Brooklyn Simulacra

Posted: November 6th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Adam | 4 Comments »

brooklynbigweb.jpgHere’s a recent photo illustration I made, created from a composite of 30 or 40 high res photographs from the Greenpoint, Bushwick and Williamsburg neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The “view” is of course a fantastical compilation of a typical north-brooklyn architecture, but extremified to make the ubiquitous vinyl-sided row house the only form of residential building, overlayed on an industrial skyline. (If anyone wants a 24×60 inch print, let me know). The prominence of the row house in my new neighborhood (having recently relocated from Rhode Island to “East Williamsburg”) has made me think about larger ideas of urban living. With the premium on space, both public and private inherent in large cities, the way that architectural space behaves becomes more charged and meaningful. For instance, perhaps my favorite form of architectural status-display in Manhattan is the empty white room, two things the public sphere of New York is not, (empty and clean). You could say it’s akin to the way the British gentry once employed the green yards of their estates; using the public display of tended, but unused arable land to communicate wealth. For more on this see Fritz Haeg’s project Edible Estates . At any rate, seeing multitudes of these row houses, all jammed together block after block got me thinking on how property in my neighborhood is delineated primarily in graphic fashion, through the use of vinyl siding. Three our four individual “houses” are more often than not separated from each other by little more than the color or texture of their siding, as these contiguous properties are really part of the same building. This unique functionality reminded of architect/printmaker Jean Cozzens‘ take on the issue; she once remarked to me “I like vinyl siding, it reduces buildings to their pure form”. Something to think about for sure. sidinghires.jpg  

4 Comments on “Brooklyn Simulacra”

  1. 1 brosa said at 8:53 pm on November 6th, 2008:

    You bring up an interesting question of what makes a building. Does it come down to the sub-structure? If four identical, contiguous facades are undergirded by separate foundations, are they separate buildings? Even if they were built simultaneously, as so many of them were?

    That’s part of what is so striking when a new townhouse is built on the footprint of one of these individual buildings- their continuity of form, differentiated only by various vinyl sidings and shingles, is disrupted by a taller, slicker concrete…interjection?

  2. 2 jean said at 1:57 am on November 9th, 2008:

    the composite image is Sweet ! (I would love a print… maybe smaller than 24×60 but if that is the only size they come I’ll take it!) being the dork/architect that I am, I would love to see some reference point on the buildings for comparative scale, how big the windows are on the different buildings, etc.

    for Brian: some new row houses that totally fuck with the paradigm, both facade-wise (narrower) and interior-wise (divided horizontally into duplexes):
    “thin flats” in philadelphia.

    something that’s also always fascinated me about siding (wood or vinyl) is that by changing the size of the visible siding pieces, you can change the apparent scale of the building: the larger the pieces are, the smaller the building will seem (and the converse). This is the same for any texture or pattern on a building or inside a space: we (instinctively?) read a smaller-scale pattern as being farther away.

    why? the same-size pattern at a greater distance would appear smaller. so… of two same-size buildings at the same distance from us, the one with a smaller pattern will seem to be farther away — and thus larger.

    this is the secret strategy behind using tiny little tiles to make floors in small bathrooms, and also part of the reason why acoustical ceiling panels, with their large shapes and bold dividing lines, always make even huge or high spaces look small and low (e.g. the Providence train station, which has a tall dome, but has no feeling of spaciousness: because someone lined the inside of the dome with acoustical ceiling panels!!!!)

    it’s interesting to compare baltimore/phila/brooklyn, where the siding is much more of a color/texture identification of the rowhouses’ flat fronts, and providence/worcester/(any new england factory town), where the siders had more odd protrusions, mansard roofs, gabled windows, etc. to deal with (and often smoothed them over or cut them off…)

    I have yet to take any pictures of the buildings I was/am thinking about re. vinyl siding as sculptural simplifier. but to tide you over till that happens, here’s a link to a just-read BLDB BLOG post with references to many artists who make composite images of cities/buildings etc. Adam, I think you might especially like these “model homes”, the image manipulation is not always the smoothest, but the ideas and the atmospheres are totally up yr alley: isabelle hayeur: “maisons modeles”.

    how did the RI power lines photo project go? if anything comes out of it, I want to see it!

    okay, now ends the longest, dorkiest comment ever.

  3. 3 Deidra said at 10:33 pm on April 19th, 2011:


    I love the pic and would like to use it on my website, if it’s ok with you.

    Please contact me at the email address provided if you require anything from me to do so.


  4. 4 Adam said at 3:12 pm on April 20th, 2011:


    Thanks for the post! How would you like to use the image and what is your website?


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