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Art and Architecture

Housing Crisis Asserted

Housing Crisis Asserted

The architects weigh in

As Kimmelman’s employer keeps reminding us with googly-eyed headlines, rent is soaring. The city’s pandemic-era eviction moratorium has been lifted. Our new mayor is a cop who seems to disdain unhoused people. And the architects of the largest residential transformation in the city today—the supposedly radical campaign to close Rikers Island—insist that incarcerated New Yorkers should be in a better jail, not in apartments.

Big in India

Big in India

Hugeness has been one of the more flamboyant features of the Modi government’s tenure

The afterglow of this communion extends into the final, much-anticipated delight: a “cultural boat ride” promising “ten thousand years of Indian Culture in ten minutes.” This air-conditioned funfair ride begins, appropriately enough, on the mythic “banks of the Saraswati” (a now unknown or extinct river celebrated in the Vedas) festooned with tableaux of ten-thousand-year-old “Vedic” agriculture, Vedic universities, Vedic bazaars, Vedic elections and even the “first conference on embryology.” Never mind that the prevailing historical consensus is that the earliest Vedic “texts” (they were originally orally transmitted) are little more than 3,500 years old. Further downriver, things get weirder as we witness the Indic invention of everything from plastic surgery to the airplane.

Against Demolition

Against Demolition

Sustainable buildings are buildings that have been sustained

In my mind, Geller I always pairs with Casablanca, another instant classic that would have been in theaters when Breuer started drawing it up: a work of high-low insider-outsider hybridity, expressing a very particular old-world immigrant’s dream of the character of modern life among the Americans. Geller I remains somehow poised at that postwar moment of collective trauma and redemptive domesticity, in its contemporary description by House & Garden magazine forever “the house of tomorrow, today.”

Nothing After This

Nothing After This

On Gregg Bordowitz’s Fast Trip, Long Drop

A man flips a baby through the air while standing on the edge of a high roof, a cityscape surrounding him. A car runs into a brick wall on a race course. Over the archival footage, Bordowitz tells of his father’s death: he went to see Evel Knievel jump across the Grand Canyon, then was fatally struck by a bus as he left the event. Bordowitz lays in his bed and describes getting fucked in the ass for the first time, his gaze trained daringly on the camera. When he speaks of the man coming inside him, no condom, the image jumps: a stuntman shoots out of a canon. Unlike the moralizing narratives of the era, Bordowitz equates contagion to chance.

Pictures at a Restoration

Pictures at a Restoration

On Pete Souza’s Obama

Once safely out of office, he acknowledged that “millions of Americans” had been “spooked by a black man in the White House.” An undeniable truth, but one that was miles away from the embrocations he had offered the country when he launched his national career by declaring that “there is not a black America and a white America.” That kind of thing sounds like denialism to some, a postracial utopia to others, and then, in certain places, like a threat.

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

The dream of strength and youth

One way to think about the viral explainers of the viral photo is that their function was almost pharmacological. A rapidly disseminated image that leads to spinning heads requires a dose of fast-acting cultural Dramamine. Speed is key. With the internet producing the weird stories, and grabbing all the ads that go with them, traditional media has been forced to move to the higher ground of analysis, but that was never journalism’s forte. So, somewhere between newsfeed dazzle and the insight that comes later (if at all), explanation became a familiar part of the information age news cycle. Sometimes, it’s enough.

Eclipse, 2021

Eclipse, 2021

For the first time in its life, the building exists as a piece of architecture

We’d both separately become fascinated with what we called “ephemeral views,” the opening one gets when a building has been demolished, usually preparatory to the erection of something larger and more looming. These rents in the grid exposed wonders: the back gardens and solaria of brownstone residences ordinarily shielded from street view, the rear buttresses and stained-glass nave of a midtown cathedral, old advertisements painted onto brick walls, a pyramidal shadow cast on a windowless blank wall, a sudden deepening of perspective.