90_Sara Rad: The Allegory of Morality of Mankind in Occupying Spaces

Sara Rad

I am an Iranian architect who study Advanced Architectural Design (AAD) at Columbia University. The project was the studio project under supervision of Jimenez Lai and Trudy Watt at this fall semester. The project is the allegory of representation of Manhattan (the extreme congestion) on North and South Brother Islands (two small islands in East River). The representation is based on the "Garden of Earthly Delight" by H. Bosch and for the final review was plotted and built as a trifold at the same proportion of the masterpiece.

The allegory of morality of mankind in occupying spaces; representation of New York City on North & South Brother Islands

One of the main aspects of the studio since the beginning was considering the power of representation and story telling as a tool to design and create. Either it is objective journalism, borrowing other artists’ style, or creating something provocative out of nothing, the representation style is a powerful tool in the hands of an architect to convey a message or a critique.

The masterpiece, “Garden of Earthly Delights” by H. Bosch, was always one of the main inspiration of the studio. And if one looks at these three panels long enough they start to tell a story. They can be read from left to right and each panel is essential to the meaning of the whole. The first panel depicts a scene from the paradise of the Garden of Eden commonly interpreted as the moment when God presents Eve to Adam. In the background birds are flying into the distance, there is also elephant, giraffe and other animals some of which are realistic, some fantastic. The second panel is where it starts to become more interesting. So many interactions and constructions start to infuse their way into the painting. The image depicts the expansive "garden" landscape which is teeming with male and female nudes, together with a variety of animals, plants and fruits. There is over-population, deadly sins and excessiveness. This is the panel that Bosch called “Humankind before the Flood”. And the last panel, which is the darkest one, is the twisted, decayed and burnt landscape. A paradise that has been destroyed. The tone of this final panel strikes a harsh contrast to those preceding it. In a single, densely detailed scene, the viewer is made witness to cities on fire in the background; war, torture chambers, and demons in the mid-ground; and mutated animals feeding on human flesh in the foreground.

The project considers Manhattan as a courtyard building not as a city. Manhattan is an island and central park is a huge courtyard, the buildings and towers are extruded to their maximum limit around it. A building that houses the extreme congestion and density in itself. The project talks about the morality of people; the way people occupy lands and spaces. The way they define their habitats and their cities. The project tries to propose a possibility of creating a small self-contained city in an architecture by a massive accumulated building through extrusion of the lands of North and South Brother Islands. The project tries to imagine an extreme possible answer for this issue through exploring the idea of excessiveness and redundancy of construction which is already happening in Manhattan. The project is a triptych as well; the first panel illustrates lower levels; the business district; where people interact with each other, commute to outside world, do business, gather together, work, study, and live. The scene is heavenly pleasant. As we go up the spaces become more luxurious and extravagant. There is an enormous mansion with an endless pool on the roof which privately owns by an individual. The second panel shows the whole project in an expansive view; a section through the entire city with the projection of plans on the ground level and roof top. The second panel is where the population and construction reach to their extreme density. The third panel is the depiction of hell. People are half naked, they go to violent performances. There are also torture chambers and animals eating human bodies.

It is pretty obvious that we are no longer living in the first world of mysterious Eden. We are in the second panel where twentieth-century art historians called “moral warning of mankind”. The question is, is the third panel going to be the future of human being?