Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mourning the Lamps At Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park by Andre Kertez

For the past couple of years, Washington Square Park has been undergoing renovations. There has been much controversy; they moved the fountain, and its water may be tainted, the beloved mounds are being removed.  Of course, trees are being cut down. It is hard to say how many, the Parks Department is being coy and promising to plant more.  Of course young trees have a hard time taking root in the city.  Mostly the critics seem to fear that the relaxed atmosphere of the park will change.

So far, it seems that the park is still cool.  Every sunny day brings the musicians and families like before.  Still I am not crazy about the job they did.
The perimeter fence is somewhat formal and offputting.

The interior fences are made of chains.  Unlike the old fences, they are impossible to sit on.
The lamp posts are squat and ugly and they remind me of the Pokemon Steelix
Last week I was passing the park and in the distance I thought I saw the old globe lamps in the distance all white and refreshed. I was happy to see that the Parks Department had decided to mix the seventies lamps with the faux Victoriana.
I was wrong.  In fact they are simply more retro style lamps.  I cannot stand this habit of the city to recreate old styles of lamps, fountains and gates.  And I really liked the globe lights from the seventies.
I am sure all are burning with curiosity regarding these lights.  What magnificent artifact from the recent past could this be?
Sadly, there is only one lamp left in the park, a dreary little cluster by the workers' shed.  It does not look like much.  I think that is what I liked about them, simple unobtrusive.  They looked great in the lampshades made by the artist Marjorie Kouns back in 2005.
photo by Hubert J Steed

One has only to walk down a few blocks from the park to see the horrors of seventies design;
the long wall of apartment blocks,

or the Brutalist towers looming over what is actually one of my favorite supermarkets.
Even in the midst of all that starkness there are surprises.  I remember when I first came to New York and I marveled at this huge Picasso sculpture just standing there out in public.  It felt so egalitarian.
These buildings have globe lights too.  I guess it may seem strange to be so attached to such banal a light fixture. The lights always seemed modern to me and a little magical, like automatic sliding doors.
I wish the city could balance out its past with something modern, like this awesome building in downtown Brooklyn does.

I have finished with the photo a day exercise for a while.  Hopefully I will make some progress on my hanging sculpture and I can post some pictures next week.

More photos of the Lampshades by Hubert Steed
Marjorie Kouns Website

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