As presented, the work is still investigating the idea/territory of "mirror space" and identifying the terms from which to continue. Ideally, the project will incorporate all three of the following aspects of mirror space, though eventually one will take a priority:
1. symmetry + difference: symmetry considered as a mostly formal project, as a contested/eschewed topic in contemporary architecture (according to Jeffrey Kipnis and in general) and difference as something we innately look for as a means of understanding individuality (with reference to Derrida's differance and Freud's narcissism of small difference)
2. reflection of society: architecture as a cultural product mirrors society in terms of those things we care most for at any given time; for example, Robert Levit reads our reflection, as a society of many individuals (the "multitude"), in the cellular pattern-making of contemporary architecture
3. real + imaginary: the mirror mediates between real space and reflected, imaginary space; the work will test the productivity of working on complementary "real" and "imaginary" sites as part of a single project's construction of mirror space
Potential, physical sites are currently located in the "other islands" of New York City, namely Rikers Island, North Brother Island and South Brother Island, as identified in the maps below. The first and second images show the context of these islands. The closeness of LaGuardia is of interest, as is the relationship of these island to the five boroughs.
Rikers Island, below, is cited as "the worlds largest penal colony" and is mostly made of reclaimed land/landfill. The light red line approximates the original 90-acre island prior to its growth.
North and South Brother Island are currently bird sanctuaries and completely uninhabited by people. They are 20 acres of land together. North Brother Island hosts a number of abandoned buildings including Riverside Hospital and the quarantine home of Typhoid Mary and was the site of the 1904 General Slocum wreck.
Programmatic considerations are outlined around the following four topics:
1. The institutional "non-place" like a double-loaded corridor, party wall or reflected ceiling plan; these sites and programs would be selected for their characteristics of symmetry and/or difference for formal investigation
2. The visitor's center: where a version of the place being visited is curated and explained for the tourist to more easily navigate. What would it mean to create a visitor's center for a prison? A bird sanctuary? An island only discovered within the past ten years?
3. Punishment & Imprisonment: This topic could be interpreted loosely or very directly; if investigated directly and literally, the questions are led by one: what is the agency of architecture when considering spaces like solitary confinement, which the UN has just denounced as torture, and death row?
4. Cultural competency: As part of a course in medical school on the topic of patient care, medical students at Michigan State University were asked to read a book on the culture clash between western medicine and the traditional culture of a Hmong family. Cultural competency or negotiation or appreciation in this case specifically requires conversations between "real" medicine and the "imaginary" spirit world the family identifies as the cause for a child's epilepsy.
Some of the comments, questions, and suggestions that came up include:
- soft versus hard versions of imprisonment
- is Rikers Island too loaded and "known" as a site, will it get in the way of the work? is there another site or program that's inherently the same in terms of imprisonment but different?
- pairing a visitor's center with an institution
- difference of time and scale in reflection
- spreading out to work on a network of islands instead of a singular island
- Ellis Island's role in a transition to society, transformative processes on various Islands in the NYC area
- how would I describe a "serious" project?
- differences of water, land and air in the siting of realness and imagination
- the history of the National Parks system is marked, positively in terms of generating tourism, by the creation of the visitor's center
- cloning: Shinto temple construction every 20 years; there's never more than one fully complete at one time; theater of the absurd?
- strange twinning of buildings: Piazza del Popolo
- mirror as magic trick: making something disappear
- look up the movie Mindwalk made up of a conversation between three characters visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, a tidal Island in France