TIMES SQUARE PAVILION:
PROFESSOR: HALEY EBER
TEAM: ANDREW MACMILLAN
LOCATION: PRINCETON SOA
Why should our buildings be determined by program, when program is in flux, ever changing, ever morphing. shouldn’t our buildings rather be determined by their context, by the urban, correcting injustices and disrupting existing socio-political structures, as they go, until the patchwork of corrections becomes the dominant structural order, until we have achieved an architecture which truly moves at the speed of culture by providing a space for people, for all people, to have the space to define culture itself.
Rem was close, architecture should be mobile, but who determines its movement? why?
Conveniently I was given a chance to explore this after penning my analysis of the Prada Transformer. An opportunity opened up to develop a pavilion in times square, in Duffy Square in the same section as the TKTS Booth. Times Square, a site heavily charged with the contemporary conditions of postmodern consumer capital, a longstanding mecca of advertising where the paradigmatic consumer, the tourist, comes to times square, where they see,photograph, selfie and consume in and with this image of New York, the apotheosis of consumerism. These tourists, perfect subjects for experimenting with the problems of the pavilion, stand at the crossroads of the post-modern condition, and within it all, they construct themselves. They cautiously cross the street, they’re uneasy with their position, pushed around by commuters getting to work, they are funnelled away from the sidewalks and into the belly of the chasm of times square which lays underneath the glow of the more than one billion pixels which blanket every facade of the advertising mecca at which they now find themselves at the very centre of.
Also conveniently, a friend of mine, a New York City contractor, had some downtime between a project in Tribeca, and another project in the Hudson Yards. While chatting with her at her storage facility, I discovered what would be the main organizing object for this experiment.
I had been struck recently with how much construction is happening in the square. Every time I go, I’m being directed, moved, distracted by the endless scaffolding and barricades, constantly tearing down and building up the ever-changing face and experience of the most frequently reproduced fragment of urban real estate in the world. Traffic Barricades, Scaffolding, Traffic Cones, Safety Barriers, Steam Stacks, these are the vernacular architecture of the construction of consumption. These ready-made objects we are used to seeing everyday are the are the signifiers of construction, a collection of various objects, plastic, metal, wood, orange, white, cones, cylinders, rectangles, all very neat and systematized, objects which are ordered to the site, which are inventoried on a checklist, “We need 12 barricades, 10 traffic cones, 24 units of scaffolding”, and all of the signs of construction are born, the pregnancy of something new to consume.
We are directed around it, with enough distance to be safe, but not enough so that we can get caught up in the delirium of the becoming. That is our post-modern condition no? Stuck between danger and fulfillment. And, as symbols of post-modern consumerism, they can also be understood to reference the construction of identity, the construction of self. I thought, What happens when we take something very rational, very systematic… the deployment of the objects of symbols of construction, and subject them to indeterminacy, what happens? how do we organize ourselves, what does it say about the construction of identity? Instead of being funnelled through the construction site that is Times Square, we enter into a field condition of the symbols of construction. We can transition the user from simply getting from point A to point B, say, the investment banker, Deborah, who is on her way from Lunch at Bobby Van’s Grill on 45th, to Morgan Stanley at 50th and Broadway, or George, the tourist and his kids, walking to the TKTS Booth to take a photo from the Rockefeller Centre, or Mauri, whose staying at the Marriott Marquis on business, and who is about to head back to his hotel room after enjoying the sun in Bryant Park, we can transition them to entering and leaving a condition.
This addresses the first part of the pavilion, the Field, where construction and identity are antagonized, disrupted. This is the structure of becoming, deployed through randomizing algorithm which chooses each objects rotation, and position on stacked typological grids. The objects themselves represent the structure of becoming, symbols, conveniently also objects of utility which construct the identity of postmodern consumer capitalism, and incidentally the city.
But this was not enough, the field on it’s own cannot sustain a deep enough analysis of the self, but it can lay the framework, hence discussing it as “structure”, but we need something else, that which can be understood as the event of becoming, which enriches the experience of the field, by layering on top of it the experience of one’s position in the field, and in the city at large.
Event, is explored through the Scaffolding Structure, where participants ascend upward through varied strata of mirrored rooms, each presenting and representing a unique understanding of self and place; the becoming which leads to the construction of the identity of the participant. Both scaffolding structures are identical, but provide subtly different orientations, one to the irregular orientation of Broadway, and the other to the regular Manhattan Street Grid, as on 7th. These highlight the square as a crossroads of the city, but also, the crossroads of identity. On the outside, varied ribbons of mirror and transparency draw in subjects from the field, and also reflect back the advertisements of the square, creating a hyperreal space where desire is exaggerated, and so the pavilion can conform to nyc building code, which requires that all buildings have illuminated advertising signs, and under which not adhering to is a punishable offence. Their structure, borne from scaffolding is key, to inhabit the processes of construction is to enter the process of becoming itself, indeed, it is us who is the building, that the scaffolding serves. The first floor, the ground, is open on all sides, both revealing the structure, and providing nightlines across the plaza to fully understand the expansive field, but also to reveal the stairs, transparent entry is key in a busy field in a busy plaza. The second floor is a room with one-way mirrors which direct from outside to in. The user can read this on the facade before entering, they know they are being watched, as they have just been watching, but they will not know that they will only see themselves reflected back on the inside until they are inside. Here, the subject is faced with the erasure of the city from the visual field, and yet a cognizance of one position in it. The third floor reverses this condition, mirror on the outside, and one-way mirror directed out on the inside. Here the subject is faced with a different circumstance, the removal of self from the reality of the exterior, subject as voyeur, a ghost in the city. On the final floor the room is mirrored on both sides, this is the total erasure of the self, the removal of subject from the city in all senses, the self is presented in a mise-en-abyme, an optical illusion of infinite virtualizations, with no real position in the city. Walking back down the experience reverses in direction. As subjects retrace their steps, they revisit all of the stages of the visualization and virtualization of self, before they are brought back out into the field and then back into the city itself, again at last.
Unfortunately, the Hudson Yards is approaching at the end of summer, so the pavilion will be very short, though in a place which transforms itself daily, 3 months might as well be an eternity.