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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

For the People

in the Shade
Photo by myself near 34th Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown.

Typically, large umbrellas are found above street carts selling food stuffs. It's all you can do to find a shady spot.


What baffles me sometimes is that most architecture focuses on the wealthy and the hip.

The wealthy are usually long or newly established clients who want to look as if they'd been established forever. Very fancy, very traditional, expensive homes, housing antiques and heavy curtains and pianos.

Then there is the other crowd - fashion forward, tech-savvy, ready to break with all traditions. They prefer sleek, modern design, to suit their wardrobe and lifestyle.

Of course, there is the gamut in-between: country farms, Deco lofts, the mid-Century modern houses. But the most challenging architecture to design has always been affordable housing and public space.

When you're in school, there is always one semester where you tackle such big things - how do you make an open space 'safe'? How do you make repetitive buildings interesting? How you define what's private and public? Public housing and spaces are so difficult to design, yet we're in desperate need for it.

Of course what they don't teach you in school is that there are limits to what a building can do. An architect can provide the house, but she cannot eliminate homelessness.

Related posts: Building For a Greener Environment and Architecture, A Glorified Profession.


Mab said...

Hi Kitty, my god check out the mega scowl on that womans face, if looks could kill we know where that poor chap would be!


PJ said...

Kitty, I'm a Christian, living in a city with churches on nearly every street corner it seems and the attitude of most people is that they don't want any contact with those who are living on the fringes. Especially at church, which I just don't understand. My own church had to stop feeding hungry people on Sunday morning because of complaints from parishoners. Additionally, a county ordinance was passed that prohibits feeding needy folks in public places.
I agree that it's difficult to create affordable housing but mostly we need to live in a world where wealth isn't measured by what you own, but by what and how you give.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Neat photograph. The contrast between the haves and have nots is amaqzing.

Kitty said...

Hi Mab
The camera catches things that we easily miss, lol.

How terrible? I would have thought the churches would be the most generous, but I can see it's easy to separate Us from Them, especially in tougher times.

The need to care for one's own is natural, but where the boundaries lie is up to us.

I hope you can spread your thoughts in small ways to your friends and neighbors.

Thanks Mr Lincoln!

BrianC said...

It's amazing that the U.S., in part defined by the "American Dream" of owning a home, can't find a solution to its housing problem. We tried in the 60s with the housing "projects" that proved a dismal failure. How does our society address this issue without resorting to Soviet-style apartment blocks? Perhaps we should look to Europe and some of their innovative solutions. The Dutch, perpetually starved for building space, seem to have engineered some innovative, yet affordable housing. Why haven't the ideas of visionaries like Buckminster Fuller taken off in the U.S.? Or is everyone so committed to the goal of owning a "McMansion" that the viable goal of housing for all is overshadowed? The current economic crisis may ultimately show that the "American Dream" is just a nightmare. (Have you seen the house design exhibit at MOMA?)

ken mac said...

Shat an interesting observation. Why do you think that is? Perhaps they want so show off their wealth (a generalization for sure), but lacking good taste they buy the most obvious lifestyle accessories?

Fredrik said...

"What baffles me sometimes is that most architecture focuses on the wealthy and the hip."
Well, I'm not surprised. In the end, most things depend on profit.
Great picture! Did you take a look at Viktors website?

Tammy said...

Great picture and very sad. Makes you think eh.

Lily Hydrangea said...

When I lived in Manhattan I was ran after by a homeless person who insisted on giving me $5. When I refused he tried to shove it in my pocket. I am very persistent though and wouldn't let him and outran him. I will never forget him. He was so earnest.

omami said...

great photo of people leaving in the street!! wonderful work!!

Kitty said...

Hi Brian
Haven't heard of the MoMA exhibit and will have to check it out. I haven't been over there often enough.

I think we're just such a capitalist society here. We're more about personal achievement than success as a society, and probably deep down dislike the idea of people getting things 'for free'. Just my 2 cents.

Hi Ken Mac
Taste is such a difficult thing to quantify, and people aren't guaranteed good taste. I see it all the time.

Often the wealthy 'buy' good taste (hire a decorator and architect). Terrible to say but true.

Hi Fredrick
I agree with you completely.

Thanks so much for the link to Viktor's site. I see there is so much I need to learn, geez. His images are stunning and slick.

Hi Tammy
Yes, it is terribly sad. We only see a snippet of these peoples' lives, too.

Hi Lily
how funny? I wonder whether your guy was a little messed up. I think many street people have emotional troubles.

Thanks Omami!

babooshka said...

We in the uk have the smae housing problems. The division of wealth too comes into play. Living on an island now, homelessness is not such a problem. Her look disgusted me, and I applaud you for capturing this.

Hilda said...

In a poor country like the Philippines, seeing homeless people in the cities is taken almost for granted. There are many charities here and lots of institutions working for systemic change, but it's difficult when the government (national and local) are peopled by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Gah, but that wasn't my point. I was going to say that it still surprises me when I read and see so many homeless people in countries as rich as the U.S.A. In one sense, it's a sadder situation than ours.

Kitty said...

Thanks Babooshka!
I think homelessness persists also in some areas because of what's available. A good climate, cheap eateries and public areas (bathrooms, parks) help.

If there were no hot dog stands or McDonalds, the impoverished would have a difficult time of it.

Hi Hilda
I cannot imagine the homeless issue over there. The children would be the hardest to see in the streets.

Eva said...

kitty, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
I love how you worded it and your post will probably have my mind working for the rest of the day. I never thought of building and spaces in those terms before. I can feel my brain spinning already :-)