15 June 2017

exemplary buildings

Ten years ago, I blogged here about the Coignet Building at the corner of Third Avenue and 3rd Street in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The building was in rather shabby condition in 2000 when I took this picture, looking down Third Avenue. (Perhaps it's better that the building is rather off in the distance.) It was built in the early 1870s as the office building for the Coignet Stone Company and to show off their fine decorative concrete work. The Gothamist site has a good article by Miranda Katz which includes the building's history and some lovely pictures by Scott Heins taken after its recent restoration. This is one of the "after" pictures:

We have the Terra Cotta Building in Alfred that was built in 1892 by the Celadon Terra Cotta Company for its office building and to display their wares.
Photo by Cynthia Wenslow

It's always good to be able to see how construction materials will look on a real building. As I meandered the streets of Ridgewood in Queens a couple days ago, I noticed a stretch of houses on Woodbine Street near Forest Avenue. The fronts of the buildings were of a rich variety and could help you decide how to re-side your row house. Do you want horizontal clapboards, diagonal boards, fancy plaster with an Italianate feel, faux stone, or maybe just an Italian renaissance palazzo?

Oh, how I wish I had any one of these row houses, whatever siding. It was a great week in New York City: lots of museums and galleries, a couple pop-up concerts at Miller Theater at Columbia, meals with friends, sitting with John's cats, going to the Lissa Rivera and BJ Lillis gallery talk at ClampArt and running into Walter on the subway later. Walter knows Lissa and would have liked to attend the gallery talk but he had to go to meetings to plan the 2018 ARLIS/NA conference.

12 June 2017

inequality and fairness

When I was in Havana a couple years ago, there seemed to be a good sense of social interaction on the street. It may have been partly the pleasant tropical climate. People were going about their business or leisure. I know I was ready to see that Cuba was a good place. We did hear from one of the tour guides that the elite did have access to better housing but that they generally did not have more disposable income. The ostentatious signs of inequality in the U.S., such as McMansions and huge black SUVs, are not so visible in Cuba.

In last Sunday's Opinion section in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote about "What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Fairness." Recent research had looked at how monkeys reacted when one of them got a prized grape rather than a cucumber slice in exchange for a pebble. Other research looked at how travelers in coach were more satisfied with their flight if they did not walk through a first-class cabin on their way to the coach cabin. With all the complaints about airplane seating, I've never been able to understand why anyone would want priority boarding. Still other research showed that sports teams with similar player salaries generally did better than teams where some players got much larger salaries than others. The perception of inequality exacerbated the situation.

I suspect that my good feelings about the general sociocultural climate in Havana came from a sense of shared space as well as the afterglow of improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Sure, there were some people that were more shabbily dressed than others but it wasn't the grotesque visual clash of socioeconomic inequality.