Sunday, February 04, 2007

small world after all

leif w. brings this timely example of city-in-miniature representation to our attention (photo: J. Fornabaio for the ny times, from their site). tim mitchell's examination of the practices of representation surrounding egypt in the colonial era notes the effects of world's fair panoramas and dioramas in habituating viewers to approach the world as a representation. the new york times published friday (feb 2nd 2007) an interesting pair of articles on an exhibition centering on the work of robert moses, aka new york's baron haussmann. while the exhibition evidently rehabilitates moses and lays much of the blame for his policies on the technological requirements of the automobile, you may want to have a look at what they say. bear in mind that despite the unintentionally poorly-worded claim that the exhibit "doesn’t shy away from Moses’ dark side" this article neglects to mention well-known aspects of the robert moses story, such as the fact that over two hundred overpasses on the long island expressway were built extra-low on his orders. once he had also vetoed an extension of the long island railroad, this meant that neither trains nor public busses (which, as he knew, were too tall to fit under the overpasses) could make the trip out to jones beach. the acclaimed 'public' park was preserved for those who owned cars--notably affluent white folks. (for fuller accounts, see caro's the power broker, or read the short gloss in winner's the whale and the reactor.)

an accompanying article in the times describes the panorama pictured above. originally created for the 1964 world's fair,

"The model was built with incredible topological and architectural accuracy. Its roughly 895,000 tiny buildings, streets, parks and bridges are made mostly of wood and plastic and all built to scale, from bridge length to park acreage to skyscraper height."

the restored model features modeling of the sun's illumination and an audio ambiance to set the mood. it is reputedly the world's largest miniature model (ahem) of a city.


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