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The Wrong Line is a work-in-progress multi-channel media installation. Its thematic focus is the site of the Essex Crossing development in Manhattan. The project occupies the site of the infamous Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which was cleared in the 1960s and remained the largest undeveloped site in Manhattan until construction on the new development began in 2015. Essex Crossing is the first of many attempts to develop the land to succeed, thanks to the doggedness of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Other attempts failed amid neighborhood battles over the degree to which new development should be affordable, as opposed to market rate, housing. The master plan was developed by SHoP Architects, and it misunderstands the city in ways that are typical of business-oriented development as promoted by Bloomberg throughout this administration. The “line” in the title refers to the axes on the site, and the unfortunate ways that the designers of the project have articulated their relationship. The project, for example, fails to take advantage of the axis of the Williamsburg Bridge, which is a once-in-a-lifetime site that the project disregards in favor of other axes that maximize the bottom-line. The power of the site is sacrificed for normative development that misunderstands and/or disrespects its history.

The methodology of the project is inspired by the archaeological approach of Johann Friedrich Geist’s Arcades: The History of a Building Type (MIT Press, 1985). In that book, Geist dissects the urban and architectural logics of arcades through analytical drawings and photography. His method is scientific as opposed to theoretical – clinical as opposed to conjectural. The Wrong Line aspires to the translate the methods through which Geist lays bare the spatial grammar of the typology of the arcade into a multi-channel media project. Initial studies explore the potential of videography to operate as a time-based mode of urban archaeological analysis—as a form of time-based drawing and diagramming. The capturing of images began just before construction began, and it will continue until the project is finished. The method will likely develop as the project does.

In 2012, Ciotat Studio conducted studies also inspired by Geist’s method in Berlin. That project, Ostkreuz-Westkreuz, is an archaeological investigation of the material culture of the Stadtbahn in Berlin. The Stadtbahn demonstrates how architecture may participate in the urban realm, and it reveals the power of design at multiple scales, from infrastructural order to tectonic details. The footage of this work-in-progress includes images from eight of the fourteen stations on the Ostkreuz-Westkreuz axis of the Stadtbahn. New footage of all fourteen stations will be captured in the future, and the methods developed in Berlin are influencing The Wrong Line. The objective in both cases is to record the planometric and sectional conditions of an urban condition. as well as the multiple layers of movement through and within the city. As in Geist’s analyses, the relative scale and proportion of spaces and axes are critical lenses of analysis.

Work in progress ... video excerpts of The Wrong Line coming soon. Excerpts of Ostkreuz-Westkreuz below ...

Cast of Characters (8 stations):