Artist: Benjamin Hirte
Venue: Emanuel Layr, Vienna
Exhibition Title: First Houses
Date: May 20 – July 31, 2020
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Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Benjamin Hirte, First Houses, 2020, video projection, 27:00 min, (excerpt 03:10)
Images courtesy of Emanuel Layr, Vienna/Rome
It was a big year for New York’s Lower East Side. Not only did the neighborhood witness the construction of First Houses in 1936, the frst public housing units ever built in the United States. Moreover, the very same New Deal policies which realized public housing also funded the building of Hamilton Fish Park Pool, a new public pool within walking distance of where the Black, Hispanic and Asian community was now supposed to take shelter. Amenities such as a high-tech fltering system, under-water lighting, blue glazed terra cotta, scum gutters, a bathhouse with a capacity of 2,200 people, an Olympic-sized main pool and two adjacent diving and wading tanks composed what was in 1936 a rather fancy recreational facility. In fact, in its initial form arranged in a semicircle, the three pools created something like an air of inclusion, even if only half-way.
This was, however, only the third stage of the government implementing measure to ameliorate the poor living conditions of the working-class neighborhood. In a way, it all started in 1900 when the architecture frm Carrère and Hastings were commissioned to develop a recreational area of what was back then the degree zero of the Jewish, Irish and Polish immigrant community in New York. The architects who had just won the competition for the main branch of the New York Public Library with their idea to build the largest marble structure in North America, turned, as it was usual in the American aristocracy, towards Paris. Inspired by the recently built Petit Palais and its “power to educate the mind while it pleases the senses,” as one contemporary noted, they conceived the area as a square for the faneur, flled with benches presum