1. New York City smells. Not bad mind you, not all the time, but it has these smells that seem to waft in from… who knows where. Some of them them come from shops you are passing – I was walking in SoHo the other day and passed the most amazing smelling shop, a candle shop that had seemingly discovered how to make wax happiness because I stood there for a good two minutes – it happened to be at an intersection and this red hand was bleeping at me not to walk, so I didn’t – and I swear, I didn’t want to leave that place. Then there was a lavender stand at the Union Square farmer’s market today. Delicious.
But then there’s the garbage. And then there are the dogs. Which leads me to points 1a and 1b:
1a. I am from a small town in Kentucky with little homes that dot the landscape in that sprawl pattern that is so prevalent in our country. As such, most dogs have a yard to run in… and poop in. New York City dogs aren’t so lucky. I wouldn’t want to be a New York City dog. This is the life of a New York City dog:
What should I do today? Will Mom or Dad take me out to the Big Park or at least one of the Small Parks? I hope they aren’t too tired to do that. Otherwise they’ll only take me out to the curb to do by Business. I hate that. It’s so humiliating. And then they pick it up with their hands! How would you like it, somebody putting you on a chord and yanking at it when you go to sniff a flower in a pot because they think you might be naughty and eat it. Always watching you. I’d love to roam free in a big wide open space, like my brother Cyote Kid and his family do. I miss visiting them. Ever since we moved here from the farm all I get to do is walk around this tiny apartment. Grrrr. Makes me so mad. I’m gonna go tear up some furniture.
Quite unglamorous, that life. The smells that this life produces are atrocious. For instance, I don’t know what it is about the area outside Starbucks on Union Square, but it always smells like a fresh dog squeeze. I walk quickly and hold my breath. I advise you to do the same.
1b. Garbage is another source of smell in the City. And in a City this size, garbage is always piled up somewhere. Every Thursday Garbage is piled five feet high on W.17th Street near Banana Republic. Some nights I walk by and there’s a security guard out there. Watching the Garbage? I don’t know. And I don’t ask.
There’s always Garbage by the McDonald’s on 69th Street by the Weill Cornell dorms, where many of us live. That trash doesn’t smell so bad because, and I heard this from an Asian girl who I don’t necessarily believe but want to for the sake of the idea, McDonald’s food waste doesn’t decompose quickly at all. I’m making this next part up – I’ll bet it has a half-life of at least a century. Only honey beats that. I heard once that honey is the only food never to go bad. Then somebody told me that same thing about peanut butter. The World is so full of misinformation that probably neither of them are true. But it doesn’t change the fact that this Big City produces Big Smells.
They say that too much of something is never good for you. Live in moderation. New York City is not about moderation. It’s about hyperdensity. It’s about faster, stronger, taller, better. In New York City, too much is never enough.
2. Review Day. Winka Doubeldam’s studio had a review today with Craig Schwitters, a principal at the engineering firm Buro Happold. His appearance got me thinking about the differences between the dress codes for architects and engineers. Can you imagine an engineer looking like this? :
Or an architect looking like this?
Despite the contrast between Winka’s sleek black pants and Craig’s carpenter jeans, Craig was an excellent critic even on the architectural intentions of our projects.
Winka’s insistance that we turn these computer generated gobs into realizable systems is currently the bane of our existence, but what else is architecture but something to be built? Too often in studios students hide behind theory and diagram. What’s refreshing about the New York City program is that the professors actually build things – Winka runs a very successful office whose work is predicated on taking computer generated gobs and infusing them with real-world capabilities. The same is true of Lindy Roy, our theory professor who, unlike other theory professors I know, actually uses her theory to make architecture. It’s not that wordsmiths aren’t valuable, it’s that wordsmithing is too often a disguise for laziness. You know what I mean – that girl or guy who just keeps going on with a diarreah of precidents to postrationalize what he didn’t do. New York City is real-er.
I can smell it.
There’s proof: it’s in the garbage by Banana Republic; it’s in the candles in Soho; it’s in the lilacs in Union Square; it’s in the dog def by Starbucks.