Friedrich St. Florian. New York Birdcage-Imaginary Architecture, project, New York City, New York, Perspective from above and plan. 1968

Friedrich St. Florian New York Birdcage-Imaginary Architecture, project, New York City, New York, Perspective from above and plan 1968

  • Not on view

The visionary architect Friedrich St. Florian has explored the idea of alleviating urban problems not by building taller buildings and larger cities but by creating spaces that are only present when activated—a Manhattan office building, for example, that is only there when in use, from nine to five on weekdays. In this vein the New York Birdcage—Imaginary Architecture Project describes the nonphysical "waiting rooms" charted by the airplanes that circulate in holding patterns above the greater New York area. This drawing illustrates their paths, the different colors indicating different "rooms." As in solid, earthbound architecture, each room is a dimensional space, with a floor, a ceiling, and walls, but it has no physical structure; existing only when "drawn" by the moving airplane, it depends entirely upon the airplane's presence and on the pilot's and air-traffic controller's consciousness of designated coordinates. Once the craft has moved on, the parameters become irrelevant and the room disappears. St. Florian sees these "transparent, elusive, magnificent" areas as imaginary forms suspended over our cities.

Although St. Florian is known for his design of the National World War II Memorial, scheduled to be completed on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2003, he has spoken of the "nuisance" of projects "actually being built". As if working on paper shared in that nuisance, the Birdcage drawing itself exemplifies transience: it is drawn on a photographic reproduction of a map of New York, a base or template on which the imaginary architecture's temporary waiting rooms are overlaid in the lighter, less permanent medium of colored pencil.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 154.
Colored pencil on architectural photo reproduction
33 1/2 x 35 1/8" (85.1 x 89.2 cm)
Philip Johnson Fund
Object number
© 2022 Friedrich St. Florian
Architecture and Design

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