suckerPUNCH: describe your project.
cynthia FELS: Overtaking the existing roof gardens of Rockefeller Center, this project is working within the isolated blocks of NYC to create another world. Referencing the painterly effects found in surrealism, the project addresses the complicated relationship between landscape and technology.
Current relationships between architectural design, technology, and the digital landscape leave a confusion between natural and artificial that is completely ignored by the existing English gardens, and this project proposes an alternative – one that asks the question – what if this were different?
Tracing the skyline in NYC creates a dual nature, to both look up at and to look down upon. Rooftop perches create moments where visitors can contemplate the rest of the manufactured world around them. From above, the city around can be seen as a complete panorama. But these moments atop these buildings are a part of this panorama, because they can be seen from other buildings.
Rockefeller Center, an entire complex in Midtown Manhattan, has its own observation deck in addition to smaller roof gardens atop each building. Hidden from the world below, these gardens exist as a private reserve, concealing a carefully manicured English garden. The landscape that is formed is removed from the everyday working world and helps to frame a distantly beautiful image of the city. Not invited up, you can only become aware of these spaces through a higher power, wherein your distant and untouched knowledge of this space becomes framed.
This framing forms a moment where you both know and don’t know the space. This is the same as the way the world beyond the city is the other that forms the natural. The natural becomes an image, a ‘known’ fact that has been claimed through aerial photographs, mapping and technology. The space beyond becomes owned, and something that we can control through our knowledge. With this view, nature becomes thought of as contained, and our surroundings become merely another extension of our body.
Our tools and our technology have declared power over the supposed natural, to the point where our relationship to the natural is distorted. At this point it becomes difficult to distinguish between human, land, or technology. The differences start to dissolve, and we begin to see the natural in everything, despite its level of cultivation. But these gardens as they are, these moments atop Rockefeller Center, do not acknowledge any of this complicated and entwined relationship. Instead they present themselves as a serene garden retreat from the working world. What if this were different?
sP: what or who influenced this project?
cF: Casa Malaparte, aerial photograpy, Jason Hopkins’ Abhominal, Kahn and Selesnick’s Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, Ned Dodington’s Poly-Lawn-Dale, paintings of Salvador Dali + Max Ernst, and David Ruy
sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
cF: Listening: George Strait, Richie Havens, Rino Gaetano, Notorious B.I.G., and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Reading: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx, Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape by Denis Cosgrove, “From born to made: technology, biology and space” by Nigel Thrift
sP: whose work is currently on your radar?
cF: Lucy Mcrae, Miru Kim, Yann Black, Nicholas Di Genova, Mimmo Jodice
Thanks to David Ruy and Laura Vincent.