written by:
photos by:
February 15, 2011
Originally published in We Love New York

When Dwell proposed that I undertake a design writing variant of Supermarket Sweep—visiting five projects in five boroughs in two days—I had a single thought: Why me?

Exterior view of New York City subway
The New York City subway crisscrosses the five boroughs, linking all but Staten Island.
Photo by 
1 / 32
New York city construction
Despite the economic downturn, the city is still booming with construction—as evidenced by the fleet of cranes on the horizon.
Photo by 
2 / 32
View from a subway car in New York
Another view from a subway car.
Photo by 
3 / 32
Subway rider in New York
A subway rider takes a rest.
Photo by 
4 / 32
New York City street view in the late afternoon
One of the pleasures of New York City is people-watching, especially in the golden glow of late afternoon.
Photo by 
5 / 32
New York City sidewalk view
A sidewalk view.
Photo by 
6 / 32
View from a subway car in New York
A view from a subway car.
Photo by 
7 / 32
Architect Bill Ryall at home in Harlem, New York
Bill Ryall at home in Harlem. "When I first thought of moving to Harlem, I looked at a map. The island's about 210 blocks long, I'm near 110th Street—I thought, 'It's right in the center of Manhattan.'"
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Manhattan
8 / 32
Orange red staircase and exposed ceiling beams
Ryall installed vertical circulation elements, opening an unobstructed 47-foot-long view from front to back, and kept the ceiling beams exposed to create a loftlike environment.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Manhattan
9 / 32
Dining table area with weather-and sound-resistant windows and central air-conditioning system
Ryall's only so-called extravagances in the inexpensive renovation were the weather- and sound-resistant windows and central air-conditioning system.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Manhattan
10 / 32
Food preparation in dimly lit kitchen
A close-up in the kitchen of the Ryall residence.
Photo by 
11 / 32
New York City street food truck scene
Lunch time.
Photo by 
12 / 32
New York City street vendor
A street vendor has watches for sale.
Photo by 
13 / 32
Downtown Flushing New York
Downtown Flushing has the city's second-largest Chinatown, and third-busiest intersection.
Photo by 
14 / 32
Minnis Shabu Shabu restaurant in Flushing, New York
With its orderly rope-covered ceiling and sleek bars of light, Minnis Shabu Shabu, John Hsu's restaurant, is purposely at odds with Flushing's aesthetic.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
c 2010 Jake Stangel
15 / 32
Modern wooden box home in Flushing New York
John Hsu's house is a concrete modernist box nestled amid “suburban eclectica,” as architect Drew Lang characterizes the neighborhood’s prevailing style.
Photo by 
16 / 32
Double-height living room with silver travertine marble slabbed wall
When the Hsus found themselves expecting a third child, they engaged Lang to enclose the upper part of their double-height living room to create a fourth bedroom and playroom-study upstairs. Additionally, Lang resurfaced the fireplace wall with massive slabs of filled silver travertine marble­. The slabs were so large that one of them broke an adjoining floor-to-ceiling glass pane during installation.
Photo by 
17 / 32
Cinematographer Wilmot Kidd in Red Hook, Brooklyn
Cinematographer Wilmot Kidd sweeps the roof of the Red Hook industrial building that contains his home.
Photo by 
18 / 32
Custom-crafted freestanding wood staircase by Eric Wolf
In a former shipping and receiving room, Kidd's design-builder Eric Wolf inserted a custom-crafted freestanding stair.
Photo by 
19 / 32
Living room with partially exposed brick wall by window
Wolf also enlarged the 16-by-30-foot space's single window.
Photo by 
20 / 32
Upstairs sleeping loft with mahogany rails
The sleeping loft is fitted with mahogany rails.
Photo by 
21 / 32
Mounted wood platform for video projector
Wolf mounted a platform for Kidd's video projector.
Photo by 
22 / 32
Rooftop garden park in Bronx New York
The Brook, a supportive housing building in the Bronx, occupies what had, for years, been a vacant lot. The green roof, pictured here, is one of a number of LEED-driven elements.
Photo by 
23 / 32
Housing development in South Bronx, New York
“Do you really like your building?” the Brook’s director, Paul Pavon, was asked by an acquaintance, who compared the appearance of the 90,000- square-foot supportive housing development in New York’s famously blighted South Bronx to that of the Tetris video game. Indeed he does: “If you walk around this neighborhood, not too many buildings look like this. So there’s some kind of pride when the tenants come home.”
Photo by 
24 / 32
View of  The Brook in the Bronx, New York
A wider view of the Brook, in the context of the neighborhood.
Photo by 
25 / 32
Mural wall by the  Groundswell Community Mural Project
Over the past 15 years, Groundswell Community Mural Project has developed hundreds of murals around New York City that give voice to otherwise underrepresented ideas and perspectives, and beautify neighborhoods that are rarely the focus of public art initiatives. Here's one example.
Photo by 
26 / 32
Ferry to Staten Island
On the ferry, en route to Staten Island.
Photo by 
27 / 32
The Statue of Liberty faraway view
The Statue of Liberty in the distance.
Photo by 
28 / 32
Carrie Grassi in Freshkills Park
The tall vegetation surrounding Carrie Grassi, Freshkills Park land-use and outreach manager, grows atop what was formerly the world’s largest landfill: 150 million tons of (mostly) garbage, accumulated over more than half a century.
Photo by 
29 / 32
Freshkills marsh in Staten Island
In 1948, when filling began, Fresh Kills’ “marshy, low-lying wetlands weren’t prized—people thought they were breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Grassi says.
Photo by 
30 / 32
Freshkills meadow in Staten Island
Development over the next several years will focus on public access and showcasing the site’s unusual combination of natural and engineered beauty.
Photo by 
31 / 32
Freshkills Park in Staten Island
Phase One includes opening up 21 acres in North Park and a 20-acre swath of South Park that will incorporate ball fields, a bike loop, and natural habitats.
Photo by 
32 / 32
Exterior view of New York City subway
The New York City subway crisscrosses the five boroughs, linking all but Staten Island.

Getting five sets of interviewees to stay put while I ran around a vast, unpredictable metropolis seemed like a stunt that was bound to fail. Yet the idea was irresistible. Such a tour would draw me through the city’s infrastructure, its trains, roadways, and streets, sharpening my understanding of how the great urban machine holds together. I live in New York for its variety, yet I spend my days shuttling between the same few places in Manhattan; here was a chance to really see my hometown, to apprehend its sweep and multiplicity in a compressed way that would amplify both. And let’s face it: New Yorkers like a challenge—especially one that tests them against their city. This promised to be a good one.


Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016