Monday, March 18, 2019

NY missive no 161 - Hudson Yards, West 30th Street and the fabric of places

We have become so used to talking about the fabric of a place or a neighborhood that rarely do we pause to think about fabric, real fabric - to draw out the texture of the word's original meaning. I mean, what does the place feel like to touch? What's holding it together? How is it held together? What colors does it have, what shades? Is it stretchy, heavy, light, hand-made or factory-made?

I was struck recently on moving from the glassy monochrome fabric of Hudson Yards (freshly opened this weekend) to the deep, rich fabric of a short stretch of 30th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

Hudson Yards has a disturbing flatness (beyond all else that's disturbing about it, which I wrote about here). The "Vessel" is an empty vessel, a selfie vortex, a mise-en-abyme of unseeing self absorption, by which I mean in these selfies and reflections we don't even see ourselves. Or a giant shawarma as some have observed.

The rectangular mall could be a rectangular wall anywhere. This fabric feels cold to the touch. It does not give. The eyes grow tired quickly.

The 30th Street block is deep and immersive. It is soft to the touch. You can get lost, your eyes and mind alerted to multiple mysteries and possibilities. Walk just 50 paces or so and you've passed old furriers, a drum store, a recording store, a martial arts center, a church, and that's just for starters. You can feel the multiple hands that have worked this fabric and wrapped themselves in it over time, and you know that time will continue to thread new patterns in it, make its mark, build on what came before and extend its history.