As part of Communications Lab at ITP, we were asked to visit and comment on the New York City Waterfalls. I went with my classmate, Catherine to observe the Waterfalls from the South Street Seaport on September 7.
Living in New York, one often forgets that Manhattan is an island. Access to the waterfront areas are cut off by highways, so it feels that New York faces inward and upward, rather than outward towards its maritime surroundings. The topography of NYC is known more for its urban peaks and valleys created by skyscrapers and the artificial oasis that is Central Park, rather than for its maritime orientation and island nature.
Even when I am by the rivers in New York, I feel like the water is just something I look past or through, concentrating my eye on the view of Brooklyn, Queens or New Jersey across the water. That is to say that the built environment dominates ones perception of the city.
The Waterfalls draw attention to the qualities of the water itself. By elevating the water and dropping it down as waterfalls, Danish-Icelandic artist and creator of the Waterfalls Olafur Eliasson reminds us of the vast force and volume of the water.
The Waterfalls are clearly fake, you can see the scaffolding, and maybe that is the point. Nobody would mistaken them for Niagara falls or anything like that. But man-made structures still have the ability to evoke the beauty of the natural world. Or at least that is the theory behind landscape architecture and garden design. A garden or a park is not a forest or a meadow, but they evoke these natural environments and demonstrate the beauty of nature.
My favorite Waterfall is the one under the Brooklyn Bridge. It plays with the sillouette of an iconic fixture of the NY skyline. It invites us to look down and over at the river that the Bridge traverses, and not just the Bridge as a part of the terrestrial built environment.