Reconstruction, East River 1999
Model of an 1870 pool (David Pascu, model maker)
Yale University and The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, NYC
The project started my consideration of “historical practices,” which in this context implies the operation of historical work in which all of the aspects of historical production are thrown into question.
In an architectural history course at Yale we were reintroduced to the work of 18th and 19th century architects who sought techniques for reconstructing buildings from Roman and Greek ruins. This primarily entailed drawings that represented buildings as they may have once existed– work by Le Roy, Labrouste, among numerous others. The work of Henri Labrouste was particularly inspiring as he sought to place the act of architectural reconstruction within the particular social activity of a former society.
In considering this earlier activity of reconstruction, the following questions were posed: How might a reconstruction operate today? How might the reconstruction of a building from the past be a provocation? What does it mean to reconstruct the very act of reconstruction?
As a case study, I chose to experimentally “reconstruct” the floating pools that once enabled people to swim in the East and Hudson Rivers in New York City. The idea of swimming in these rivers seemed in 1996, as it might still today, inherently provocative, frightening, repulsive. The idea was to reconstruct the building through drawings, photos and models to enable debate, protest, discussion about the position of the river in the experience of New York City. The processes of Labrouste were wired in reverse.
The project was staged at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City in 1999
Read the reviews of the project in the Village Voice and the New York Times