Thursday, October 30, 2008

changing perspectives : four views

Long cross section, 2 East 75th Street, New York City, NY, showing the Scheider's living room (the Starck Louis Ghost Chair) to the left, third floor, the foyer, and the bed and bath above. The lobby for the building is viewed on the first floor of this section.

North side, East 75th Street, New York City, NY; including the Schneider's building at the left side of the image. NOTE: Central Park is to the west of this block.

PIETR : I dropped off my well-dressed passenger at the northeast corner of East 75th Street and 5th Avenue in front of a three-story stone-faced building, very much like the rest of the buildings in the Upper East Side neighborhood. Having emigrated from Slovenia at the age of 21, I am a part-time graphic design student at Parsons, studying the image of the city. This is my fifth year in the United States and I feel that I am lucky to both be in school and also to have this job driving people from all walks of life in this enormous city of 8.2 million people. What is very different from this city and my homeland is that there is so much more land developed to house that large population. New York City has sometimes been characterized as a city of immigrants and I believe that the built environment reflects that, diversity in each building…but a unity that comes from an observation of the building codes and construction materials and methods. I know that this classical building follows a great tradition of design that stems from Western Europe and bears some of the characteristics of that world: the cartouche over the second story window, the Doric columns, the Renaissance-inspired building massing. All of these features seem counter-intuitive to the presence of fast technology and new materials like plastic in the world today. I think about my history of the modern design class that I am taking this semester and I speculate about how a chair like Phillipe Starck’s Louis Ghost Chair would fit in this building. I wonder how many exist on the block?

JOE : I open the door for the well-dressed man (Perry Ellis suit, Kenneth Cole shoes, a handsome leather briefcase) who has emerged from the yellow cab at the curb. He produces his card, Nate Berkus, Designer. He’s here for his final consultation with the Schneiders in 3C. They moved in a year ago and have been working hard to get their place in order….but so much of what he does for a living is hidden from public view. He seems like a nice fellow and he certainly tips well.

MITZIE : Jillian walks me along with JoJo, Tippy, Dotzie, and Burt on this block at the same time each day past a regular rhythm of buildings and stoops, street trees to provide some shade and useful eco-breaks, trash cans full of good smelling treats, and some interesting people. A yellow car rushes to the corner where we wait for that flashing human sign to cross over to Central Park in order to stretch our legs. I like the fact that this open space helps break up the city’s regular grid…it was as if someone planned a great open green space to interrupt the monotony of urban living. As an apartment dweller with certain biological needs, I very much appreciate this effort. The light is white and flashing…time to run….but, geez, do I always have to follow Tippy….he stinks.

Carefully balancing my urgent massage, strapped to my back. inside my canvas messenger bag, I weave through the traffic on East 75th Street, making a turn to the right on Madison to an apartment just across from the Metropolitan Museum. I am aboard a vintage, cherry red Serotta bicycle, one of my dearest and most cherished possessions….and my transportation in this crazy city for both my work and my life. In moving to New York last year, I committed to a green life style and I am proud to say that my footprint is 12.2 acres, well below the American standard of 24. I think about what the future holds for places like New York City, built in the economic prosperity of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries…surely this system for the built environment will have to change. But how? I think of these kinds of philosophical paradigms as I make these treks across the city.

now if only i had something to COMPARE and CONTRAST with...HINT HINT!

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