Like an elusive dream-
You see it from far as one big picture but as you get closer and closer the picture gets blurred.
You forget what you came for
You forget what you’re looking for.
When you reach your destination, the place that you thought you were after
It’s all too singular.
You don’t know where it fits in the big picture that you had dreamt.
You keep trying to reach it, you keep trying but it always escapes from your grip at the last minute, it’s
like holding a fist full of sand- the tighter you try to hold on, the faster it escapes; the closer you get the
faster it dissolves.
It doesn’t look all that shiny, it doesn’t hold that place in your heart that it once had
So you take a step back and go back to admiring it from far.
November 20 2003, a little over ten years ago, a terrified little girl stepped foot in New York City for the first time. Going from JFK to Jamaica Queens all she could think of was how clean this new city is, little did she know how drastically that idea would change.
A person who has never stepped outside of the third world country that is Bangladesh, New York City to me was nothing less than a strange concrete jungle with even stranger vicious wild animals. I was never exposed to much of the city other than queens for the first three years of my life here. When I started high school I found myself suddenly thrown into the subway and forced to navigate every single day to midtown by myself. That was my first real encounter with my now beloved city.
My initial impression of this sparkly clean city changed when I encountered rats in the subway, dirty pigeons that attacked me on the streets, and the homeless man that took up a whole train car because of his body odor. Four years of high school in midtown put me in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the New York life and soon I became part of the herd. I felt, and still feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have gotten the chance to experience the real New York life and to have felt accepted in this crazy concrete jungle.
My New York is walking around Union Square and bumping into an old friend, My New York is taking the seven train from Grand Central Station at night and eagerly waiting for that cinematic turn and getting hit in the face with the full unobstructed spectacular view of Manhattan’s skyline. My New York is going to Williamsburg every Sunday and having brunch after yoga at my regular hole-in-the-wall restaurant, it’s going to Central Park just to see the cherry blossoms every spring. My New York is a never ending love story.
There is a similarity between books and old building structures. It seems like old churches and old buildings, when fall into disuse, the majority of them turn into either a bookstore or a library. What is the correlation between books and old buildings? Perhaps it is the similar feeling of nostalgia that both of them offer. When we read books we are transported to a different time, a different era. We get to experience a whole different time period without ever having to physically have been there. Buildings do the same. Old buildings that are preserved are frozen in time, they offer a glimpse to the past, just like books. When we step inside, we get transported to a different period of time. We try to figure out what the building was and try to see it as it was when it stood during its’ time. Or perhaps the answers to these questions are not at all philosophical and are more practical.
Row houses go through so many renovations over the years. If these buildings were to get compared to human beings, then it can be said that much like people, some of these buildings have changed their interior over years. And even though some rooms might have changed, there are certain aspects that never changes; for example, in row houses the windows and doors are the focal point of its’ identity. These aspects tell us who they are, their particular style, as well as the era that they belong in; just as us human beings rely on our facial features to give us some clues of our origins.
The same can be said of the exterior. Although these buildings go through their form of “grooming,” not unlike people, they try their best to hang on to their original exterior because it is what makes them unique and special in other words, their youth and their beauty- to try to hold on to the best state, and to preserve themselves at peak of their beauty- It’s like a stubborn soccer mom trying to maintain her once prized cheerleader body- being preserved when it was the most significant in its particular period of time.
In an empire where tall buildings pierce the sky, there once stood a prince with his crowned head held high. The prince only had one dream; to be king, the tallest and most dashing, and be recognized all over the world. For a brief period, the prince’s dreams came true; basking in all the glory and pride that the empire brought him, until one day he was overshadowed by the one that they now call the emperor. The prince, with his majestic crown was no longer recognized as the biggest and grandest, he was cast aside by his people as he helplessly watched the future emperor rise to the throne.
Our prince’s story is an inspiring one, he not only achieved his goal of becoming the emperor, but he came with a whole new appearance that dazzled people around the world. Success did not come easily to the prince, he had to battle his competitors and design elaborate schemes to get what he wanted. The prince, being the future heir to the throne was not faced with any challenges until it was announced to the whole empire that he was ready to take the throne, when suddenly news surfaced that there was another eligible contender. This piece of information left our prince dumbstruck;. The prince, young, naïve and innocent, was out of his wits, while his supporters continued to fight for his position, he quietly sat in his chamber pondering on his future, then one day he was struck by the most cunning scheme that would leave his enemies stupefied.
The race was neck in neck. All anyone could think about was who will be the one to get all the glory and win the final battle? Finally, when judgment day arrived, the whole empire was gathered to see the showdown. Both the contenders fought valiantly for the lofty position, they went on for hours. Tired and fatigued, the prince saw only one way out, so he retreated back to his territory. He turned his back on the battle, his opponents, seeing him abandon the battle field, took it as their victory. As the opposing side celebrated, the prince finally told his people of his brilliant plan. The prince’s rival prepared for the crowning ceremony in front of all the gatherers, only to find out that he had no crown, his rival had no idea that at that very moment the prince was gathering more people for the biggest reveal the empire would see in years.
The crowd waited with bated breath trying to catch a glimpse of the prince behind the veil. As the veil dropped, everyone became silent. The crowd was stunned at the sight of the prince; jaws were dropping in all direction, because the one that stood in front of them was not the prince that they knew, but a king, with the biggest, most captivating crown that the empire had ever seen. He was draped in red and silver vestment towering over his people, as the setting sun reflected off his crown, radiating light and warmth in every direction, people looked up in awe, this was not just a victory, this was a revolution, and this was a true fashion statement.
The new emperor brought many changes during his short rein over the empire, but the most prominent change was the way everyone dressed. Sadly the emperor had to go back to being a prince after only eleven months, but his fashion statement was not forgotten by the people. Although he could not hold his throne for long, till this day our prince is known for his glamorous styles and his dazzling crown. He is the favorite royalty of many around the world and the people of the empire hold him close to their hearts.
New York City is a place where in a moment one can easily experience the whimsical transformation from modern day skyscrapers and concrete paved sidewalks, to the old-world feeling of cobble stone walks. Where else can the serendipity of walking on an asphalt road and finding it melting into cobbled stone with old train tracks emerging from the ground be admired? Among all the towering constructions in the city, there are still places where one can immerse oneself to escape the fast moving micro world that those who live here call home. A place where it feels like the earth absorbed the tall buildings and left us with three story townhouses-; where there is no singular grid system and one can easily get lost in the narrow winding streets. One moment you are walking down the modern towering streets of Manhattan’s gleaming skyscrapers and then with the turn of the head, there it is, old New York, the seaport, the Woolworth building, Trinity Church, still in use and still vibrant. Even standing in downtown Brooklyn, where it feels like you are stuck in some unknown era, where time stops, you can glance across the river and see the magnificent skyline of Manhattan. You get stuck in a limbo in time; look down at your feet and you are standing on old train tracks, look up and at the blink of a second, you are transported back to the world of towering buildings glittering the against the sky.
It has been universally acknowledged that life is about taking risks, being adventurous, and having new experiences. I can say that my life has been quite an adventure, and I certainly have experienced a whole lot; but when it comes to taking risks, I can hardly name any. From a very young age I had decided that I wanted to become an Architect. I did not fully know what it exactly meant to be an Architect but still, I put all my time and energy towards achieving this unknown goal. It became my passion, and before I knew it, I was in love with it. I have been studying architecture nonstop since eighth grade; I never gave myself a chance to explore anything else, because I never felt the need to. Architecture has been a constant in my life for nearly eight years; when my friends were struggling to figure out what they wanted to do in life, it was comforting to have a burning passion, a drive to become something and not face any uncertainties. But as I progressed with my degree in college, I was losing that drive and passion that I had once felt so strongly. So after all these years, when I suddenly figured that being an Architect might not be the best for me, how was I going to just abandon something that has been there for me through everything? After all it’s not easy to forget your first love.
Reading and writing has always been a hobby of mine, and that’s all it was to me. I never gave it much thought. However, one day I found myself in Brooklyn looking at the Manhattan skyline, ablaze in the setting sun on one side, and the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty across the river on another, and all I wanted to do was write about the wonder that I felt; The waves carrying the burning orange sun; the boats spraying mists of water as they passed in the distance, and the way the cluster of buildings looked like fiery logs in a pit of a burning furnace. That’s when I realized that I will never stop loving Architecture.
I was walking around with this internal battle of guilt for not loving Architecture as much as I used to, and a feeling of restlessness for having to carry on doing something that did not make me happy. Then one day I went to Professor Paul King for advisement, as we started talking I started opening up to him and for the first time expressed how I had been feeling for months. It was his idea to explore the possibility of me writing about Architecture. I felt a great relief for I was given an easy way out of my distress, and would no longer have to feel guilty of not wanting to become an Architect. As I embark on this new and exciting adventure, with the guidance of Professor King, I feel like for the first time I am taking a risk and delving into the unknown with all the wonderful doubts and uncertainties that I never got to experience.