Within 10 unimaginable days, the global spread of COVID-19 radically altered the ways in which we engage with reality and occupy space. This historic turn has signaled a rare united reflection on the fragility of our production processes, the hubris of ceaseless growth and endless mobility, and finally, our accountability for how we occupy our planet. The pandemic has turned the city further inwards, into singular zones of containment and immersive territories. New order is generated from collections of inner spaces between individual mental realms of domesticity and the threatening “outside.”
The demarcation of space and the selective unification and segregation of people in space have always been fundamental to architecture. Architecture also has the capacity to register the transgressions that resist these differentiations, such as those between “public” and “private” uses, between admittance to “civic” and “commercial” programs, access to “indoor” and “outdoor” amenities—even access to “good” or “dangerous” neighborhoods and apartment buildings. The question, “how will we live together?” challenges us to consider the slippery and fictive meanings of any unified “we.” We can become a provisional “We” in some contexts and, in so many others, access is denied, the sense of place-and-kin withheld or cancelled, “otherness” established and architecturally embodied. When are exclusions more (or less) likely to be enforced and architecturally registered? How are our very climates more (or less) controlled?
In this sense, we understand the urban as a constellation of simultaneous microcosms like the autonomous block-islands of Madelon Vriesendorp’s rendering “City of the Captive Globe.” Rem Koolhaas made visible the multiple microcosms—worlds with ideological interiority—that co-exist within any domain of the city. Like that iconic image, we can frame only a small portion of the otherwise indefinite distension of urban blocks, and we present four such New York City interiorities: 1: sites of sanctuary and transnational solidarity; 2: a politics of the segregating façade envelope; 3: spaces of climatic control and their waste stream; and 4: the unified isolation of the un-natured public park. The collective scope of our project is to examine how spatial contracts are formed and sustained, as well as what forms of living they engender, in New York City.