skyscrapers

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

The blimp sails past the Comcast Center, tallest building in Philadelphia.

Posted by Ellen

Where in the world?

This is Barnaul, a city of 800,000 in Siberia, located deep in the heart of central Asia, near the mountain range where Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China come together.

Barnaul grew large and relatively wealthy because of its double-edged location: close to the Altai Mountains, with their riches of silver, copper, and other minerals, but far from the rest of the world. During World War II, the Soviet Union relocated many of its munitions industries to Barnaul, safely distant from the front but close to major railroads that had been built for ore transport. Russia's largest ammunition plant, one of the largest in the world, still operates today in Barnaul.

The downtown area of the city doesn't look like this; it was modeled after Saint Petersburg and is known for handsome classical architecture, a sampling of which I will try to post here soon. But around the edges of town, in amongst the old silver-smelting factories and the ore-loading facilities, what we see here is what we get in twenty-first-century Barnaul.

Posted by Ellen

 

Today and tomorrow our focus is on beautiful Chicago, in scenes captured by the Polish photographer Krzycho. Here, a few blocks north of downtown, the morning sun is coming up over Lake Michigan, behind the skyscrapers, which seem quite artfully arranged.

Krzycho lives and shoots in Chicago but comes originally from Zamość in southeastern Poland. Clearly, he (or she?) is smitten by the windy city.