Out for a walk one afternoon, and this building just grabbed me. The way it filled the entire frame with faceless identical units, the way it towers over the block despite being set back quite a bit, overwhelming you with its sheer scope. I guess that’s why they call this style brutalist*.
*Apparently it’s not–it has something to do with the French for concrete–but fuck it. This building is brutish.
Turns out this is an I. M. Pei building, Kips Bay Towers, which house more than 4,000 residents on three blocks of the East Side and which were part of the condo frenzy in the early 1980’s.
A friend remarked that, “behind each of those windows are people who will likely never meet each other.” That seems to me like a pretty good symbol of life in New York City, or any really big city.
It’s like a human honeycomb, and in each cell is a family or an individual with a whole universe that revolves around them, a complex web of relationships and goals, desires and failures that feel overwhelming even though they’re surrounded on all sides by people who couldn’t care less. Each cell bears the decor that is the physical accumulation of a lifetime lived, but when somebody dies that will all will be moved out, and the space cleared so the next person can fill that blank space with their life and their mementos.
The longer I look at this photo, the less important I feel. I begin to understand why this was the chosen architectural style of fascist governments.
“From the outside I am thinking / I’m a number, not a man
From the outside I am thinking / What were they thinking?”
– They Might Be Giants, “Albany (The Egg)“