Summer in the City

Here's three reasons to head outside (or head to New York, as I'm sure the Mayor and others would be happy for visits from non-locals) this summer.

Iceland's Olafur Eliasson's "New York Waterfalls" are unveiled tomorrow. Running from 7am to 10pm every day from until October 13, the $15 million installation is sited in four locations: the Brooklyn Bridge (below), at Pier 35 near the Manhattan Bridge, between Piers 4 and 5 near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and one on the shore of Governor's Island. From the man who made the turbine hall of the Tate Modern glow, the waterfalls seem a bit subtle or timid, in relation to the East River and the urban backdrop. Maybe this is intentional; only he knows. But like his other "environmental" artworks, this surely will reveal itself only when experienced, be it the sounds of the waterfalls or the spray on the skin for those venturing close enough.

["New York City Waterfalls" by Olafur Eliasson | image source]

Another Lower Manhattan installation, though one not as overtly attention-getting, is David Byrne's "Playing the Building" at the Battery Maritime Building, next to the Whitefall Ferry Terminal. Presented by Creative Time and open Friday-Sunday Noon-6pm, the installation converts the building and its infrastructure into a giant musical instrument via devices attached to the steel structure and the heating and water pipes. The sounds are controlled by a church organ. Unlike the Eliasson piece, Byrne's clever installation is participatory (in fact, Byrne has turned down requests to play the building, stressing this fact) and rewards not only a visit but interaction. But like Eliasson's waterfalls, this also begs to be experienced.

["Playing the Building" by David Byrne | image source]

Across the East River in Long Island City is P.S.1's P.F.1 (Public Farm 1) by Work Architecture Company, the ninth in the museum's Young Architects Program, in which architects respond to a small budget, a fixed site (the P.S.1's irregularly-shaped courtyard), and requirements for shade, water, seating, and a place to dispense the requisite drinks. Work AC's winning entry is basically vegetables and plants in cardboard tubes raised overhead, a la a flying carpet. In project form I was excited, but photographs show it to be the least interactive of the nine winning designs built over the years; as one can see in the photo below, party-goers are everywhere but around the Public Farm. Perhaps the jury was wooed by the timeliness of the idea of urban farming in a world where as population grows, arable farmland shrinks. It certainly makes one think, but unfortunately the experience doesn't appear to balance the intellectual content.

[Public Farm 1 by Work AC at PS1 | image source]


  1. Your dead on about the whole PF1 thing. Kinda a big joke and totally forced. I mean, any project that could be conceived of entirely in an afternoon meeting is, by definition, junky. "Let's see, sono tubes, some as posts, some cut at angles. Planted with farm vegetables, steal colors from UMs lounges and add fans and showers (straight out of past summers @ PS1).

    Totally different from the bamboo project where they spent the whole time figuring out how to work with bamboo. This thing was take a seemingly simple idea, force it onto material and coat everything with chemicals, bolt the shit out of it and install plumbing.
    blah, blah, blah


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