cityscape

Posted by Ellen

One thing we have in abundance in America is abandoned railroad tracks. Many thousands of miles have been torn up and paved over with asphalt, repurposed for walking and biking through cities and suburbs. Many of these rails-to-trails are pleasant amenities, but few are interesting to look at or exciting to experience. Today, we turn our eyes to a few of those few.

New York City's High Line Park, which we last visited back in 2011, is a garden in the sky, snatched from the ruins of an industrial el line that once carried cattle and chickens to the slaughterhouses of lower Manhattan's Hudson riverfront. Both the industrial roots and the post-industrial decline are celebrated in the park: everywhere, the grit and grunge, patched brick walls and rusted steel fixtures, are lovingly preserved, with landscaping that looks a lot like weeds and old-looking new (creosote-free) train tracks in the flower beds. Amongst the weeds are miles of boardwalk for strolling and people-watching.

This photo was taken from the High Line's amphitheater, a performance space cantilevered out over Tenth Avenue, with glass walls that keep the sounds of the city at bay. Down below, about a block away on the left side of the street, you can glimpse the edge of a parking lot that is also being reimagined as performance space, for a senior project by a Parsons School of Design student, our own Amelia Stein. All of us Hole-in-the-Cloudsians are eager to follow the progress of this work by one of our own.

Posted by Ellen

Grand prize winner from the 2012 international SkyscraperCity photo competition.

Meanwhile, here in Pennsylvania, Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow, foreshadowing an early spring, and the winter weather continues to compare favorably to the conditions suggested in the photo.

Posted by Ellen

The writing high on the wall of the Advance Storage warehouse, as seen through the window of the elevated train in West Philly.

Posted by Ellen

Signs at the end of an el platform in West Philly.

Posted by Ellen

They really do like their baseball in Cuba.

Posted by Ellen

New York and New Jersey are mostly back on the grid, we hear, though there are stories, still, of people stranded in the cold and dark ever since that storm called Sandy. But last weekend, these electric Stein women–Amelia, Maggie, and their mother Sue–lit up Manhattan as they swept into town with glowing high spirits. 

On the lightship Nantucket, we're told, docked at Pier 24 in TriBeCa, something was going on that involved wineglasses. Maggie, the daughter described by her mother as a "crafty sailor," apparently did a creditable turn at the ship's wheel without even setting down her glass. "Bet they don't teach that at Annapolis," observed Sue. 

Posted by Ellen

In 1934, Carl Gustaf Nelson painted life in New York's Central Park, above, the way life ought to be; in 1932 and 1933, photographers from the New York Daily News aimed their cameras at Central Park's Hooverville, below, revealing life that was not being lived the way people ought to live. Both images tell something of the story, in an upstairs-downstairs sort of way.

New York's homeless citizens began building shanties in Central Park's Sheep Meadow late in 1931, by which time half the factories in the city had been shut down by the Depression and literally millions of New Yorkers were desperate for food and shelter. In 1930 and 1931 homeless people tried to camp in Central Park, but they were repeatedly arrested for vagrancy; as the economic situation became more and more dire, however, policemen and judges became more sympathetic to the "bums," and official eyes were averted as this and many other Hoovervilles emerged. Some of the shacks were said to be solid brick and stone houses with tile roofs, built by unemployed bricklayers.

The residents of Central Park's Hooverville said they had built their homes along Depression Street. Many of the shanties had furniture and at least one had carpets, but there was no electricity or running water, no sanitary facilities at all. In 1933, the city condemned the dwellings, evicted the residents, and demolished the shantytown. The official justification was public health.

Thus, by 1934, when Nelson painted his picture, Central Park had been officially reclaimed for the sole use of well-dressed, well-to-do people like the ones in the painting, people with warm apartments to go home to and indoor plumbing. The people of Hooverville had moved on, and they would keep on moving on, scraping by, somehow, till a government stimulus program, aka World War II, finally brought full employment back to America.

Posted by Ellen

Just west of Toronto, in the fast-growing suburban city of Mississauga, these two condo towers have scratched the sky in flat-out defiance of latter-day suburban trends: they are not boxy, they are not real-estate development disasters, and not a one of their 800-plus condo units is exactly like any other in size or shape.

In 2005, Mississauga's mayor announced an international design competition for a single 54-story tower at the site, to be known as Absolute World. In 2007, the winning architect was announced, chosen by the voting public from among six finalists selected by a panel of Canada's leading architects and planners. The winner was Yasong Ma, of MAD Architectural Design Studio in Beijing. Almost immediately, the spiraling, curvaceous tower was nicknamed Marilyn Monroe.

When condominiums in Marilyn Monroe were offered for pre-construction sale, almost all were under contract within 24 hours. The developers quickly announced a second, companion tower, also spiraling and asymmetric but a bit more buxom, so as to accommodate a few more units. This second tower sold out within about a month.

People began moving into Marilyn Monroe, the righthand tower in this picture, in July 2011. Both towers are now fully occupied. They feature six stories of underground garage space and are located across the street from one of the largest shopping malls in North America.
Posted by Ellen

For all the marbles: In this picture, we are looking at (virtually the entire) capital city of which European nation?

29 April update: Vaduz, Liechtenstein. We had three winners.

Posted by Ellen

Where this building now almost stands and in the streets around it, back in the day, the neighborhood kids used to be so bold and bad that the parish priest described them as children who'd steal a chain from right out of the devil's pocket. And so this part of the neighborhood got its name, Devil's Pocket, which was home to poor people, of course, mostly Irish immigrants.

A generation or two later, a bunch of the little old houses in Devil's Pocket were torn down to build a parking garage, apparently intended for employees of the old Graduate Hospital. Most of that hospital is long gone, and now, in the spring of 2012, the wrecking ball has come for the derilict parking garage.

It sounds a little cheeky, but by this time next year, there will be fancy new condos right here in the Devil's Pocket. And the wrecking ball will toll for some other something.