Randall’s Island (cojoined with Ward’s islands) is separated from Manhattan island by the East River. This small joined island has functioned as the foundation for railway bridges from Manhattan to Long Island. There is also one pedestrian bridge linking it to Manhattan. The opposite bank here is Manhattan Island.
The island has had a varied past but was mostly used for power supply facilities, circus and sports events that required a large area. The photo below is a huge parking lot for that purpose. A black-and-white photograph can be beautiful, no matter how rough it is in reality.
We found a bicycle road under the railway bridge. Great space. Is there any other place like this? In fact we were here to explore a few years ago. We posted it on this blog and wrote about mysterious this location at that time. Some may remember citing Andrey Tarkovsky’s movie. Now, however, that feeling is gone. I feel a little sad.
Mulberry trees are growing wild everywhere on the island. If the top of the road is a dirty purple, there is a mulberry tree there. We stopped and enjoyed a feast here for a while. They are very sweet. As soon as it is taken from the branch, it is carried to your mouth. The vibration causes the fruit to fall from the next branch. The leaves are eaten by silk moths, but no one eats the fruit. There is probably a reason for that. The fruit is so soft that it can’t be put into a box. It is more fragile than a raspberry. Just pick it up in the palm of your hand and it will collapse. It is impossible to put it on the market. (The bayberry is also too soft to find on the shelves of greengrocers in big cities, but still not so soft like this. I hunted bayberries alone in a park in Osaka, and the people around me looked at me like I was strange. They don’t know that bayberries are a treat.)
This island is really full of mulberry trees. All-you-can-eat with no pesticides. It’s really a waste that no one eats them. However, my hands are so sticky and messy that I can’t hold the camera. So that’s it for today’s blog post. We are in the middle of a trip, but I can’t help it. Today’s conclusion —-This island should be called Mulberry Island!
Our office is very close to the Julliard School where they frequently hold student concerts which are usually free. If the performance seems interesting we finish work early and walk to the theatre. Today is the last concert to be led by the conductor Joel Sachs. He has been teaching for decades, but now that he is over 80, he wants to do other things, such as playing the piano. Today’s venue is at one of the halls used by The Julliard school, Alice Tully Hall, which was recently transformed and revived by a major renovation.
As soon as you enter, you can see that the design makes heavy use of streamlined forms. I think it’s pretty interesting, but on the other hand, it reminds me that theater design is really very difficult. In other words, no matter who designs it, it will look alike. There are strict requirements for acoustic performance and securing the number of seats, so the basics cannot be changed. While maximizing the number of seats, the stage must be visible past the head of the person sitting in front. The layout of the seats is also an important theme, but the design cannot be changed dramatically. This seating layout does not have a center aisle that would normally lead from the back of the hall to the stage. The only way to get to a seat is to go along the outside wall, and if your seat is in the center, 20 people have to stand one after another for you to get there. The space between the front and back of the seats is wider than in a typical hall, so it’s not impossible to walk, but it’s still difficult. This, however, would be the result of well-studied seating layouts.
The steps of the balcony seats would conflict with the streamlined image so only the smooth curves can be seen. However, if you look closely, you can see the steps like other halls. The floor of the balcony cannot be so steeply sloped, so it can’t be helped. To hide it, the balcony is painted black and blends into the black wall in the background. It’s a trick, so to speak.
Unless the biological feature that the human head is on the top and the body below supports it changes, a revolutionary new design cannot happen. After all, what depends on the designer is the superficial, so to speak, decorative parts of the hall. But if the guests can lie on their stomach and watch, that is, if they can watch with their head sticking out and their body extending in the opposite direction from the stage, the design may change considerably. Bed-like seats will be stacked to increase the number of seats, and there will be no strong distinction between top and bottom except on the stage.
On the other hand, the detailed design is very engaging. For example, how is this thin railing attached? A mystery. There is no space for inserting screws and supports. A special screw (like a pig’s nose) that the architect likes is used between the arm and the railing that touches the hand. Did that mean that the railing was fixed to the wall from the back, and then the whole wall panel was slammed onto the sleeves like a sword? Even so, I can’t find the mechanism to secure the panel to the wall.
Oops the conductor appeared on the stage.The sound-absorbing tricks on the walls, the steps on the balconies, the screws on the railings are now invisible.The lights dimmed. A piece composed by a Julliard student began to play. It is softer and more subdued than the so-called contemporary music after WW2. Tonality is almost restored, and I’m no longer listening to music that sometimes sounds like noise or a horror movie. The program notes tells that the conductor was also a missionary to popularize “contemporary music” when he started teaching in the middle of the last century. The times have changed.
However, music is an aggregation of codes. How many people can now enjoy listening to Gagaku, which was popular as Japanese court music 1,000 years ago? Despite being highly developed in the court, no one in 10,000 would now enjoy it now (perhaps similar music based on the same code was heard as entertainment in rural areas). The majority of Japanese lost the decoder that they had in their heads. The first time the Japanese came into contact with Western music when the U.S. fleet’s military band landed in the middle of the 19th century, but (and by that time the Gagaku decoding machine was already lost) It was recorded that people were astonished by such a huge unpleasant noise. Even today’s pop music over the world based on European tonality can be enjoyed because people have a decoder for it in their brain.
By the way, there is a theory that various forms of art are influenced by the zeitgeist and tend to be similar. Was modern architecture also diverging from the general understanding with the momentum of modernism, or was it something that only those who could decipher the cord, the rules for understanding, enjoy? I don’t think so, but maybe you don’t realize it if you are inside that world. Is the correction or change of architectural design the same as the way music has changed? You see a lot of “popular architecture” these day which has a WOW effect with the aid of 3 dimensional software, no need to decipher the chords to understand.
Applause to congratulate the conductor on his new start.
On the contrary, the renovation plan was developed to show the bustle of performance night to the city and to invite more audience, with no wall between the lobby and the front sidewalk, connecting to the street directly. The excited audience waiting for the concert to open and leaving the hall after the show are now visible from the street.
This staircase that we designed received an award from the American Steel Construction Association. It was pure luck that it coincided with the award from our previous blog post “Designer’s Loft”. The name of the award is a bit long, the “Innovative Design of Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel (IDEAS²) Award! “. The project is called “Ascension of the Celestial Maiden “. Inspired by the legend of the ascension of beauty, which is universal throughout the world. It is an application of origami. Contrary to its romantic name, there are no decorative parts, and the design is completed with heavy and hard structural steel.
When climbing a normal staircase, the view to the front is blocked by a structure that supports the staircase and you cannot see through it. We wanted you to see beyond the stair, creating a floating feeling. To make it look light and stabilize it structurally was the challenge. In other words, how do you get closer to the feeling of a fluttering ribbon? How to solve this technically? The headquarters of the United Nations is now clearly visible between the completed treads. High precision is required in the production process but it was created in a simple and magical manner; that is another reason for the award. For more information please watch the video that was presented to the jury.
The following is from the press release when the association announced the winners.
“Nine projects, ranging from a cutting-edge Seattle skyscraper to a sophisticated staircase in a private New York home, represent the most innovative aspects of today’s design and construction industries. The industry has made it very difficult for our judges to select winners among an outstanding pool of submissions. It’s truly inspiring to see the ways today’s most creative minds work with structural steel to create modern landmarks. ”
They also published the winners projects. This staircase was a introduces in a past post and was taken up as a project to connect the upper and lower floors with a new opening. Please visit this post for more information.
The photographs of the countryside in Japan that are said to be scenic, are so to speak, over-consumed images. Everyone finds them beautiful, but everyone has already seen them in the media and nothing is fresh. In this blog, we have been introducing scenery that is not special, scenery that is maybe too plain for the locals, but beautiful scenery (I think) if you look at it with fresh eyes. The plum orchard that we posted recently is an example. But unfortunately this time photos may not be beautiful. This city borders a national park and has a beautiful view, but once you enter the city, you can see what has become a typical ugly, super messy townscape.
The city once prospered as a castle town and a local stop along the old inter city road. However, a new road bypassed the narrow old road, another bypass of it, and another bypass of the first one, and the city is steadily moving away from the old center. Now the old shops are almost wiped out, the shutters of the shops are all closed. There are now only 2 “machiya” shops left to imagine what the street view looked like when it was the heart of the city.
These photos were taken around 4 pm on weekdays. It’s not a weekend, nor is it early in the morning before the city wakes up. ここに載せた写真はかつては最も繁華であった地区でとったもの。すべて週日の午後4時ぐらいにとられたもので、週末でもなければ、早朝、街が目覚める前でもない。
It’s just a 1-minute walk from the most popular railway station. There are vacant lots like missing teeth between the shops with the shutters closed. They are the sites of former stores that have become parking lots. I was stunned to see how many parking lots actually existed when I plotted them on the map of the old city center.
In the oldest area along the historic main street lined with shops, 39% of the ground is parking (in orange), and in the next oldest area along the main street, 30% is parking (in yellow). The expanded city area from the time when the first new road was built, 20% is parking (in blue), and in the latest expanded area, 20% is parking (in light blue). Scattered agricultural sites in the newest area, will soon join the parking, it is only a matter of time before this area is also 30% parking, the same as the older city. It can be called a “parking lot city”, but it would be more appropriate to say that buildings are erected on a huge parking lot.
If you try Google Street View, you’ll find that these are not carefully selected photos showing parking lots. If you actually walk down the street, parking lots will appear one after another. The decline of the old heart of the local city is a common problem (for various reasons) all over the world, but the situation is extreme here. “Urban planning” assumed that cities are expanding, but that is not the case here. The mayor is studying how to solve this.
The scene above is in front of the railway station which is supposed to be most vigorous spot in the city. When it was busy, people would go out into the streets, talk to their neighbors, and hang out without any particular purpose. There was a kind of daily enjoyment and refreshment. Is it fun to walk here now? Now people go out on the street only when they have a specific need.
People living here seem to have given up on obtaining a beautiful living space. But that’s actually not the case. In some parts of the city, I found trees planted, though they were tucked away in unnoticeable locations. Even with tiny leftover land, people are looking for a beautiful environment. Trees are planted in the corners of the parking lots and in unusable land, where residents have maximized income by making it a parking lot. If each person thinks of the city as his/her own garden and strategically planted trees in the city, the relaxed life will return. Of course, the city can help the activity. What about a communal vegetable garden? Will the city come back to life from there? I think there is a possibility. Wouldn’t it be possible to survive as a beautiful residential area, not a commercial area?
Imagine the city in such a landscape. And if the city can’t create a vitality of its own, it would be a good idea to have people come from outside. Remember the national park starts here, wouldn’t it be possible for many people to stop by in this gateway town? If the city is relaxed, enjoyable, and beautiful you will visit it. For that purpose, economic activity is not always necessary. People from outside will skip this town because it’s getting easier and easier to get to their final destination on the newest highway. You need to plan. Couldn’t it be a station town for people who want slow traveling, such as those who travel by bicycle? Tourists rushing in by car will exhaust the National Park. This idea also will take advantage of the national park and maintain it as a sustainable resource by preventing over-tourism.
One of our projects, “Designer’s Loft” received an award from the American Institute of Architects New York. Today is the opening of the show of the winner’s works at the Center for Architecture in New York.
Many of our previous clients came to celebrate, they sounded proud of the results of the projects we collaborated together on. It was great to see them.…. It was a rainy hot and humid evening- to mask or not to mask? So hard to communicate and enjoy a glass of wine with a mask on.
The Designer’s Loft was designed for a fashion designer who uses it as a showcase for his designs, as well as a welcoming space to meet friends and customers. The loft has a long footprint but very little natural light, the challenge was to use the light in creative ways to emphasize the height and spaciousness. Our strategy was to provide several key elements to solve multiple issues simultaneously, interwoven to address the whole. You can visit the AIA’s website.
You may not have noticed, but that Hiroki is smiling in his heart. He says it is really difficult to smile artificially… nothing funny here. お気づきにならないかもしれないが、ヒロキは心の中で微笑んでいる。曰く、何もおかしいことがないのに、無理やり人工的に笑うことは本当にむつかしい…。
I have visited this valley several times but a bit later in the season. It seems that the plum blossoms are a little late this year. They are still fragrant, but the blossoms are scattered, and if you are not careful you will miss them. On the other hand, it seems that the cherry blossoms have bloomed a little early. Normally, plum blossoms and cherry blossoms do not overlap. This year seems to be an odd year, where fragrant plums and spectacular cherries mingle. There are many similar valleys nearby, but this is the only one that has become a plum orchard. Other valleys have cedar and cypress forests which have been planted to provide an income, but this valley has many areas that have been left to the natural forest and the plum trees.
The valley is as well-maintained as a garden because it is in the hands of farmers who pick the plum fruit. Perhaps the effort and profits are (somehow) balanced. If it were to make a big profit, there would have been many plum orchards in other valleys.
Today is Sunday, but no one is here. It has been known as a spot to visit for a long time, but what happened? A few weeks ago, when a lot of the plums were in bloom, some groups of older people were coming. It is not recognized as a place for cherry blossoms, so no matter how beautiful the cherry blossoms are, no one will come. If there is no name, you don’t go, on the other hand if it has a name you will visit. There must be a cycle in which more visitors come and the name rises again. Is it a vicious cycle or a virtuous cycle? I prefer the time when people don’t come, so I choose to visit such places. There is always a long line at our local bagel shop in New York, but I don’t really want to buy bagels in that store. Perverse?
Previously, many people would join together to make a car trip and visit here. Now everyone has their own car, but consider this orchard as too minor to come all the way by car to visit. In fact, if a lot of cars come, the orchard will become “car parking”. Then what about a bicycle? If the road to this point does not overlap with car traffic, anyone can enjoy a leisurely half-day excursion. Also, if you can go to a similar quiet scenic spot near this, you can make a nice day trip.
I made a map of the idea of connecting such places. そのような場所をつなぐアイデアを地図にした。
This map is quite different from the typical route map, it does not recommend the shortest route, some times the route zigs and zags and has detours. Avoiding car traffic it takes you on: この地図は通常のと観光ルートマップとは違い、早く着くことが目的ではないので、多少遠回りでも、ジグザグでも構わない。幹線道路を避けて、
historical old routes, 歴史的な街道
quiet obsolete roads left after the new bi-pass, 無数の静かな旧道（新道ができたおかげ）
banks of rivers 海岸や川の土手、
farming roads 農道
all stitched together.You can enjoy beautiful scenes safely not paying any attention to car traffic. You will find something you never find on a car trip. をつないでいる。車交通を気にすることなく景色のいいところ、安心して行ける。逆に、車では決して経験できない四国を見ることができるはず。
This year it feels like spring came earlier, the cherries and magnolias are blooming at the same time and the forsythia is blossoming too. They normally are distinguished by the timing of when they bloom but this spring we cannot distinguish them from a distance. It is a rare feeling to see both at the same time. Just an hour before the sunset, already many people had left but still there are a lot of people in Central Park lingering and enjoying the blooms. Now there are no tourists but what if they had joined? These are all locals enjoying their park.
This party speaks perfect English. They are dressed up and made up, taking pictures of each other. The branch they are on seems like it is not high enough. Of course no alcohol, but the spring is making them wilder. They are challenging to reach the next one.
We looked for an empty cherry tree. But they are all taken. The canopy of flowers is a universally preferred space. We sort of gave up and toasted with our wine and cheese from close by. An illusion that we are in Japan enjoying the ephemeral spring came to me, but wait a minute there are none of those popular harsh blue plastic sheets.
On our way back , we saw a lot of temporary sheds built by restaurants in the parking lanes along the streets. In our last blog post we wondered where the customers would go in midwinter, in fact they did not go anywhere. We saw many people in these sheds even in real freezing temperatures. They are locals, not from Siberia or Alaska. We admired how determined New Yorker’s love their restaurants and chatting. Although they don’t need that determination tonight.
I knew this island was very close when I was a child but I have never been here. Until a friend invited me to visit I hardly thought about this island. The ２km of shoreline has a beautiful oval shape. The island has a population of 70 in this fisherman’s village. There is a small boat commuting for 15min between the main island 6 times a day.
The island preserves some traditional houses from a century ago, though the conditions are not good. My friend is an architect who is volunteering his time to repair one of the houses. There are no drawings left, over time several renovations were done so that now no one knows what it was like when it was built, which is the ultimate goal of this preservation. He uses his experience and his speculation based on the remainders of the renovated construction, the choice of material and the customary way of house building at the time. The process is a chain of finding evidence, hypothesizing, and finding more evidence to prove that again…a total forensic study in a detective story. The architect comes here after 3 hours drive from his office.
Here is a philosophical dilemma. If you precisely save the old structure, the house will collapse in the next big earthquake which is considered to hit here very soon. The last hit was a long time ago and the earth has built up a large preserve of energy by now. Then what is the meaning of this preservation of cultural heritage? It is a lie to reinforce the structure in the modern manner. So what to do? This is a practical problem.
The side of the island facing to Shikoku island is for fishing boats and houses, but the ocean side is hilly and covered with natural forest and an undistributed ocean view. The highest point of the island is in the center and has a small lighthouse and an abandoned viewing platform.
The quay is the center of the village, everyone comes and chats about the day’s catch and mends their fishing nets. This piazza like space is very unusual in Japan. There is a quiet but vibrant life, not like most local towns in Japan where the center is just an intersection. A woman who used to run a shop that faced the quay passed by and we chatted… I don’t remember what we talked about. This happens to be the city center but it is also the quay, the public life and fishing life overlap on this small island.
On the island there are 2 inns, one is just for sleeping and the other one provides 2 meals (of course all from today’s catch) for 6000 yen (60 usd). They will make accommodation for you after you call for a reservation. A spontaneous visit may provide nothing.
There are no policemen here. So the main boulevard becomes a woodworking shop. What is wrong to have a party even in the daytime? Anyway there are no cars nor even bicycles in the island. I captured a couple of happy men at the corner of the angle, pretending I am taking a picture of the house beside of them.
How many islands like this are there in Japan? It is quietly isolated in the ocean. A half day is probably enough to explore this tiny island, but I want to come back and stay overnight. Time will flow differently here.
When we are leaving the island, a fisherman handed a bunch of beautiful lobsters to the architect, apologizing that normally he can get bigger ones. There is a blow of the steam whistle from the boat. We must go…. A couple, the only tourists today were on the edge of the island on the other side of the bay. They understood immediately what was happening and started a “once in a lifetime” dash. Our boat saw them and returned to the quay. The couple’s hearts were bursting…. I hope not.
Two months ago, we talked about how restaurants in NYC are surviving in the pandemic by converting the parking lanes into dinning space for their restaurants. They had just started at that time, so the settings were rather primitive and raw.
Now they are getting fancy and permanent looking. The sidewalks have been taken over as dining areas. Pedestrians pass through the middle of the dinners. It reminds me of the streets in Europe…messy and vibrant. In fact, some parts are a bit too vibrant, they are too narrow for pedestrians to go through. You may get the virus from enthusiastic guests chatting at the tables. One bonus is you get to see what they are eating- staring at their food is allowed.
The biggest difference is the new roofs that have appeared. Guests need shelter when the weather is rainy or windy. Additionally, it is getting cooler now. We wonder how will they accept dinners in the winter, what will be the next layer? I understand it is the time for them to make money to maintain the business before winter. It also may be the time for us to show our tolerance … except when it comes to catching the virus.
There were several reports about people who refuse to wear masks saying that no one can force you to wear one. Probably they misunderstand that mask wearing is the same as wearing a bike helmet. If a traffic accident kills them without a helmet, it is their own responsibility, nobody gets hurt… except themselves. With the same reasoning they also may protest the obligation of wearing a seat belt. No authority has the power to force you. This is wrong, the mask is not just for you but also for someone in front of you. You may transfer the virus to someone because very often you don’t even know if you are already infected or not. The mask is not the same as a helmet or seat belt!
This inconvenient fact has been informed to everyone so often and so widely. It is a mystery that some people have not read it? or they don’t trust any information from outside? But do they have any alternative counter theory that they can support scientifically? Did they investigate their own counter theory carefully? In fact, it is a foundation of science to doubt any authority, but you need to create a plausible counter idea and study it with a critical manner if you think the authority is wrong. You need to have the capacity to welcome a disliked theory and have the ability to examine it. You cannot just blindly dismiss. This is another foundation of science.
Although, the authorities may need to reconsider how to inform everyone. The social distance varies with wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity, in shade or not and the strength of speech, so it cannot be simply 6ft, obviously. They might have underestimated the ability of the general public to consider this judging it is too complicated for them. In some cases 6ft is too much, and vise versa.There was no explanations how 6 ft was derived, no information that the size of droplet carrying virus is 1/1000 -1/100 millimeter and typical fiber mesh of mask is about 5/1000 millimeter ( sorry for imperial system users), it is like “believe me blindly”. But you have internet and if you think a little bit, you will understand that you don’t need to go down into the car lane to avoid me walking 20 ft in front of you (this actually happened often). Can people think scientifically, or the authorities’ underestimation is correct? It is a hard question to answer, but obviously the virus carried on the air cannot propagate with the speed of light.
Our local park, Glick Park was closed for almost 2 years for “renovation” and reopened this spring- after almost 2 years of not being able to access the park it has suffered; many plants did not survive. The parks are heavily used now by New Yorkers looking for outdoor space to relax, play and use as alternate gyms for workouts. The parks really are the lungs of our city.
Our community group, Alliance for Kips Bay asked for volunteers to help maintain the park and I am always surprised how many people are willing to help in the parks, it is hard work, involves dirt and maybe bugs.
The Parks Department is struggling for funding and many parks were closed during the peak of the pandemic when all resources were devoted to trying to keep everyone healthy, including the park staff. They cannot maintain the parks on the budget the city gives them, it is up to the residents to fill in the gaps. The Partnership for Parks is helping to support the volunteers who are organizing community lead clean ups with training sessions. The Partnership and the corporate sponsors provided us with gloves, masks and they even gave us a tape measure to make sure we stayed 1.8m apart.
It turns out that almost every park in the city has a dedicated set of volunteers that weed, plant and lovingly tend these public spaces. The residents of every neighborhood can provide this kind of support, working together with the staff of the park. We posted about another volunteer group at Dag Hammarskjold Park, another neighborhood park, a few years ago.
We painted one of the benches in the Pan-African flag colors, something that the parks department is trying to do in all the parks. (Don’t look too closely!) I find weeding to be very therapeutic, so satisfying to get out those roots, just enough of a challenge, a bit of exercise and a good looking garden when you are finished.
Yesterday on a weekend bicycle ride we ran into a volunteer working in Carl Schurz Park and chatted with her in front of a lovely flower bed by the Mayor’s mansion. (The highway running above Glick Park runs right under this garden). We found out that she is a horticulturist and this flower bed is beautifully maintained by her as part of a conservancy group that receives donations from the community. She offered to come to our park and give us guidance. We are going to organize an event for our volunteers. It will be a fun event! —–Come and join us, every park needs these volunteers !
Last Thursday I was one of the lucky community members able to join in painting “Black Lives Matter” onto Fifth Avenue. The words fill one city block and face the Trump Tower, which has become something of a tourist attraction, ( no idea why) , Aimed at him…No, No. Hopefully this message will get through to those tourists who come to visit that building.
The department of Transportation led the event with the mayor, his wife and other elected officials joining in to paint the bright yellow message. After straightening his tired back, the mayor stated ”Our city isn’t just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to the meaning of the message.”
This is one of 3 installations in Manhattan, all painted by volunteers. Members of all the Manhattan community boards were invited to help paint in this location, other spots are being organized by local groups with African American artists featured. This work was professionally and beautifully done by the department of transportation, as you can see.
I did not participate in any of the protests but I did want to show my support- it was a very mixed crowd in terms of race and age, black, white, brown, yellow, young, old; a pretty good representation of New York City.
For several years we have been organizing “parking day “once each year a car parking spot is used for a neighborhood park. It is a great way to take back space from the cars and remind us that the residents are the main characters in the city, but it is just one day a year.
After the pandemic had closed restaurants for several months a group of restaurant owners on 2nd avenue asked Community Board 6 to use the street in front of their restaurants for outdoor dining for their customers. Traffic is reduced, the streets are empty, and the restaurant owners are desperate to get back to serving customers- their one stretch of Second Avenue provided jobs for 600 restaurant workers. Isn’t it a brilliant idea? Our community quickly supported this idea and it became reality throughout the city this week.
It is so fantastic to see this street being used for something other than parking cars or routing trucks that are racing to leave the city. In Manhattan only 22% of the population owns a car, so where do all those other cars come from?… outside of Manhattan. This brings a fundamental question; do we really need such wide streets? Possibly, the other way around… wide streets have been inviting unnecessary traffic into the city. It was more than two centuries ago that the street width and density were determined when carriages were the main transportation. I wonder if the city designers determined the street width and network by predicting the traffic of the future. We speculate, they just dreamed of European boulevards which were not for functional reason but a demonstration of the power of monarchies. It is believed that the current street system is a highly functional design and contributed to the prosperity of American cities, but did we really need this width?
Here you can try a thought-experiment. Imagine that the width of the street is double the current one, would it generate traffic and more prosperity? Probably the answer is that cars would pack the city until they reached a daily traffic jam, with polluted air and noise… an unsafe environment. The point is there must be a good balance, and it is something that can be designed and evaluated.
In the past Community Board 6 had tried unsuccessfully to encourage pop up cafés on some of the smaller side streets but the pandemic has suddenly made taking over many parking spaces possible! We hope this will demonstrate the pleasure of using our public streets for other uses and that it will become a new norm in the city.
These days when you talk, you read, or listen all of the issues are filled with the virus. Let’s talk about something different. I found an unfinished post written exactly one year ago, about a small village in a valley 30 minutes from the west coast of Shikoku island.—–
We are in one of the many small valleys that open up to the coast. The next valley to the north recently became well known among Japan as an active village driven by the internet, Kamiyama. You can keep going deeper and deeper into the valley until finally you reach the other side of Shikoku island through a narrow minor road where just one car can pass. This valley is much deeper than one in the last post. The road turns back and forth in what seems like an infinite number of times until you reach a tunnel at the top. This used to be a major access to the deeper part of the valley. Houses hug the road.
After the zigs and zags this view opens up. The houses on the other side of the valley are all old fashioned, the landscape has not been invaded by new industrial building materials, even thatched roofs are surviving. The same landscape was here 100 years ago. (How can people make a life here? Hard to imagine agriculture on this hill. A different time is passing.) It is a matter of time before the invasion will happen. Wind power turbines are visible at the ridge beyond.
It may not be an insult to say these houses are shabby, but in a sense beautiful. The materials are cheap corrugated metal and deteriorated wood, yet much better than the fake products which are artificially mimicking masonry. Human eyes are superbly created, you will notice it is not real. The newly developed fake products are durable, inexpensive and clean at the beginning, but they all soon become shabby and dirty and no character. Why not produce a new design respecting their own unique nature instead of mimicking? It is strange that we feel these houses are not so bad even comparing with a small old masonry shack. Yes the individual houses are not so good but not bad as a group. It may be similar that individual buildings in Manhattan may not be particularly beautiful , but collectively creating beautiful landscapes.
Masonry buildings can be reborn when renovated even when very old, and are the basis for the continued history of the life in cities and villages. It is an open secret in Europe. Wooden structures can be maintained to some extent more than can believed, but there is a limit. If wooden structures cannot create a built legacy, many Asian towns will never be able to achieve a beautiful heritage. Probably we need to reconsider what is beautiful. Possibly it may not be the European concept, but surely not fake materials mimicking traditional materials.
We are at a factory in Mexico city. An automation line is accommodated in this big space. You recognize the book shelves along the conveyor, a book manufacturer? Sorry it was a lie we are not in a factory. It is in fact a library which was built several years ago. This linear space continues straight for several hundred meters. The library is designed around this linear void. The reading space is on either side between the void and the exterior windows, an ideal condition with light and views provided for the readers. The book shelves are hung in the void but never move. You go to the shelves to find your books through small staircases and come back to your seat. Mezzanine floors that contain only book shelves are sandwiched between the concrete floors of the reading spaces. Elevators stop at each floor as wheel chair users and the Librarians’ wagons need to access every floor. We realized this is not a typical library that we know very well.
It seems there is very little staff for such a large collection. Do readers return the books to the original shelf by themselves? If so, it will be big work for them and will they put them back in precisely the original location? In New York you are supposed to drop the book into a big basket or leave it on the desk not return it to the original shelf. We wrote that the ideal library has a flat single floor, but this is the other way around. What if you have many books to read in many genres? You have to go up and go down many times.
In front of the louvers is a reading area, avoiding the strong light, the garden is visible between the louvers. 読書席がルーバーの後に。強い光を避けながら、隙間から庭園が見える仕組み。
Exterior. This linear expression is more than 200m surrounded by garden. 建物の外観、これが同じ表情で200m 以上続く。庭園も一緒に並んで続く。
This looks like a high end restaurant. The surrounding garden is visible through the slot between the old building and the new. 高級レストランさながら。庭園の緑が新旧建物の隙間から。
Next day we went to a national library. Although it is different from what you imagine from “national” there is no check to go in and you traverse the building through several entrances. It was renovated from an older library which had 4 square gardens by adding large roofs. Shelves and reading seats are laid out in the squares. Through the gap between the old building and the new roof, sun light and a view of the garden outside are visible. The only support of the roof is by a huge central columns. This structure should be quite expensive.
Small archive rooms are accessed from the corridors surrounding the big square reading areas. These archives were recently renovated with a very high quality of design. I have seen them published in magazines and books. These archives are respectfully dedicated to the original book owners and house their entire collection and it is a huge collection. This demonstrates a culture that has a huge respect to or an obsession with books. I speculate Mexicans return the books to their original location responsibly no matter if it is faraway and up many flights of stairs. That explains what it is like at the new library. I should have asked about this system.
stacked book shelves-the floor is glass, hung from the ceiling without columns. Amazing craftsmanship of stainless steel. 書架は二階建て。床はガラスで天井から吊られている。柱無し. ステンレス細工は驚きの職人わざ
As you see, a mezzanine floor accessed through a small staircase is common in these new libraries. It seems to be the traditional way of designing a library and is an expression of their respect and affection for books, which is gone in Japan or New York where books are considered disposable or treated roughly.
The mezzanine is accessed through a stair case 階段をのぼって中二階へ
A dedicated space for Braille, audio booths are suspended from above. Yellow guide lines on the floor. 点字専用図書室。 吊られているのは音声利用の個室。床に白線。
Does it make sense to build such a beautiful library for people who can not see well? Probably the small shelves are to improve acoustics. The book collection is coming. 目の不自由な人のためにこれほどの美しい空間を作って意味があるのか？ちょっと不思議。小さい本棚のようにみえるのはおそらく反射音響の改善のためか？蔵書の充実はこれから。
There has been a debate if written language was developed in north and south America before the Spanish invasion. There has been a recent full de-coding of the 4written language in Maya civilization, but it seems that the Teotihuacan civilization did not need a written language. How come this love of books developed? It must be an interesting process.
Despite the horrible history of the Spanish invasion, it is interesting to see the many amalgams of native and Spanish cultures. Is this book culture a reflection of this amalgam?
A new library designed by the star architect Steven Holl opened several months ago in our neighborhood, well, the other side of the East River. A 15 minute ferry ride brings you to the east shore and into the middle of newly developed high rise housing. The library project started over 10 years ago and has finally became a real building. The unbelievably long term for construction did not surprise us, we are also designing a library project for the City of New York. That project started with a walk though in 2014, and we are now still in the schematic design phase.
We were excited to see the completed project as we remember the very early stage of the façade from a decade ago and have been seeing this building under construction from the other side of the river for several years. It is very powerful. Randomly shaped big windows carve holes into the platonic boxy building. It has such an abstract form, not friendly… no entrance on the riverside (park side), a discreet entrance at the street side.
The inside instead is quite complicated, probably intended to be a Piranesian space, mesmerizing, with elements of dramatic skipping floors, bridges, staircases and arches inspired by the historic visionary Italian architect, but actually also messy. What you feel in the space is very different from what the photos give us, the photos cut many things out of the frame. The design is challenging not because of the unusual façade or Piranesian space, but by the goal of consolidating and unifying them at the same time. We can see that the architect was struggling to achieve both. We read that these elements are not very well organized and not well synchronized with the random openings on the façade. In every project you want to bring something new to the world that will be a challenge but this was super ambitious.
Probably it is just our recognition that many things may not have been intended initially. We speculate that originally some bookshelves were installed at more reasonable locations. The current bookshelves are located in abrupt and somewhat disturbing ways, the circulation collides with them, and they steal the scene….
We heard that the 2 skipping floors along the staircase used to have book shelves, but they were not handicap accessible; no elevator or escalator so the book were removed from those floors to somewhere else in the library. Books are probably not the biggest draw for the library, when we were there almost every table was full with people using their laptops.
This library has 5 floors and maybe more depending on how to count the tiny mezzanines and each floor has a small floor area, the general reading rooms were divided into smaller branch rooms. 40 years ago, we were taught that the ideal library has one floor for librarians who return borrowed books, and organize…. they constantly move books from one shelf to another according to expanding or shrinking sections. Also you don’t want to be sent to the next floor at the end of a shelf by the sudden ending of the alphabet after feeling that the book your searching book is very near, and find no book like it when you get there and come all the way back to the original floor. Knowing this the architect chose this height to stand out among the developer high-rises that surround it. It is New York’s version of the Sydney Opera house with its prominence on the waterfront.
Probably it is too popular, which is a good thing….it is in the middle of a densely populated area. We recommend that this is the first building you visit in new York City, it is definitely one of the best public buildings in New York。
At this years New York Open House, a yearly event to see and experience New York buildings, Sandy was volunteering at the Ford Foundation building near the United Nations. The garden and their gallery are open to the public but many people did not know and took advantage of this time to visit. Many people came.
The volunteer’s role is to guide visitors and to explain the architecture. This opportunity to visit other areas was a courtesy provided by the Ford Foundation. Not all areas of the building were open but we as volunteers received a quick tour through the upper levels overlooking the garden showing us their goals and their activity. The foundation’s goal is to improve social justice and they are happy to remind the public of their mission.
Then my next reaction was a question “why is this so gorgeous?” The construction cost would have been exceptionally high, and the use of this footprint in this expensive city is extremely generous…. There is not so much floor area, commercial buildings could never afford it unless this spaciousness and richness of finish created more business, like banks or art museums. Banks need to show that they are safe and profitable. Art museums need to show their art collection is authentic and a ”must see” they need to entertain art lovers with their space. Unlike banks and museums one of our clients doing research to fight a serious disease wants to spend the majority of their donations for their facilities and equipment and some money for decent spaces for their staff. How much do we value space and luxurious finishes? It is all relative.
When we left the building, I was in a strange mood, a mixture of happiness because of the experience and our good luck and at the same time, unhappiness, why can’t everyone have this environment? Don’t we all deserve this quality of working environment? Can other not-for-profit organizations like ” Doctors Without Borders” which have noble missions have this office as their headquarters?