The Manhattan Transcripts are theoretical propositions executed through drawing. Made between 1976 and 1981 for consecutive exhibitions, the four episodes transcribe imagined events in real New York locales: The Park uncovers a murder in Central Park; The Street (Border Crossing) chronicles the movement of a person drifting through violent and sexual events on Forty-second Street; The Tower (The Fall) depicts a vertiginous fall from a Manhattan skyscraper; and The Block illustrates five unlikely events occurring in separate courtyards within a city block. Tschumi’s Transcripts propose that, beyond its traditional conventions of representation, architecture resides in the superimposition of space, movement, and events. The event, in particular, is the figurative origin of architecture itself, through which Tschumi proposes an architecture of difference and opposition rather than synthesis and totality. Narrative techniques—be they pictorial or cinematic—evoke the ability of fiction to produce an alternative form of critique.
Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.
The Manhattan Transcripts is a theoretical architecture proposition executed through drawing. Its four episodes transcribe imagined events in real New York locales: Episode 1: The Park uncovers a murder in Central Park; Episode 2: The Street (Border Crossing) chronicles a person's movements drifting through violent and sexual events on 42nd Street; Episode 3: The Tower (The Fall) depicts a vertiginous fall from a Manhattan skyscraper (the introductory panel is pictured here); and Episode 4: The Block illustrates five unlikely events occurring in separate courtyards within a city block.
In The Manhattan Transcripts Tschumi suggests that the practice of architecture involves accounting for three different fields: space (the fabrication of physical spaces); movement (the movement of bodies in space); and event (program, function, or use). Each of these fields is represented by a graphic device: architectural drawings outline space; a modified form of dance notation diagrams the movement of different protagonists; and photographs direct or witness events. Going beyond the conventions of architectural representation, Tschumi proposes an architecture in which meaning is produced through the subjective arrangement of isolated frames and through multiple, discontinuous events rather than synthesis and totality.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 28.