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Portfolios | Urban Omnibus

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Photography is a form of research, a way to understand how the structures and systems we build shape our experience every day. The photographic portfolios commissioned by the editors of Urban Omnibus look closely at the city we think we know and the city we don’t much think about. In the projects on view, architectural photographers, artists, and designers capture the give and take of social life and urban space.

Selections from the following portfolios are on view at The Architectural League of New York through February 7, 2020. Click on each title to see the full project.

Lavender Lane

Artist Amy Howden-Chapman watched 806 Union members complete their task of bringing a little more periwinkle to the East River Waterfront Esplanade, while residents availed themselves of the long-awaited linear park. Her photographic investigation of the FDR’s transformation captures the complex and cumulative work of citymaking.

Typecast: Towers in the Park

The term “towers in the park” refers to an architectural and urban design typology of multifamily, high-rise housing complexes located on a “superblock”: a dedicated area of open space disconnected from the street system. Typecast investigated the unique social experience of towers in the park — as opposed to an exclusive focus on their shared physical characteristics — by calling attention to site-specific histories and raising questions about what assets the typology offers that might be hidden in plain sight.

Anna Beeke documented the Alfred E. Smith and Vladeck Houses, two NYCHA developments covering 37 acres in the Two Bridges neighborhood of Manhattan.

David Lang documented Sea Rise and Sea Park East, two mid-1970s housing complexes designed by Hoberman & Wasserman for the Urban Development Corporation in Brooklyn’s Coney Island.

Cameron Blaylock photographed Electchester in Pomonok, Queens, a complex of 38 buildings constructed in 1949 by Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Amani Willett photographed Co-op City, “the largest cooperative housing development in the world,” housing some 60,000 people in the Eastchester and Baychester neighborhoods of the Bronx.

Ben Stechschulte photographed the Todt Hill Houses, which predate most of the single-family homes in the surrounding neighborhood of Castleton Corners, Staten Island.

Organic Machines

The city has installed over 4,000 rain gardens in the last seven years, and more are on the way. As this ambitious green infrastructure plan evolves from pilot projects to citywide system, what does it mean for our daily life and experience of the city? Under April showers and May sunshine, photographer Jules Slütsky checked in on these strange amalgams of sewer and garden to look at how they are settling into their varied surroundings.

Beacon/Bunker

For all the comparisons of schools to jails, or the myth of the oppressive silence of the library, the power of the police is unique in the city. Photographer Kris Graves tracked all 77 NYPD precincts from Tottenville to Edenwald, looking to these buildings — sometimes humble, sometimes imposing — for the face and footprint of law and order in the neighborhood.

Underexposed

A lifelong New Yorker and erstwhile city employee, photographer Stanley Greenberg knows New York upside and down, from the newest pipeline to the last remaining Dutch farmhouse. We accompanied Greenberg along the myriad paths of the city’s infrastructural networks as he traced lines of water, gas, and freight transport in great breadth and close detail.

Latchkey Living

An indicator species in vinyl and metal, lockboxes appear in a certain density in certain neighborhoods — areas with low-rise housing and stoops and gates, without doormen, and with a high concentration of short-term rentals available on Airbnb. Photographer Anna Shteynshleyger went looking for lockboxes hiding in plain sight in four Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Gas Flows Below

Beneath New York’s streets runs a tangle of pipes and wires that carry the infrastructures of the city — a humming, steaming, hissing tracery conveying all of our utilities and services. Certain street markings offer clues to the city’s true complexity, if you can read the language. Landscape architect Nicholas Pevzner explored the multicolor annotations on the street and the story these cryptic spray-painted messages tell of what transpires underfoot.

Front of House

We asked designers Sebastian Bernardy and Vincent Meyer Madaus to take a closer look at the many lives of the row house front yard. Line drawings of each of the five types employ an oblique perspective to show how activities unfold in this space — and give the viewer a sense of peering into a miniature world below.

Live/Work Balance

“Live/work” today describes residences that double as workplaces for an artist or upstart entrepreneur, but in much of New York City the line of separation between living and laboring has always been blurry. Nowhere is that more apparent than in row houses. Photographer Amani Willett headed to Brooklyn to capture places where home and business comfortably nestle against one another.

At Face Value

Clad in stone, brick, wood, vinyl, shingles, or stucco, row houses represent a swath of architectural styles and every kind of variation on a theme. We sent photographer Rob Stephenson out to document the many faces of the city’s row houses: idiosyncratic, regal and threadbare (sometimes simultaneously), and beautifully diverse.

Bronx Contours

Walking in New York can at times feel a little too smooth. That’s not the case in the Bronx, the city’s mainland toehold, where topography is at play like nowhere else in this archipelago metropolis. Kris Graves put 20 miles on his Nike Air Max 90s capturing how topography is manifested in the West Bronx, from Yankee Stadium to Riverdale.

Commissioning Editors: Rosalie Genevro, Mariana Mogilevich, Emily Schmidt, Olivia Schwob, Cassim Shepard, Varick Shute, Jonathan TarletonExhibition Curators: Mariana Mogilevich with Sam Velasquez and Catarina FlaksmanExhibition Design: Manuel Miranda Practice

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.

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