Virtue bears flowers that never decay This series is in part a personal reflection on Calcutta's present in light of past aspirations and ideologies: the missionary zeal of the British Empire, the rise and rall of Calcutta's merchant class, and West Bengal's now fading experiment with Marxism.
Chicago Self-Park These photographs are about the form and evolution of a great city as seen from one its most easily overlooked structures: the self-park garage. These garages mirror what we might call Chicago’s native geometry—the sweep of the prairie, the horizontal thrust of Prairie School architecture, and the proportions of Chicago’s early steel-frame buildings. Their roofs—accessible by elevator to any pedestrian with a few minutes to spare—are the secret, democratic skydecks of Chicago. At the same time, these garages serve a particular vision of the city's future, coexisting uneasily with the infrastructure of public transportation and with the agendas of preservationists.
The Chicago Self Park series grows out of my urban landscape project in Japan (see below). In the course of my explorations there, I became interested in how automobiles inhabit and transform our spaces. People throughout the world make extraordinary accommodations for their private vehicles. How we fit automobiles into our structures and routines says a great deal about us as individuals and as a society.
For a fuller statement on this project and an accompanying slide show, see Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm (part of the Design Observer Group). For a video of me discussing Chicago Self-Park in connection with a summer 2009 exhibition at Catherine Edelman Gallery, click here. See also this blog post by Chicago Tribunue architect critic Blair Kamin.
Japanese Urban Landscape Beyond the entertainment districts, the pachinko parlors and the crowded department stores, Japanese cities are uncannily silent. Walking through their stillness, one begins to discern the peculiar geometries of urban Japan..... Continued here in a March 2010 feature on Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm
Cabinet of Signs "In any and every site of this country, there occurs a special organization of space: . . . no enclosure (except very low ones) and yet I am never besieged by the horizon (and its whiff of dreams): no craving to swell the lungs, to puff up the chest to make sure of my ego, to constitute myself as the assimilating center of the infinite: brought to the evidence of an empty limit, I am limitless without the notion of grandeur. . . . The place has no other limit than its carpet of living sensations, of brilliant signs (flowers, windows, foliage, books." --Roland Barthes, "The Cabinet of Signs," Empire of Signs
My story early, feeling, as I fear,
The weakness of a human love for days
Disowned by memory. . . .
--William Wordsworth, The Two-Part Prelude
When everything else has gone from my brain--the President’s name, the state capitals, the neighborhood where I lived, and then my own name and what it was on earth I sought, and then at length the faces of my friends, and finally the faces of my family--when all this has dissolved, what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.
--Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Let us conclude though with some resolutions: to
Abjure these fierce conundrums of the soul;
To quit this theater of dreams; to walk as one
Into the light of ordinary day.
--from John Koethe, "To an Audience," TriQuarterly 116 (New Pastoral)