Untranslatable NYC: reflections on the beginnings of an ongoing workshop
Italy-based urbanists, Lorenzo Romito of Stalker and Christian Costa of Spazi Docili, engaged us in a very challenging and dynamic workshop -- an unforgettable week of research-driven dialogue and walking methods. The biggest obstacle we faced was the weather, which became inclusive to our process, and an unavoidable factor in our research. January in New York City, is certainly not the best time of year to be walking on an unplanned route in a large group, for long hours at a time; but we took that challenge to be an element of our workshop, and our relationship to the landscape became that much more interesting.
The idea was to work off “The Climb” -- a map of green spaces connected via a path devised by Mindy Fullilove, a great mentor to many urbanists at Parsons, and beyond. This map outlined our general site: Northern Manhattan. Our group was diverse in experience; some native to the city and the neighbourhoods, while others hailed from across the globe.
Over the weekend, we broke off into small groups, only sharing the 1 train as a point of departure. In our groups, we immersed ourselves in various spaces, landscapes, and neighbourhoods. Interacting with the locals, challenging our own understandings, and collecting found artifacts which spoke to us individually. When we reconvened as a collective, we found intersections and contradictions in our observations, and wonderful anecdotes and experiences to draw from. These individual experiences informed but did not restrict the next two days of walking -- we set out in larger groups this time, challenged by our own numbers, discouraged by the weather, and unfamiliar to our pathways.
As per our workshop leader’s advice, we dined together over local fare and exchanged jokes, ideas and frustrations over our warm meals before we set out to complete our walk for the day. This activity found us unknowingly immersed in the heart of our workshop’s group dynamics, whilst also immersed in the heart of a neighbourhood restaurant, bursting with a culture so particular to that block, it became clear to us that we were engaging without intention, and our experiences became untranslatable to others and in some cases ourselves.
Drawing from and upon these notions we congregated once more in our workshop room, over hot coffee and sandwiches, connecting questions, dots, moments and recollections from our week together. This exercise took many forms and directions and created an exciting foundation for what is to come.
When the time came to bid our guests, Lorenzo and Christian, goodbye, our work had only just begun. The group has grown closer, and our intentions bolder, as we look onto the semester to make sense of our experiences, untranslatable and all.