In spite of the towering grandeur and rich history of New York City's great landmarks, locals keep a cynical distance. Times Square? The Empire State Building? Rockefeller Center? Please—only if you're looking to bump-n-grind with a family of gawking bumpkins cradling Cheesecake Factory to-go bags, right? But here's the thing: even the city's most tourist-trodden places hide fascinating secrets, and now some of the rarest and strangest bits have been collected into one brilliant map.
Verso Books has created a digital "walking tour" of some of the best and most outlandish morsels of NYC landmark history inspired by Kenneth Goldsmith's new book Capital, a marvelous thousand-page compendium of citations that offers up all the beautiful, harrowing, delicious, and fucked-up tidbits of New York's history throughout the 20th century. Goldsmith has stressed that "If it appeared in the history books, it wouldn't be in my book," and so what he's dug up and included about the places like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center is refreshing.
There is Mark Kingwell meditating on the former as "a node growing, massing, developing in the entire network of power and commodity, rising like a magic tower from sheer force of energy concentrated below," and Rem Koolhaas gazing up at the latter, concluding "Rockefeller Center is the fulfillment of the promise of Manhattan. All paradoxes have been resolved...From now on the Metropolis is perfect." You've seen these pieces of New York countless times, but odds are you've never looked at them like this.
All told, the Capital digital walking tour includes 31 landmarks, each one with a quote pulled from the text and a bit of additional context for good measure. It's the first of what will be multiple curated, Goldsmithian, enlightening romps through New York City; also it's just fun as hell. Check it out below.
Here are a few of excerpted highlights from the tour:
"What people call love is small compared with that orgy, that holy prostitution of the soul that gives itself totally, in all its poetry and charity, to the unexpected that appears, to the unknown that passes by...." -- On The Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square by Marshall Berman, 2006
"In intense cold, the metal framework of the George Washington Bridge contracts, creating a rise of three feet in the roadway, at the center of its span. In hot weather, due to the expansion of its giant cables, the center is twelve feet closer to the Hudson than in mid-winter. With its grey lines and trellises, its silver spokes and curving girders, this bridge is like an exquisitely complicated cat’s-cradle of steel that leaps into the immensity..." -- Cecil Beaton’s New York by Cecil Beaton, 1938
"When Dalí wakes up in the Hotel St. Moritz, the city confirms the bloodthirstiness he has excited in it by the temptation of meat, for the first thing he hears is the roar of hungry lions in the Central Park Zoo...." -- Art of the City by Peter Conrad, 1984
"Astronauts from the future discover that the mysterious world on which they have landed actually sits atop a post-apocalyptic New York—the ruined Grand Central has become the temple for a future race; a wide, double staircase serves as the altar. Like Luthor’s lair, this set is not a reconstruction of the real building, but a rather free interpretation that takes advantage of the enormous familiarity of the station’s design, manifested in details as simple as the shape of an arch or a style of lettering. In such details resides Grand Central’s power as an almost universally recognizable “place,” even as it offers a superb springboard for fantasy. How many other structures could be so universally identified by a few fragments of their graphics?" -- Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies by James Sanders, 2001
Check out the full NYC landmarks walking tour, in all its weird and surprising beauty, right here