Posts tagged with "Subterfuge":

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Breaking Out & Breaking In: Designers, Critics, and FBI Agents

Bringin' it back to the old school, to the days of 3D online meet-up spots and avatars, when chat rooms were actual digitally-modelled rooms, "Breaking Out and Breaking In" was a "distributed film fest," where users watched movies at home and came together in the comments section of BLDGBLOG to discuss the films. It was a blurring of the real and the digital. In partnership with Filmmaker magazine, the series focused on films which were either about bank heists (breaking in) or prison escapes (breaking out), positing them as "the use and misuse of space." Films were watched during a period of four months, and the festival culminated with a panel discussion at Columbia's GSAPP featuring two FBI agents alongside designers and critics. The panel was moderated by Studio-X director Geoff Manaugh, and consisted of Jimmy Stamp, writer and editor from Yale University, Matt Jones, designer and principal of Berg, Special Agent Brenda Cotton, bank robbery coordinator with the FBI, and Thomas McShane, a retired special agent from the FBI Art Crime Team. The discussion explored a variety of questions, including how criminals need to understand buildings differently from architects as they attempt to subvert them and what the alternate routes and spatial scenarios of crimes reveal about hidden architectures within buildings. Through a close analysis of classic heist movies and escape films, and with the help of the virtual pop-up space of the online comments, the film fest attempted to answer these questions. The panel zoomed out, looking at the practice of breaking in/out in general. Jimmy Stamp explained how in academia they took a very rational approach to analysis of crimino-spatial activity, but after a writer from Law and Order visited the school, they were taken aback at how emotional and real these stories were. "These were actual people being murdered," he said. While a student at Yale, Stamp co-organized a crime and architecture symposium called "Fugitive Geographies," but also worked as a bank designer in San Francisco, designing odd, maze-like structures, which to his surprise, clients often loved. Using check counters as barriers against robbery, sometimes counter-intuitive plans were favored. Stamp quipped, "As long as your bank is harder to rob than the one next door." Brenda Cotton, who had the most practical experience with bank heists made some interesting comparisons of Los Angeles to New York, having worked in both cities. Los Angeles has freeways and parking, which make it much easier to rob a bank there. In New York, there is less parking and more congestion with less access to freeways.  Also, surveillance in New York is much better. When a bank is robbed, the first thing the FBI does is canvass for security footage. It can come from banks, nearby businesses, the subways, and the NYPD. McShane recounted stories of various NYC criminals who used nefarious architectural experiences to rob people.  The Fly was especially athletic and would climb buildings, sneaking into windows and handing valuables down to friends waiting below. He also noted that museums are guarded by people making very little money, and are thus vulnerable to heists. Designer Matt Jones explained that crime is a series of designs and counter designs. Cameras were designed, then facepaint to obscure the camera's watching eye would be invented, so cameras that were immune to the facepaint would crop up. Scott MacCauley, editor-in-chief at Filmmaker, spoke of his time making films, where consideration must be made for realistic movies. For instance, you can't bounce around from neighborhood to neighborhood and maintain the spatial drama that is required for a heist movie. Overall, an entertaining night, which ventured outside the box (and into the tunnel) for architectural insight from a well-rounded panel.

Parks Department Coopting NYC Skaters?

On Tuesday, the Parks Department cut the ribbon on the River Avenue pocket parks in the Bronx. It is the latest piece of the sprawling, long-overdue parks system promised by the Bloomberg administration in exchange for the parks sacrificed and taxes forgone in the name of the House That Steinbrenner Built (God rest his soul). But that is not what is truly interesting about the River Avenue park. What is is that it contains a skatepark. The fourth one to open this summer, in fact, preceded by new ramps and half-pipes at Hudson River Park (above), Flushing Meadows, and Robert Venable Park in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A very popular park opened last year as the first piece of the McCarren Park pool’s redevelopment. (This reporter saw young scalawags jumping the fence to get in even before it was finished, so eager were they to ollie about.) The Parks Department now has 11 skateparks under management, with more on the way. Meghan Lalor, a Parks spokeswoman, said evolving tastes were to thank for the explosion in skateparks. “While there is no formal initiative to build more skate parks per se, we’re always attentive to ways to provide what New Yorkers want and need as their interests in sports and recreation evolve, and we’re delighted to offer them the opportunity to perfect their skills on inline skates, skateboards, and bikes in safe, designated areas,” Lalor wrote in an email. And yet it still seems like a startling idea, city-sanctioned skating. After all, this is the administration that would not even tolerate ancient (and famous!) graffiti along the High Line, even as all this new gnarly pavement seems akin to putting up canvases around the city for the express purpose of tagging. Perhaps skating has gone so mainstream that it is no longer subversive, and thus nothing to worry about. Or perhaps the Parks Department is herding all the skaters together to keep them off the streets and out of the parts of the parks where they are not welcome. Now wouldn’t that be truly subversive?