Michael Kimmelman walks through New York City in the time of a pandemic in new book

Intimate Cities: Walking New York
Michael Kimmelman | Penguin Random House | $30

Michael Kimmelman debut New York Times‘ The architecture critic gave Dattner Architects’ subsidized housing complex Via Verde in the South Bronx a serious, well-meaning review in September 2011. Both the tone of the essay and the architectural typology to which it is committed suggest that change has arrived at the desks formerly occupied by Nicolai Ouroussoff and Herbert Muschamp—one an impact-hungry immaterialist, the other a proud Avid supporter. Kimmelman is almost a populist compared to these scribblers, his columns filled with kitsch. For example, in a Via Verde review, he casually mentions his endorsement of the dollar slice, a major culinary innovation during the Great Depression, offering a value proposition that has slipped recently. Between mouthfuls, he mulls over the nature of good architecture, which apparently comes down to curb appeal and righteous intent.Is this a common sense criticism? Second-rate Has been lacking, will now provide?

During his more than ten-year tenure, Kimmelman has reviewed as many buildings as Ouroussoff or Muschamp managed in a few years, devoting much of his time to reporting and advocacy. Some in the discipline have sensed Kimmelman’s reluctance to stick to his job description, seeing him as an interloper. But the contents of his Rolodex suggest otherwise.exist intimate city,he is Second-rate At the height of the pandemic, Kimmelman invited name-brand architects to walk the streets of New York. Due to the restrictions of the lockdown, some expeditions took place virtually. In one instance, he booked the same venue—Park Avenue’s Medieval Mile—with Annabelle Selldorf and engineer Guy Nordenson as guests, and they contributed to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s architecture. gave a slightly different but equally ingenious interpretation of the House of Leverage. A few blocks west, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien lead him on a trot from Carnegie Hall, where they once lived Hall’s loft block (later downgraded), to Lincoln Center, where one of their most high-profile projects, David Geffen Hall, opened in October. (In his article, Kimmelman lamentably comments that Williams and Tsien’s new welcome center “could be mistaken for a Marriott reception desk.”)

(Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Uptown’s David Adjaye, a thoroughly cosmopolitan who commutes between New York, London and Accra, Ghana, trains Kimmelman’s eye on the Harlem brownsand Soft details of stone architecture. Later, he hung out at 135th Street’s “Speaker’s Corner,” the overgrown lot where agitators and civil tribunes like Malcolm X used to speak out about today’s Speeches on political issues. On the East Side, Kimmelman and Deborah Berke headed from her Gracie Square co-op to the river promenade above FDR Drive. They all raved about the Hell’s Gate Bridge, a nimble railroad viaduct that spans the turbulent tidal channel from which it’s named the River Styx. Kimmelman avoids any Dante-like allusions, as he does when he hangs out with Claire Weisz (of the WXY company) in the sinister darkness of the financial district. That urge might actually be forgiven in a book about navigating the sprawl of a city—the corrupted heart of a global capital—that has been “emptied” by a doomsday virus.

In March 2020, Kimmelman dabbled lightly in #doom with a photo essay titled “The Great Empty.”COVID-19, he wrote at the time, “has made scarcity a necessity for human existence.” In the introduction intimate city, Kimmelman recalled the early days of the pandemic and the general sense of uncertainty that pervaded newsrooms and cities beyond its walls. “I still have a job, but I can’t do it the way I used to,” he wrote. “My job needs to be reimagined.”

2020, it turns out, will be Kimmelman’s most productive span to date as the paper’s architecture critic, with 30 or so articles published, more than half of which are hikes. The idea for these tours came after days of lockdown. Instead of sulking in the dark, he displayed a calm demeanor. As city life ground to a halt, he told us, his thoughts turned to the kind spirit that sustained Londoners during the Blitz — especially the National Gallery, where Beethoven sonata pianist Myra Hess played for the public during the bombing raids. The myth of the Blitz has a stubborn, almost pathological influence on prominent purveyors of cultural commentary; they are apt to forget that, when the pinch came, England’s elite abandoned their cities and working people who could not easily flee to their country houses. The emergence of COVID-19 in New York has sparked a similar dynamic, with the wealthy and powerful flocking to second homes in the Hamptons, Berkshires, Maine and Vermont.

But what Kimmelman calls “cicerones” will remain, at least until work restarts and construction sites reopen. If we’re going to infer from the bills of their respective offices, let alone zip codes, Berke, Weisz, David Rockwell — who, while touring Broadway theaters, dispensed some (popular) wisdom about the virtues of metropolitan artifice — — with Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi taking Kimmelman on foot from Brooklyn Heights to his Hudson Yards office, where they survived quarantine. The top construction authority on the national record paper should do the same, but it’s not a serious blow to the progressive image he’s cultivated over the years.He has repeatedly used his position to support subsidized housing, which is not popular among his fellow citizens Second-rate Writers, especially stupid marketing idolaters who stalk their op-ed pages. In a follow-up to his Via Verde column, Kimmelman seemed genuinely energized by a visit to the Zuccotti Park camp, with its “meeting assembly,” makeshift kitchen and library, and other spartan, communalist accoutrements. “I clearly saw crowds coming together over a period of days, the consensus emerging in an urbanized way,” he wrote.

Curiously, the city fires of summer 2020 don’t feature in Kimmelman’s book. Riots have erupted in American cities following the murder of George Floyd and threaten to escalate into full-blown uprisings. The threat, though temporary, was well-known in wood-panelled storefronts across New York. Protesters stormed sidewalks and occupied streets and public squares. Vague and arguably unserious proposals for radical social change — namely defunding the police — have gained unprecedented public prominence. Soon, the keepers of order struck down the stick, and a Democratic mayor called for a citywide cooling-off period. Where is Kimmelman?missing from intimate city The intimacy of the crowd was many times larger and more diverse than the crowd he had encountered in Zuccotti Park all those years earlier.

The protests have put right-thinking liberal pundits at a disadvantage, in part because the movement has challenged their faith in Dr. Fauci and the social distancing measures his office had been pushing for months. But they also immediately canceled predictions for a string of morbid “deaths,” the most ludicrous of which was New York. Looking back on the moment, Kimmelman writes, he “avoided making predictions.” Instead, in an act of prudent stewardship, he would observe, on foot, with the aid of a guide, its most indelible features and determine—in some cases by reasoning—how they had come.

This archaeological agenda sometimes strays from the concept of urbanization intimate city commemorate. Two excursions with Wildlife Conservation Society ecologist Eric Sanderson enclosed the collection and reconstructed flooded New York. manahata, the term Lenape for the area that became Lower Manhattan once supported 55 ecosystems, and the saltwater marshes of the Mentipathe would eventually recede beneath the concrete of the baseball stadium (old Yankee Stadium). Some maps and charts would be useful. Conversations with Sanderson led to marketing copy for the book’s back cover, which claims that Kimmelman’s walker is “about 540 million years old.” They also inspired the oldest corny joke heard this side of MacDougal Street, about the remnant glacial rocks that underpin (and sometimes intrude) the five boroughs:

Sanderson: You know what geologists say.

Kimmelman: No, I do not know.

Sanderson: The Bronx is gneiss, Manhattan is schist.

Monxo López, a curator, activist and administrator for the South Bronx Community Land Trust, tends to agree. On a Mott Haven avenue, he told Kimmelman about the “burning years,” an ominous reference to the 1970s, when landlords and city planners alike abandoned investment-scarce neighborhoods , “burning to minimize losses” tearing down their own buildings to profit from insurance policies. Faced with this colossal betrayal, residents reacted by adding fuel to the fire. Now gentrification has arrived in the area, but to beat the efforts of developers and homegrown initiatives like pockets finca López said Kimmelman’s visit has created strong community bonds. He employs a center-periphery analytical model—Manhattan is often seen as the former—only to turn it around: “For people here, Mott Haven is the center.”

I thought Kimmelman would feel at home in this center.but his intimate city Full of the kind of intimacy his predecessors indulged in. Can we really expect cultural officers to play the role of activists? Not without first setting our expectations.

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