Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wall and Will: Broadway after 5 visits

After five visits to Broadway, Hirofumi Minami, David Chapin and I sat down to reflect on what we had seen and felt. An article by Michael Kimmelman about Columbia's new building at Baker Field. It included a remarkable photo of the Broadway side of the complex, viewed from an elevation to the east. In that photo, you can see the bleak wall that we experienced walking. Hiro brought to our meeting several books, including a children's book about New York. That book contained the stark explanation that the wall which became Wall Street was built by the Dutch to keep out the Indians. I had never thought about the wall of Wall Street, but I had thought a lot about bleak walls Columbia turns to the neighborhoods in which its building sits. This feature of the university was brought to my attention by having an office just opposite such a wall. I felt mooned by the university -- not attractive, I can tell you. Anyway, our psychoanalysis thus started with walls, and continued to Indians, as we had visited the Museum of the American Indian at the southern tip of Manhattan, well inside where the wall used to be -- ironies of history that outsiders are now insiders. Of course there is another kind of wall, this one the wall of security and the old Customs House, making it project -- a terribly worthwhile project -- to get in to see the exhibits. I was struck by the irony of putting the National Museum of the American Indian in the old Customs House. We talked about the purchase of Manhattan for $24, which David pointed out is often seen as "steal." And this led us to think about Times Square and hucksterism as an enduring theme in the visual landscape of New York. Broadway runs more or less north until Zabar's, and we chuckled to think of that store as the inflection point of this great road. At Dyckman Farm House, we had quite a different reality--a step back in time--yet the continuity of every day we saw in Broadway in the 80s, as a sense of time and a sense of streets. Hiro heads back home to Japan this week and David and I will miss him. But the work goes on! A new exhibit on Broadway has opened at the Center for Architecture and we're off to see it.

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