Kunst und Zeitgeist

16. Oktober 2010

"To many people in Europe [...] facts about New Amsterdam were of no importance. A completely fictitious view would do, if it matched their idea of what a city was..."
In 1672 a French engraver, Jollain, sent into the world a bird's-eye view of New Amsterdam.
It is completely false; none of the information it communicates is based on reality. Yet is a depiction - perhaps accidental - of the project Manhattan: an urban science fiction.
At the center of the image appears a distinctly European walled city, whose reason for being, like that of the original Amsterdam, seems to be a linear port along the length of the city that allows direct access. [...] Only the large number of facilities for the treatment and storage of animal skins in the city testifies to its location in the New World. Outside the walls on the left is an extension [...] in the form of a structured system of more or less identical blocks that can extend, if the need arises, all over the island, their rhythm interrupted by a Broadway-like diagonal. [...]
All the components of the map are European; but, kidnapped from their context and transplanted to a mythical island, they are reassembled into an unrecognizable - yet ultimately accurate - new whole: a utopian Europe, the product of compression and density. [...] The city is a catalogue of models and precedents: all the desirable elements that exist scattered through the Old World finally assembled in a single place.

- Rem Koolhaas: "Delirious New York", 1978

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