Dispersed across the Venice Biennale grounds during the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, the proposed Pop-up Event entitled "HETEROTOPIA" examines a century of developments in New York City and the resulting global impact. Inspired by the writings of Rem Koolhaas and Michel Foucault, the Pop-up Event highlights New York City’s drive towards modernization and architectural innovation from 1914 – 2014. Industrialization, innovations in building science, economic cycles, social movements, and popular culture have influenced the development of architecture in NYC, and the world at large.


Originating as a 9th century lighthouse, St. Mark’s Campanile (1549) is one of the most recognizable symbols of Venice. The Renaissance structure has inspired countless designs and replicas across four continents, including New York’s Met Life Tower which stood as the world’s tallest building from 1909 – 1913. From 1914 onwards, Architects borrowed less from the Old World and developed a new and modern skyscraper expression.


Conceived during the roaring twenties, the Chrysler Building (1930) and the Empire State Building (1931) are distinguished by monumental illuminated spires that have become New York Architectural trademarks. Dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World, The Empire State Building stood as the World’s Tallest building for nearly 40 years and has inspired modern skylines around the world.


Symbolic of the transparency, honesty and confidence of postwar Corporate America, SOM’s Lever House (1952) and the Seagram Building (1958) are icons that inspired buildings around the world. Reminiscent of 1950’s high modernism, a luminous canopy structure houses an after-hours club, juxtaposing the veneer of Corporate activity and efficiency against nature & excess.


Neon signs are synonymous with the bygone age of Times Square, when it was known as the Devil’s Playground. As depicted in Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Taxi Driver (1976), Times Square was gritty, dark and desperate. City mandated clean-up efforts began in the 1980s, followed by the 1990’s “Disneyfication”. Within Architecture, much change has occurred since the 1970s: the marginalization of Women & minorities has decreased, but the hustler mentality carries on.


Eclipsing the Empire State Building, The World Trade Center (1972) held the record for the world’s tallest building for 2 years. In 2001, it was destroyed by Terrorist acts of an unprecedented scale. Presided over by developers, bureaucrats, star architects, amateur fantasists, and the global media, the sixteen acre redevelopment is one of the most charged building projects of the Century, an attempt to raise a new icon amidst conflicting interests.


In a city known for its in-your-face persona, New Yorkers have demonstrated on the streets over the past century for causes as diverse as civil rights, overseas conflict, sexual orientation, religious freedom, climate change, low wages, and rising inequality. The Occupy Wall Street movement (2011) which began in New York’s Financial District has inspired countless movements in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.


After the Financial Crisis (2007-2008), many Italian Luxury Brands went public to raise funds. The wave of global investment financed new “Cathedrals” of consumption. As stated in Perspecta 47 “Money plays a paradoxical role in the creation of architecture. Formless itself, money is a fundamental form giver ..”. The multi-disciplinary and polyphonic space of “Monditalia” hosts a runway show against a backdrop of Stock Indexes, demonstrating the co-dependency of Fashion, Architecture, and Global Finance.


In New York City, a vast underground economy bridges the divide between the prosperous elites, struggling locals and desperate immigrants. A wide range of Architectural activity is financed by an invisible network of illicit transactions ranging from street level drug deals to money laundering to billion dollar Ponzi Schemes. In the big picture, the exact degree to which Architects are complicit with the underground economy remains unclear.


Made possible by air rights transfers, real estate speculation, sophisticated engineering, and advances in material technology, supertall luxury residential towers in New York City have proliferated over the past decade. Ranging from 50 to 90 stories, these pencil-thin buildings represent a new subset within the well-established skyscraper typology. Due to the influx of foreign real estate investment, record breaking sales figures have been reported.


Following this hundred year survey of New York Architecture (1914-2014), it appears that the skyscraper typology has reached its limit. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy (2012), perhaps future innovation will involve coastal structures that mitigate the effects of climate change, and the emergence of a new Nomadic Architecture Office?

Project Type: Concept, Architectural Speculation 

Project Role: Creative Direction, Artwork, Research + Writing

Team: Natalie Cheng (concept), Brent Solomon

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