Scary Architecture


a photo from 1904 of 14th St-Union Square

In subways, it seems like people exist in limbo, becoming travellers or observers or performers. An additional media crops up between us and ourselves: the architecture of a station. Between the 14 St-Union Square, Main St, and Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center stations, each foster different realms of affect that then influence possible and probable realms of behavior and interaction. The ‘evilness’ — in terms of Matthew Fuller’s conceptualization of the term and in terms of analyzing architecture as media — is prevalent in all of these situations.

Fuller defines ‘evilness’ as a perceptible immanence, a something that is there and is able to be sensed and is definitely affecting us (i.e., users) but is not quite ‘present’. Media in Fuller’s Evil Media exists in this way and is beginning to become more evil as digital media morphs and becomes more expansive. The ‘evilness’ comes in that we are able to perceive media but that it, by its structure, operates as a liminal force. Similarly, subway stations operate only in-between, and seem to create numbing effects, especially on those who use them most frequently.

Yet, the types of interactions that occur in each station are definitely made possible by the mediating architecture. 14 St-Union Square is a space of several hallways that often converge into large, open spaces — unsurprisingly, where performances often take place and crowds gather to observe. This type of gathering would likely not occur at the Main St station, which is two levels of long, parallel strips of six trains of the same line. Those who are arriving and going are, mostly, very familiar with this architecture and seemingly each other (being the end of a line with no other intersecting trains, many who are coming and going are arriving at and leaving their homes) and there are little-to-no convergence of many different peoples as there are in Union Square or Atlantic Av-Barclays Center.

Still, the type of convergence that occurs at Atlantic Avenue is vastly different from Union Square. There are rarely performers in the open areas (i.e., the areas that are not platforms) of the Atlantic Avenue station, likely because many are tight hallways or speckled with large, green pillars. Instead, performers often prefer the actual platforms, but crowds do not (and, mostly, cannot) gather here since the platforms are narrow. Like the other stations, architecture is literally enclosing us in a set of possible interactions and affects.

Possibly, this is the ‘evilness’ of architecture, that it programs us and literally looms over us, like monsters lying.


~ by adriene on April 26, 2015.

2 Responses to “Scary Architecture”

  1. I found your post to be the most affective of all. Although I am not fully on board with the idea of evilness in the architecture of subway stations, it offered me a chance to think about a space where one enters to get to another, where you don’t necessarily focus and really consider. I believe what you discuss can be extended to subway cars and not just stations, where we are conditioned to behave in certain ways, which we aren’t even aware of most times.

  2. I think that with the use of an image and selection of this particular image makes this post have the best affect. When talking about how these physical spaces encourage different types of behavior, it’s definitely interesting to see how one of the spaces looked in the past and to try to imagine the type of behaviors that it would have encouraged. -Rachel L

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