Mark Lamster | Essays

The Steampunk Para-Architecture of Second Avenue

I think of passages to the secret worlds of fiction as being camouflaged or at least out of the way. You get to Narnia through a wardrobe; In Lev Grossman's The Magicians, the porthole is in some South Brooklyn back alley. Things are a little bit different in actual New York, where sandhogs working on the Second Avenue subway line access their underground place of business via a five-story para-building recently erected along a full block of that avenue, stretching from 73rd to 72nd streets. (There are other buildings along the line.) Its massive, bifurcated ventilation tubes—which look like the periscopes of some great Verne-esque contraption—give it a distinctly steampunk aspect. The air is charged further by the enormous booms that emerge periodically, rattling buildings blocks away. 

Pity the poor individuals who live in the apartments adjacent to this generic dreadnaught, which will be moored along its stretch of avenue for another year, and possibly several, given the pace of this long delayed project. I'd hate to have my home blocked out from the sun for so long, nevermind the relentless booming. This, however, might be a better fate than that of the neighbors across the street, who've had their property condemned to make way for the station stop. Progress!

The whole thing seems like a perfect setup for a Woody Allen film, and who knows, it just might be. But for the moment it would be nice if some enterprising architectural studio would take on this extremely large and extremely blank canvas as a project. The elements are there to do something pretty interesting for the city, with the added bonus of learning to deal with the great bureaucracy that is the MTA. Any takers?

Comments [3]

That thing is awesome. Let's not ruin it!
Just put a sign in front of it that says "The Magic Tollbooth"
david whitehill

it's a beauty.
instant landmark

I'm surprised that the Design Observer doesn't appreciate this building.

Jobs | May 22