the Christopher Street Piers to cruise, party, and in some cases, to live in the deteriorating structures. These were difficult places to be. While lawlessnes allowed queerness to flourish, it was surrounded by rampant violence, dangerous disrepair, and the strench of assorted bodily fluids. Nonetheless, queer and trans people, especially youth, continued to gather there.
In 2022, we sit on the precipice of another possible seismic shift in the city’s queer space: the demolition of the former Neponsit Beach Hospital complex— designed by McKim, Mead & White and completed in 1915—which frames the queer section at Jacob Riis Beach. On August 18th, the Municipal Arts Society of New York held a panel discussing the beach’s history as a queer and trans social hub stretching back to its opening in the 1930s, as well as its future: the city owned buildings are scheduled to be demolished at the end of the summer beach-season. The fringe location, as well as the general neglect, likely created this idyllic queer space, which many many fear will soon be erased, just like the Christopher Street Piers were, to make way for new development.
I often think of the intrepid young people of the FIERCE! coalition, who organized doggedly to stop the piers’ replacement with Hudson River Park. FIERCE! proposed analternative, pictured above, of what a city prioritizing queer and trans kids could look like. That dream was never realized, and nothing in the Hudson River Park mentions the vibrant queer history of the site. Speakers at the MASNY event expressed fears of a similar erasure befalling Riis. “No other park, no other recreation space, is for us other than Riis Beach,” said Ceyenne Doroshow, founder of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (GLITS). “That beach is our utopia and there shall be no more unless we protect it.”
Ten days in Copenhagen? Many people were surprised, if not dismissive, of my use of time all in one place. For me, that singular focus is the luxury currency of travel, a small taste of what an ideal everyday life could be. Coming from New York, I equate cities with noise: police sirens late at night, the voices that bounce down an avenue. Most people I know would rather walk ten blocks back home to retrieve forgotten headphones than brave the city without them.
While the bicycle culture of Copenhagen seemed the most obvious thing to savor on this first visit, what really drew me in was the cool layer of quiet that covers the city. I cherish a quiet morning, and that space of calm that’s so rare in a city like New York makes me feel automatically “on vacation.” The Danes didn’t even raise voices when bikes were piled back for blocks awaiting a crossing blocked temporarily for an IronMan race. Practiced gestures for right, left, and stop were all we needed to navigate the obstacle.
Arriving home today I was greeted by an A train subway car filled with the music of a single man’s massive bluetooth speaker, worn across his body like a satchel. That made me smile and feel the rush of energy and messiness that defines New York. But Copenhagen challenged my assumption that there cannot be a better balance.
8/5: Patio Peroration
Patio Issue 2 Launch Party
BED-STUY—Friday August 5th, Columbia GSAPP students (including one of our Skyline editors, OSVALDO DELBREY) opened a brownstone and patio in Bedstuy to host a social gathering for the release of Patio Issue 2: Real Talk. Patio is an independent, student-run editorial platform focused on critical issues of the Latin American community and built environment. Issue 2 features essays and interviews that probe Latin America’s relationship to architecture through constructing and deconstructing built environments and personal identities.
The release party featured a screening of JOSE LUIS URIBE ORTIZ’s film, Ugly, Dirty, and Bad, a series of interviews with fourteen different architects all asked the same question: What does Latin America contribute to the contemporary condition of architecture? The event also featured dancing, pizza, an appearance from all members of WAI THINK TANK, and an impassioned speech given, fittingly, on a patio.
NYRA ON THE (OTHER) TOWN: Manifesta 14
PRISHTINA, KOSOVO—Kosovo has the opposite problem to New York: there is an overabundance of abandoned buildings and land. The fourteenth edition of Manifesta, a nomadic European art and architecture biennial, is currently running in Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina and has taken upon itself to reclaim and adapt spaces around the city—numbering 25 venues and over 100 artistic interventions. CARLO RATTI and CATHERINE NICHOLS, the “creative mediators” ( Manifesta’s substitute for ‘curators’) are focusing this reclamation through storytelling, as evidenced by the title theme, “It matters what worlds world worlds: How to tell stories otherwise.”
This has resulted in the establishment of the Center for Narrative Practice, Manifesta 14’s biggest intervention, in the former Hivzi Sylejmani Library that had fallen into disrepair. The Center is a permanent institution to honor the richness and complexity of Kosovar oral history practices and houses workshop spaces, exhibitions, a radio program, and one of the only shaded public green spaces in the center of Prishtina. Many events and programs have already taken place at the Center during the first weeks of the biennial and the future of the institution is planned for.
While this may represent Manifesta 14’s intended legacy in the city, the adaptation of the Brick Factory sheds light on the very uncertain futures of these spaces and illuminates some of the neocolonialist aspects of the top-down ‘reclamation’ of space. In preparation for Manifesta, the city government evicted the semi-formal tenants and cleared out all remnants of their presence. Rather than inviting one of the several local organizations doing work to understand and adapt similar forgotten spaces, Manifesta then invited the Berlin-based collective raumlabor to activate the space. raumlabor built infrastructure for the site anticipating that a local organization would take over the site for the remainder of the biennial. One week after the opening, no agreement with a local team had been made and raumlabor left the management of the site to the Manifesta organization. This leaves The future of the site, who will be included in its planning and whose needs will be prioritized, unclear.
Manifesta 14 opened July 22nd and runs until October 30th.
We are happy to share that the NYRA Editions’ “NEBOMETER” fundraiser with Outpost Office has so far raised more than $2,000 for the Kharkiv School of Architecture. If you would like to contribute, please consider purchasing a print for yourself.
EYES ON SKYLINE
In Skyline 79, readers were interested in the asynchronous symposium, Critical Aunty Studies.
IN THE NEWS
…speaking of Noguchi, the artist’s studio is one step closer to opening to the public…
… in six days, Andrés Jaque will start his tenure as Dean of Columbia GSAPP…
…feeling nostalgic for Nakagin? Buy the rights to rebuild it—in the Metaverse—with this NFT…
…speaking of virtual buildings, maybe this proposed megastructure in Dubai should remain virtual…
…speaking of nostalgia, you can satisfy your yearnings for New York-of-old with the Landmark Preservation Commission’s newly accessible Designation Photo Collection…
Walking Tour: In the Wake of the High Line with Kyle Johnson
1:00 PM | Center for Architecture
Walking Tour: Contemporary Architecture and Historic Landmarks in NoHo with Alex Mclean
3:00 PM | Center for Architecture
Amanda Williams: WE OUTSIDE with Amanda Williams
6:15 PM | Cornell Architecture Art Planning
Walking Tour: FiDi’s Skyscrapers, Plazas, and the Impact of Zoning with Kyle Johnson
1:00 PM | Center for Architecture
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