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Through three respective chapters on the topics of empire, state and building, this book considers the material basis of building in terms of the energetics of urbanization. The otherwise externalized material geographies and thermodynamics of building’s material basis reveal much about the dynamics and efficacy of how we build; about what does, and what could, support life today. This book plots the material history and geography for one plot of land in Manhattan—the parcel of land under the Empire State Building—over the past two hundred years. Through rich illustrations, it tracks all the building material that has passed through this parcel to better understand building’s geographic and ecological dynamics: spatially (in terms of their geographic material footprints and industrial processes) and quantitatively (in terms of embodied energy and emergy flow). In successive chapters, the book articulates the empire and states that are inherent to building, but remain unconsidered by architects and urbanists.

EMPIRE, STATE & BUILDING.

WHENCE THE ACCUMULATION OF RAW MATTER AND ENERGY OF BUILDING IN NEW YORK CITY?

EMPIRE, STATE & BUILDING.

KIEL MOE

KIEL MOE


EMPIRE, STATE & BUILDING. KIEL MOE

A Publication of ACTAR Barcelona/New York


Whence this accumulation of matter and energy?


Architects have externalized the actual becoming and appearance of building. oops.


Building is an empire without rule.


Today, building reflects undesigned geographic and thermodynamic states.


Ironically, architects today appear to be at their most vague in their acts of specification.


The potential magnificence of architecture withers in this paucity of specificity.


So, what, then, is the constitution of architecture today?


More than ever before, building is cosmopolitan in the most literal sense possible.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction: The Plot of This Book .

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Plotting the Empire State Building .

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Empire. .

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Building. .

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232

State. .

Conclusion .

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List of Illustrations .

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Acknowledgements .

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261 . 265


“There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot – things are not as they seem.” -Jim Thompson, Author


PLOTTING THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING


ARCHITECTURAL CANNIBALISM

I

n his book Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, Rem Koolhaas sets forth that the pulsing set constructions and deconstructions that have

occurred on the parcel of the Empire State Building represented an essential urban dynamic. As he noted, this plot of land progressed

from virgin nature to Thompson’s farm, to the Astoria mansions, to the

Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, to finally, the Empire State Building. It suggests that the model for Manhattan’s urbanism is now a form of architectural

cannibalism: by swallowing its predecessors, the final building accumulates all the strengths and spirits of the previous occupants of the site and, in its own way, preserves their memory.1

Koolhaas perceived this pulsing sequence of constructions as a form of architec-

tural cannibalism, what some other architects and urbanists refer to, in equal parts

science and metaphor, as the metabolism of a city.2 Yet his invocation of architectural

cannibalism—the notion that building consumes its own kind—positions the “metabolism” of urbanization as both fundamentally energetic and richly symbolic, construed as taboo in the quotation. Cycles of construction and deconstruction in building are

at once cultural manifestations of shifting power relations and thermodynamic acts of energy dissipation. As power relations and thermodynamic exchanges, building and un-building may be alternately productive or harmful, but it is never meaningless.

More than any general discussion of the metaphorical (if not often dryly techno-

cratic and neutral) notion of metabolism, Koolhaas’s observation helps charge the plot of this parcel of land in the urbanization of Manhattan with a fuller account of the

cultural and energetic functions of urbanization. It is important to grasp, as a plot, how “the final building accumulates all the strengths and spirits of the previous occupants of the site and, in its own way, preserves their memory.” In these ways, this plot is at

once cultural, social, political, energetic, and material. To externalize any of these plot

dynamics is to forfeit a full understanding of the plot—and meaning—of building and un-building. As such, any account of the plot of building must include more than a

positivistic concern with quantities and instead expand its boundary of concern to a

46


Fig. 2.1 "Architectural Cannibalism" The plot of the Empire State Building from an advertisement celebrating its opening on May 1, 1931

47


Fig. 2.5 "Topographical atlas of the city of New York, including the annexed territory showing original water courses and made land": Egbert L. Viele, 1874, helps depict the topography and water courses of early nineteenth century Manhattan

54


What later became the Empire State Building site was surrounded by activity re-

lated to this Redcoat incursion: General Washington took position on a knoll near the present day New York City Library on 42nd while General Israel Putnam bolted down Sunfish Creek and Bloomingdale Road on his horse to call for reinforcements from the 3,500 revolutionary soldiers situated in lower Manhattan.15 The majority of the

battle was waged on the Murray Hill Farm, a farm directly west across Middle Road from a then uncultivated parcel of “commonland.”

This “commonland” across from the Murray Hill Farm is the parcel that John

Thomson later purchased and began to cultivate as a farm in 1799.16 This reflects the

first overtly Anglo-anthropogenic ecology on the site. It was thus the first instance of

sustained urbanization of the land eventually occupied by the Empire State Building. Thomson purchased his parcel of land—nearly 21 acres— for $2,500, about $114 per acre.

Thomson farmed produce for the wealthy families in lower Manhattan. This

parcel would have been an attractive plot for farming. A subtle west-facing slope

formed most of the parcel, sloping down to Sunfish Creek, a spring water creek that ran through the western side. A second smaller stream joined it here. Sunfish Creek was a source of sunfish, eels, and fresh water for Thomson and others in the area. It

also formed the line that Washington held in the “Battle of the Cornfield” described

above.17 Sunfish Creek was fed by a spring that emerged from the ground around the

present area of 57th Street and Broadway.18 The conjoined creeks on Thomson’s farm in turn fed into Sunfish Pond, which was located two contemporary blocks to the east in the area of present day Park Street and 32nd.

Given the situation of this plot, Thomson constructed a household on the higher

northeast corner of the property, along what was then known as Middle Road. Unlike Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway Avenue), which once paralleled the course of

Sunfish Creek, Middle Road was eventually removed when this section of Manhat-

tan was gridded and re-parcelled in the first half of the nineteenth century, according to the Commissioner’s Plan and its famous grid. The site of the future Empire State Building parcel, located between Thomson’s water source and his farmhouse, would

likely to have been occupied by productive, slightly sloping agricultural and grazing

55


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Fig 2.24 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: Ground Floor Plan, 1910

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Fig 2.26 “Insurance maps of New York. Manhattan, V. 4, Plate No. 16 [Map bounded by 6th Ave., W. 34th St., 5th Ave., W. 31st St.]”: 1910, Sanborn Map Company

Fig. 2.27 “Atlas of the city of New York, borough of Manhattan. From actual surveys and official plans. [Plate 17: Bounded by W. 36th Street, E. 26th Street, Lexington Avenue, E. 25th Street, Madison Avenue, E. 26th Street, ... [Part of Section 3, New York City.]”: 1911 , G.W. Bromley & Co.

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Fig. 2.40 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Demolition: View from Southeast, November 21, 1929

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Fig. 2.41 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Demolition: View from Southeast, December 19, 1929

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Fig. 2.51 Empire State Building: Complete, 1935

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Top Fig. 2.52 Empire State Building: Wall Assembly Axonometric, from Architectural Forum, vol. 53, no. 7. July 1930 Bottom Fig. 2.53 Empire State Building: Wall Details, from , vol. 53, no. 7. July 1930

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1930 Empire State Building - 1:68,000,000

158

Brescia, Italy

Levanto, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Breme, Germany

Wetzler, Germany

Hauteville-Lompnes, France

Namur, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium

Le Harve, France

Mayenne, France

Vimiero, Portugal

Alentejo, Portugal

Figuera da Foz, Portugal

Gerogetwon, Guyana

Long Island City, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Old Bridge, NJ

Philadelphia, PA

Cardiff, MD

Baltimore, MD

Rankin, PA

Brackenridge, PA

Donora, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Robison Township, PA

New Lexington, OH

Alcoa, TN

Bedford, ID

Hattiesburg, MS

Machias, ME

Westfield, NY

Waterbury, CT

Hudson, NY

Albany, NY

Dennings Points, NY

Greenville, NJ

Edgewater, NJ

Rome, NY

Clearence, NY

Bufalo, NY

Canton, OH

Rossford, OH

Chicago, IL

Two Harbors, MI

Mesabi Range, MI

Picher, OK

Jerome, AZ

Montesano, WA


Kampar, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Tivoly, Italy

Livorno, Italy

Fig. 3.14 1930 Empire State Building: Global Material Geography

World Gall Stereographic: Geographic Coordinate System: GCS WGS 1984 0

495

990

1,980

2,970

3,960 Miles

159


Clearence, NY Buffalo, NY Hudson, NY Westfield, NY Waterbury, CT Dennings Point, NY Edgewater, NJ Long Island City, NY Brooklyn, NY Greenville, NJ Old Bridge, NJ Philadelphia, PA Cardiff, MD Baltimore, MD Brackenridge, PA Robison Township, PA Rankin, PA Pittsburgh, PA Donora, PA Canton, OH New Lexington, OH

1930 Empire State Building - 1:3,250,000 164


Fig. 3.17 1930 Empire State Building: Regional Material Geography, Weighted for Emergy

World Gall Stereographic: Geographic Coordinate System: GCS WGS 1984 0

20

40

80

120

160 Miles

165


Pulsation of Building Material (kg) Over Time

Pulsation of Building Material (kg) Over Time

1800

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

Fig. 4.17 Plot: Building Mass, 1800-1931

Farm

1810

1870

1880

1890

Houses

Farm

1800

1860

1820

216

1830

1840

1850

1860

Houses

1900

Hotel 1870

1880

1890

1900

Hotel

1910


100,000,000 kg

10,000,000 kg

1,000,000 kg

100,000 kg

1910

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

Tower 217

1990

2000

2010


2E+20

1890 1891 Waldorf 1893

2.5E+20

1862 1863 1864 1865 1866

3E+20

Emergy /Exergy (sej)

3.5E+20

WB Astor Mansion 6x 33 St Row + 10x 34 St Row Stable Ball Room Store

JJ Astor Mansion 1859 4x 33 St Row Houses 1860

Emergy Exergy

5E+20

4.5E+20

4E+20

1.5E+20

1E+20

5E+19

Time (year)

Fig. 4.21 Plot: Emergy/Exergy, 1859-1893

222


Fig. 4.22 Plot: Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and Empire State Building Mass vs. Massing

223


“Building is a good solid word. Not just a noun; an object spied in a distant field or an image perused in a magazine. Building is also a verb; a creative act with its own unpredictable unfolding in the physical world.� -Michael Cadwell


BUILDING


“I am convinced that the future is lost somewhere out in the trash heaps of the non-historic past.� -Robert Smithson

248


PLOT HOLES: THE THREE GREAT VARIABLES AND OTHER EXTERNALIZATIONS

249


Q: So there is a change in the importance of space. In the eighteenth century there was a territory and the problem of governing people in this territory: one can choose as an example La Metropolite (1682) of Alexandre Le Maitre-a utopian treatise on how to build a capital city-or one can understand a city as a metaphor or symbol for the territory and how to govern it. All of this is quite spatial, whereas after Napoleon, society is not necessarily so spatialized... A: That’s right. On the one hand, it is not so spatialized, yet at the same time a certain number of problems that are properly seen as spatial emerged. Urban space has its own dangers: disease, such as the epidemics of cholera in Europe from 1830 to about 188o; and revolution, such as the series of urban revolts that shook all of Europe during the same period. These spatial problems, which were perhaps not new, took on a new importance. Second, a new aspect of the relations of space and power was the railroads. These were to establish a network of communication no longer corresponding necessarily to the traditional network of roads, but they nonetheless had to take into account the nature of society and its history. In addition, there are all the social phenomena that railroads gave rise to, be they the resistances they provoked, the transformations of population, or changes in the behavior of people. Europe was immediately sensitive to the changes in behavior that the railroads entailed. What was going to happen, for example, if it was possible to get married between Bordeaux and Nantes? Something that was not possible before. What was going to happen when people in Germany and France might get to know one another? Would war still be possible once there were railroads? In France, a theory developed that the railroads would increase familiarity among people, and that the new forms of human universality made possible would render war impossible. But what the people did not foresee-although the German military command was fully aware of it, since they were much cleverer than their French counterpart-was that, on the contrary, the railroads rendered war far easier to wage. The third development, which came later, was electricity. So there were problems in the links between the exercise of political power and the space of a territory, or the space of cities links that were completely new.

250


Q: So it was less a matter of architecture than before. These are sorts of technics of space... A: The major problems of space, from the nineteenth century on, were indeed of a different type. Which is not to say that problems of an architectural nature were forgotten. In terms of the first ones I referred to-disease and the political problems-architecture has a very important role to play. The reflections on urbanism and on the design of workers’ housing-all of these questions-are an area of reflection upon architecture. Q: But architecture itself, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, belongs to a completely different set of spatial issues. A: That’s right. With the birth of these new technologies and these new economic processes, one sees the birth of a sort of thinking about space that is no longer modeled on the police state of the urbanization of the territory but extends far beyond the limits of urbanism and architecture. Q: Consequently, the Ecole des Pants et Chaussees ... A: That’s right. The Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees and its capital importance in political rationality in France are part of this. It was not architects but engineers and builders of bridges, roads, Viaducts, railways, as well as the polytechnicians (who practically controlled the French railroads)-those are the people who thought out space. Q: Has this situation continued up to the present, or are we witnessing a change in relations between the technicians of space? A: We may well witness some changes, but I think that we have until now remained with the developers of the territory, the people of the Ponts et Chaussees, etc. Q: So architects are not necessarily the masters of space that they once were, or believe themselves to be. A: That’s right. They are not the technicians or engineers of the three great variables- territory, communication, and speed. These escape the domain of architects.1

251


Through three respective chapters on the topics of empire, state and building, this book considers the material basis of building in terms of the energetics of urbanization. The otherwise externalized material geographies and thermodynamics of building’s material basis reveal much about the dynamics and efficacy of how we build; about what does, and what could, support life today. This book plots the material history and geography for one plot of land in Manhattan—the parcel of land under the Empire State Building—over the past two hundred years. Through rich illustrations, it tracks all the building material that has passed through this parcel to better understand building’s geographic and ecological dynamics: spatially (in terms of their geographic material footprints and industrial processes) and quantitatively (in terms of embodied energy and emergy flow). In successive chapters, the book articulates the empire and states that are inherent to building, but remain unconsidered by architects and urbanists.

EMPIRE, STATE & BUILDING.

WHENCE THE ACCUMULATION OF RAW MATTER AND ENERGY OF BUILDING IN NEW YORK CITY?

EMPIRE, STATE & BUILDING.

KIEL MOE

KIEL MOE

Empire, State & Building  

This book considers the material basis of building as a key impetus of both urbanization and the energetics of urban life. The otherwise ext...

Empire, State & Building  

This book considers the material basis of building as a key impetus of both urbanization and the energetics of urban life. The otherwise ext...

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