While digging around this morning through my embarrassingly disorganized hard drive, I found a project I’d saved a while back by Adrienne Lau, a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. Lau came to New York City last spring on a research visit with the Bartlett’s Unit 11, led by Smout Allen.
We actually hosted Lau and her fellow students for a public crit—and to give them personal workspace—at Studio-X NYC, after putting together a series of tours around the city, visiting sites of infrastructure (including the extraordinary Holland Tunnel vent structure and a ConEd steam generation plant).
In any case, with New York as her project’s chosen location, Lau explored the spatial possibilities offered by informal street vending, eventually inverting, in her words, the concept of the floating market. Boat-like structures are, instead, routed through the sky via rails, lifts, and crossings bolted onto or otherwise suspended from the fronts of buildings.
As Lau describes it, “verticality links the street and midair” as “inverted boats trade with dangling pockets,” pockets that hold everything from bouquets of cut flowers to morning newspapers, and “plug-in units with hoppers and platforms” skate above the street on wall-mounted tracks.
The economy of street—or river—vendors thus becomes an interconnected maze of vertically stratified carts and platforms, more like transportation systems found in old mines than something on the horizon for contemporary New York City.
With very few illustrated exceptions—
—it is a story told through models: highly detailed models using things such as cable nail clamps, cardboard silhouettes, coat hangers, tracing paper, and beads.
It could almost be a set for a stop-motion film about the future of urban distribution systems—perhaps yet more proof that architecture, creative writing, and film departments need to start collaborating ASAP, if only for the students to get an informative glimpse of how other industries operate.
For now, it’s worth simply taking a look at Lau’s retro-futurist vision of urban newsstands, bolt-on decking, and street life reinvigorated from above.