Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Layers of a City

“Most people experience their life in the city in a two-dimensional way ... You know, they go from Point A to Point B along streets and don’t realize there are these multiple layers to the city. By going 20 feet below or 20 feet above, you can go to a place that is practically unvisited, that maybe 100 people get to see a year.” (NYTimes: "Children of Darkness")

Upper Level
Any time I'm on a rooftop in the city, I'm struck by the feeling that I'm on another plain. There's a whole other world going on up there. There are "rooftop neighbors", not just next door, but across the street, and way down the block ... From my roof, I can see how people create their own little havens on their slice of metropolitan rooftop real estate. My neighbors are so comfortable that they frequently come out on their porch in their underwear. When I peer down to the street below, sometimes it almost seems wrong to be looking down over the pedestrians as they pass by, completely oblivious to my gaze or anything beyond their more immediate surroundings.

Truth is, most of us don't even consider some of the things that are actually going on up on those rooftops: there are
amazing views, secret gardens, yoga classes, parties, film screenings .... eh, beekeeping? But we just shuffle by, unaware, on the sidewalk many stories below.

Lower Level
But it's not just what's above our heads that we often fail to notice, it's what's under our feet as well.

"New Yorkers go about unaware of what is happening just beneath their feet: Power pulses, information flies, and steam flows. The city’s infrastructure starts just below street level, but it doesn’t stop there. " (National Geographic: NY Underground)

Go to the National Geographic "NY Underground" site where you can actually interact with the layers in the image above and get more information and (photo, text, and audio) tours.

Also check out NYC24's feature on Exploring NYC's Underground.

See stunning visuals captured by a "Guerrila Historian in Gotham" at Undercity.

Want to see some of this stuff in person?
In a post-9/11 world, much of what was once somewhat accessible is off-limits, so it can be challenging.

  • For a more legal route, join in on the annual openhousenewyork weekend: "America's largest architect and design event ... discover new neighborhoods, explore with friends and family, and experience NYC's architecture and design in all five boroughs through special talks, tours, performances and family-friendly workshops – all free of charge...". This next one will be October 10 & 11, 2009.

  • For the other route, check out what the LTVsquad us up to.

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