Time flies when you’re having fun…. We’ve just been assigned our final project in the Columbia summer studio, which is due in two weeks. Up until now we’ve been doing a lot of visual exercises and modeling of abstract concepts; now we get to design a building for a real site.

The project, in a nutshell: Some 850,000 artifacts were apparently dug up during construction of NYC’s Foley Courthouse complex, most of which dated back to the area’s past as the notorious “Five Points” Irish ghetto during the 1800’s (think Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York). These artifacts were meticulously cataloged and then stored away in what was thought to be a safe place: The basement of 6 World Trade Center.

On 9/11, eighteen of the artifacts were on loan to the Archdiocese of New York and were being stored off-site. The rest of the artifacts were destroyed when the north tower collapsed.

We’ve been assigned a site in Chinatown not far from the original “Five Points”, and our task is to design a building that functions both as a museum for the 18 surviving artifacts, and as a memorial to the approximately 849,982 other artifacts that were lost once in the gradually-shifting sands of time, rediscovered, and then lost again in one catastrophic morning. We also need to incorporate some of the ideas we’ve been exploring in the prior class assignments.

Interesting project, to be sure… Certainly beats designing “a house for a schizophrenic baker” or something like that. I have some vague ideas for how to proceed, but I still have a lot of thinking and researching to do.

Work is going pretty well… Nothing major to report, except that it’s a bit weird working at a place where most everybody seems relatively sane and well-adjusted. In some ways it’s not nearly as entertaining as working with a bunch of dysfunctional nutcases, but hopefully it will mean I won’t be spending nearly as much time pounding my head against a brick wall.

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