The Spirit of 5 Pointz

Last week, I talked about the death of the legendary graffiti haven in Queens, 5 Pointz. This week, I wanted to do a small update-post about the spirit of this iconic spot. Good news: it lives on. Over the past few years, artists have been making their mark on another building merely a few blocks away from the original 5 Pointz graveyard. It seems to be an active building with employees working in it, but so far, everyone seems to be cool about it. Hopefully over the next few years, this will be a new spot for artists from other countries to visit and let their creativity be shown. If it ultimately fails, this new spot gave me the reassurance that a new spot will emerge, somewhere in the world. Although nothing will be as iconic as the original 5 Pointz, it’s heartwarming to see the soul of the movement live on. The power of passion will always outlive the power of money.

5 Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burnin’

The place you’re currently reading about only exists as a memory. Unfortunately, the fate of this art center is one of the most tragic stories of gentrification I may have ever seen. Decades of graffiti history reduced to rubble for the sake of “affordable housing and retail space.” When I was a kid, every time took the 7 train, I was always amazed at the graffiti I’d see on the building of 5 Pointz before going underground. The mural of the Notorious B.I.G. is iconic, and that image is burned into my brain. This place helped form my love for hip-hop as child. Little did I know, this place was also known as the graffiti center of the entire world. Artists from every corner of the planet would come to leave their mark on any inch of the building they could find. It was called “5 Pointz” because it was the point at which artists from all five boroughs could come and express their love for art and street culture. I’ll never forget when the announcement and eventual destruction of the building came to fruition. It was the pride of Queens, and the pride of perhaps thousands of people around the world, and its physically gone forever. It couldn’t even go away respectfully, one morning, New York City woke up to see white paint covering a portion of the beautiful art, even though demolition wasn’t scheduled for several more months. It was a huge slap to the face, but we fought back by re-drawing over the white paint. But it was hopeless. There’s really no happy ending to this story, but next week I’ll write about a possible resurgence of a new graffiti mecca, right next door to our beloved 5 Pointz. Unfortunately, the urban exploration bug didn’t bite me yet, so I never fully explored 5 Pointz. But I was just getting my feet wet as a photographer, so I snapped some shots on my first camera before it was destroyed. These photos are some of my very first ever.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Cooper Hewitt is a modern design museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. From the outside, it looks like Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from X-Men, but on the inside, it looks like an old-fashioned mansion with little touches of futuristic technology. I was there for a class trip, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the experience for a future blog post. It’s very small, and very technology heavy. Upon entering and purchasing a ticket to the museum, each visitor gets a digital pen. These pens are used to save your favorite exhibits to your own personal collection. This collection can be viewed online after entering a code that’s unique to everyone’s ticket. This is done by using the digital pen to touch the description of exhibits or rooms in the museum. This is what I touched during my visit. There are also several touch screen tables that allow visitors to create digital designs using the pen. Here’s this weird building thing I made on one of the tables. My favorite part of the museum was the “Immersion Room.” This was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, I would like to go back to the museum just to play around in this room again. There’s a touch screen table with two projectors pointing at the walls. The tables allow visitors to draw wallpaper designs live, and project them onto the wall. It doesn’t sound so exciting reading about it, but actually creating in that room is one of the coolest experiences a person could ask for. If you ever have a chance, this museum is a must-visit place for creatives and explorers alike.

One floor inside the museum.

Digital drawing table.

My ticket/digital pen.

The amazing Immersion Room.

The Dream House

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were looking for random places in New York City to explore. After some online research, I stumbled across a place called “The Dream House.” It was a little bit sketchy, there wasn’t a lot of information, and the concept was hard to understand, so of course we went. We were very surprised, weirded out, and kind of interested in what we found. The Dream House is an interactive art installation that takes place on the top floor of a small building in SoHo. The closer we got to finding this place, the sketchier it seemed, but it’s completely legitimate. It’s a public art installation that gets it’s funding from New Yorkers who visit to keep it alive. So it’s free (but be nice a tip a little if you end up going). To get to the point, it’s just a giant room that continuously plays a loud white noise. The windows are covered by color gels, and there a colored spotlights hung up on the ceiling, so the room is an intense pink/purple color. The experience was weirdly relaxing, all you do is sit, lie down, sleep, and/or meditate. There were a handful of people in this room all doing those things. Visitors aren’t really supposed to talk or take pictures, but I did both. Although, laughter isn’t really talking. My friend and I weren’t laughing in a mocking or disrespectful way, we were laughing because we really didn’t know what we got ourselves into. But the experience was really memorable, nonetheless, and that’s all that really matters to me. I actually wouldn’t mind again, it feels like a whole different dimension. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures with my DSLR camera, so I snuck a few with my phone. These photos are completely unedited, but they stay true to how unique the experience was. Their website has some more information.

Broadway Market Co.

The Broadway Market is this really cool marketplace in SoHo that sells just about everything. This is a haven for independent artists and designers to come a sell their creations to the public. It’s huge and filled with weird items and even weirder people, and I love it. Unfortunately, a lot of it’s vendors don’t allow customers to take photos-that just goes to show how weird these items can be, and hopefully adds to the mystique of this place. It’s kind of hidden in plane sight, until you see this weird mime guy in the window trying to lure you in. It works, because I went in. Aside from all the weirdness that takes place at this building, there a lot of cool looking clothes and trinkets to buy, all ranging from relatively expensive to pretty expensive. For clothes, it’s basically a hipster’s dream mall. And as for the trinkets, it’s the perfect spot to pick up a quirky or cool gift for a friend or loved one. The artists, creators and designers are constantly changing, so one week might be weirder than the next, or one week can seem just as normal as any other mall. I’ll show you some of what I managed to captured on camera, but here’s their instagram to get a better look at the marketplace. It’s definitely a place worth stopping by if you’re ever in SoHo.

 

A tiny camera I saw at the marketplace. It was smaller than my thumb.

Part of a wall filled with old vintage film cameras.

A few of the hundreds of cool hipster/steampunk sunglasses to choose from.

The Evolution Store

The Evolution Store in SoHo is one of the weirdest, intriguing, and most unique stores I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping at. It’s a store filled with science collectibles, natural hard-to-find artifacts from the depths of this earth, human skulls and other anatomical structures. It’s the kind of store I immediately told myself I’d be coming back to in the near future. Not only is it neatly packed with crystals, preserved animals and million year-old fossils for sale, but the employees are passionate and enthusiastic about their products, and are happy to teach potentials buyers the meaning or history of any given item. I can confirm that the skulls are real human skulls, and I almost cracked when I came seconds away from buying a handful of meteorite shards and moon rock (a sci-fi nerd’s dream purchase). Being in this store really feels like an adventure, and to think that this small store has both terrestrial and extraterrestrial objects just sitting on its shelves is really fascinating. It’s hard to give such a special store due credit in the form of words and images, so I highly suggest you spend a weekend downtown to stop by The Evolution Store, but here are a few images if what’s in store for your future visit.

The Fulton Center

The Fulton Center is a $1.4 billion dollar mall that also serves as a transit hub. It’s massive, beautiful, and the probable cause of our ridiculous MTA fees. It was entirely funded by the MTA and officially opened up to the public on November 10, 2014. What’s really cool about this station is not only it’s modern design, but the fact that it has a long tunnel directly connecting to the World Trade Center Oculus hub, which I just did a post about a few weeks ago. This long tunnel is known as the Dey Street Passageway. Somehow, this tunnel connects to the Oculus, the Fulton Center, and 10 different train lines. The center and the station together make a very complex design, I spent a lot of time walking around in the Fulton, and still feel like I missed something. The main attraction, however, is the main building’s “oculus” at the top, which allows a large ray of sunlight into the building. Nearby buildings were demolished to let that light shine through. When looking up at the oculus from the inside, the oculus walls are imbued with mirrors known as the “sky reflector net,” which allows the sunlight from to bounce of the mirrors to reach a deep distance within. The Fulton Center is shaping up to be one of my favorite spots in the city, it’s great to look at, and it’s cool to hang out with friends at because of the retail stores and food spots. Maybe one day, it’ll be in the hall of fame of historic places.

The oculus of the Fulton Center (taken at night).

Part of the mall area of the Fulton Center.

The Dey Street Passageway, which connects to the WTC.

 

Grand Central Terminal

If you’re a New Yorker, you are probably well aware of the world famous Grand Central Terminal. This station is over 100 years old, it’s an innovation in its design, and has even inspired the designs of dozens of train stations and airports that exist today. This legendary station is a national and pop culture landmark as well. In 1976 it was decided that it’s a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Only the most iconic, historically important, masterfully designed places can be on these lists. There’s a good chance that you’ve seen this station being used, talked about, or blown to bits in a movie or TV show. Even if you’ve never been to Grand Central, you probably know exactly what it looks like on the inside from all the media exposure throughout the years. Grand Central is one of my favorite stations, it has a classic look and feel, and I used to go there all the time to ride the Metro-North line to get to my previous school, and to visit the Dia museum in Beacon, of course. Here are a few shots of the inside of Grand Central Terminal.

WTC Oculus

The theme of my posts usually revolve around travel, exploration, and discovering places you may not know about. But when it comes to traveling, the means of travel itself is often overlooked and underappreciated. Some airports and train stations in this country are true works of art. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about the transportation hubs and train stations in our eastern bubble. In New York alone, there are so many masterfully designed stations with long, complicated histories. The first transportation hub I’ll be talking about is the Oculus, also known as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. It’s a massive, oddly shaped structure with a brand new 21st century design (just opened to the public in 2016), but the station within has a long history of opening, closing and reopening. Luckily, this isn’t some boring history lecture. All you need to know is that it’s massive, it’s weird, it’s beautiful, there’s a mall inside of it, and you should totally go visit when you have a chance. It was designed by an architect named Santiago Caltrava, and he has being designing massive structures all around the world since the early 1980s. The Oculus is by far my favorite station, here are pictures of Santiago’s $4 billion project in downtown Manhattan.

“He Will Not Divide Us”

On January 21, 2017, Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner launched an art installation in Queens, New York. It’s no irony that it was unveiled on the same day as our new President’s inauguration, because it has everything to do with him. Outside of the Museum of the Moving Image (one of New York’s best museums) stands a wall with a small camera and microphone, and a big mantra on the wall reading “He Will Not Divide Us.” He Will Not Divide Us has allowed everyone in the neighborhood to come together and meditate while repeating the mantra together. It has allowed leftists and rightists to respectfully come together and debate “He,” his policies, and antics, as well as their personal points of view. It has even allowed Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and trolls to come together in person to make jokes, spew hate and eat pizza (all at the same time). All this happens in front of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, watching the livestream from their homes. The project will be recording live 24/7, for the next four years. At any given moment, there’s something happening on the stream. If you tune in at the right time, you might even see me there. I’ve made new friends during my occasional visits, and watchers have even sent me food while on the stream as a thank you for spreading the peace. Despite all the controversies, this stream has united us in a very weird way. He really won’t divide us after all.

Shia LaBeouf at his art installation.

Youth from the local high school promise to come to the stream every day.