Architecture and Urban Culture

We recently gave a team-taught lesson on architecture and urban culture. Here is a brief summary of what our lesson entailed!

For the majority of this semester, we have focused on small objects that have a large impact on our lives: memorabilia, heirlooms, talismans, and trinkets, to name a few.  For our team teaching lesson, we questioned the way that large objects, namely buildings and furniture, have a subtle but meaningful impact on our life and our perception of different cultures.

Firstly, architecture is a means of capturing history: through architecture and urban planning, one might discover in what climate a culture is situated, the development of their artistic movements, the prevalence of religion to their people, whether or not they constituted a democracy or a monarchy, or by what other cultures their were colonized.

Secondly, as architecture continues to develop, it gives the people a means to change how others perceive their culture. Because architecture is a form of artistic expression, people have the ability to incorporate their traditional values with their aspirations for the future. We looked at an example of this development in the article on the architecture program in Dubai, most notably the example of the young woman who built a modern chair for the purpose of helping her mother fulfill her Muslim prayer duties.


Thirdly, we looked at how Dubai enormously has expanded over the last two decades. We discussed how the American material culture might have influenced their development as Dubai strives to make “the best of the best”: 7 star hotels, the tallest building in the world, underwater hotels, and man-made islands in the shape of palm trees. These ideas sparked discussion about culture shock, shifting views of materialism between cultures, and the human reaction to environment (both natural and urban).

We then looked at urban culture through the lens of street photography, capturing peoples’ essences through how they express themselves. In particular, we explored the Humans of New York project. Photographer Brandon Stanton roams the streets of New York City (as well as Boston and Tehran) to take pictures of people passing by that he finds interesting. Often, these photos represent people attempting to express originality in such a heavily diverse area. This is especially prevalent in their choice of dress or objects they carry, which relates to our studies in material culture.


From there, we stepped back and looked at photography as a whole. In reading portions of Stephen Bull’s Photography, we were able to identify the issue of the physical, printed photograph being replaced with the digital representation. Photographs act as a vessel for memories, which are more easily discarded in the digital form, yet hard to part with when part of a limited supply of prints. This modernization of photos is just a one example of digitization’s role in material culture, that is, how physical objects are becoming replaced with digital representations.

Annotated Bibliography 

“Architectures of Control in the Built Environment.” Architectures. Dan Lockton, n.d. Web. 26 March 2013.
This article provided the example of French urban planning and how it prevented riots after the French Revolution, proving how architecture and urban planning are indicative of a culture’s history.

Bull, Stephen. Photography. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Explores the types of photography as well as the more-or-less “philosophy” behind many aspects of photography. In particular, the chapters we read talk about the materialization of print photos being replaced with the dematerialization of digital photos. The section on documentary photography talks about the theory behind the semiotics of objects when photographed.

“The Center as Void: The Civic Realm and Chinese Tradition.” Projective Cities. Architectural Association Graduate School, 12 November 2012. Web. 26 March 2013.
This website gave valuable insight into how architecture played a role in the protest at Tiananmen’s Square, China. The article provided a concrete example of the idea of disciplinary architecture discussed in Kreiger’s book and was relevant to previous class discussions of riot prevention measures.

“Essential Architecture: Dubai.” Dubai-Architecture. n.p., 2009. Web. 26 March 2013.
This website provided startling images about the designs projected for Dubai’s architectural development, starting in 1990 and continuing until 2009. The visuals were an essential companion to the other articles used because they captured the aspirational values of the culture and showed just how drastically architecture can alter the perception of a culture.

Krieger, Alex & William S. Saunders. Urban Design. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis, 2009. Print.
We used this source to discover more about the purpose of urban planning and to back our claim that cities develop based on cultural and societal needs. This book also lent strength to the examples of disciplinary architecture, demonstrating how society can use architecture as a method of controlling or freeing people.

Sarnecky, William G. “Building a Material Culture in Dubai.” Journal of Architectural Education. 65.2 (2012): 80-88. Print.
This article functioned as a main topic of discussion, tying small-scale objects (furniture) to large-scale objects and architecture. In this article, we see how architecture allows people to combine their artistic ability, traditional values, and state-of-the-art technology (such as 3D printers) to modernize their culture.

Stanton, Brandon. Humans of New York. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. <>
The work of photographer Brandon Stanton, which focuses mostly on street portraits in New York City. The photos are often accompanied by anecdotes about the people he meets, which is an entertaining and often heartfelt combination.

Materiality and Meaningfulness



For this project I will be asking people to think of an object that “is meaningful” to them. I will then photograph them and their objects, and ask them to write a short story or anecdote about their chosen object.

I am hoping to portray people through the objects they consider meaningful. The portraits and object photos will be shot in similar styles. I am also incorporating a handwriting aspect, having the individuals physically write their stories. From there, I will be compiling a website and/or book of all of the photos.

Ideally, this will be a rather large project. I am mostly going to have it open to college students, but I may start to include other demographics as well. That being said, if anyone in the class would like to participate, please let me know via email ( or in class on Monday.

Ariel Books Clock


Overlooking the bustle of New Paltz’s Main Street, this clock represents the history of the business that is no longer there. Ariel Booksellers (1971-2005) was once a cornerstone of the town, offering a wide selection of books for community members and college students alike. Now the clock pays tribute to the fallen establishment and evokes a sense of mystery to those who seek it.


The clock is apparently round and contained in a metal frame. I might estimate that it is about 2-3 feet in diameter, although I am not confident in that measure. The hands are black and rounded. In place of numbers there are letters and symbols as following: 12->”I”, 1->”E”, 2->”L”, 3->”♦”, 4->”S”, 5->”K”, 6->”O”, 7->”O”, 8->”B”, 9->”♦”, 10->”A”, 11->”R”. When looking at the time from afar, the clock reads “ARIEL BOOKS”. The time is never correct, and I believe it may be frozen at 7:34. The clock is located above the Starbucks at 1 Plattekill Avenue.


The clock first appeared on Main Street after Ariel Booksellers’ owners Dean and Susan Avery decided to add another addition to their store (where the current Starbucks is located) in 1999. It has been that spot ever since.

Date of Creation: 



In the heart of New Paltz lies a constant reminder of its timelessness: the Ariel Books clock.

Right at the corner of Plattekill Avenue and Main Street is arguably the busiest intersection in the town of New Paltz, acting as a bypass for those travelling through the town, yet riddled with crosswalks where pedestrians control the traffic. Here there is a sense of ebb and flow, of intuitiveness and trustingness, that makes this a rich community center. Appropriately, this is the location of the Ariel Books clock. When a person comes to the town for the first time, whether a tourist or college freshman, he or she may notice the clock and how it adds to the small town charm. However, if there is not too much glare from the sun and the visible situation is just right, someone can make out the letters around the face of the clock, paying homage to an “Ariel Books”. Although the book store is no longer around, it had been a community staple and a part of New Paltz’s history.

Dean and Susan Avery came from New York City and fell in love with the New Paltz charm. By 1971, they opened the bookstore, occupying half of the space which was once a gas station (while the other half was used as a shoe store.) The name “Ariel” came from a reference to poets Percy Shelley and Sylvia Plath. At the time, there was only one other bookstore nearby, so Ariel had no problem becoming a community staple.

As the years passed, the Avery’s added space to the store, widening their inventory and increasing their counter space. The addition in 1985 led to an increase in student supplies to cater to the nearby SUNY needs.However, it was the renovation in 1999 that was the most dramatic. The addition would increase the bookstore’s size by 525 square feet, while adding an additional 1,300-square-foot cafe space. In order to keep up with their large chain competitors like Barnes and Noble, the Avery’s planned to incorporate a cafe into their business.


Right after the renovation was completed, the soon-to-be Starbucks is shown here without the clock.

Herein lied the question of what cafe should occupy the space. Although the Avery’s had tried to bring in local businesses, they found no success in doing so. In their 28 years of being in New Paltz at that point they had seen the rise and fall of several failed cafes and did not want to repeat the pattern. So the Avery’s opened their space to Starbucks, but were met with major controversy from members of the Village planning board. Starbucks represented large chains and big business that were thought to detract from the small town, independent feel of New Paltz. However, Starbucks won out and opened their doors on November 6, 1999.

The Avery’s claim having  the coffeeshop as tenants helped keep their business thriving for as long as it did. However with the decline in book sales, Ariel Booksellers, like many other independent bookshops, had to cut its losses and close in 2005.

Sometime before its closing and after Starbucks moved in is when this clock made its first appearance. Perhaps it was the Avery’s way of appeasing the town members who were concerned that big business would ruin the independent spirit of New Paltz. As if labeling the building as property of the bookstore, where a big-time chain would be reminded of its small-town landlords. Facing out on the bustling New Paltz Main Street, the Ariel Books clock tells time in more ways than one.


“Ariel Booksellers plan expansion.” 31 Jan 1985. Print.

Fanelli, Diane. New Paltz News. 27 Oct 1994. Print.

Hoffman, Mala. “Literary Achievement.” The Huguenot Herald. 24 Aug 2000. Print.

Newman, Rich. “Starbucks to make a splash next door to Ariel Booksellers.” The Times Herald-Record. 30 Oct 1999. Print.

O’Corozine, Rich. “Ariel Booksellers celebrates 25 years in business.” The Huguenot Herald. 5 Dec 1996.

Quinn, Erin. “Bestsellers and beans”. The Huguenot Herald. 17 Sep 1998. Print.

Quinn, Erin. “Off the Shelf.” The Huguenot Herald. 30 Jul 1998. Print.

13A North Front Street: Beyond The Bakery


13A North Front Street, New Paltz, NY

Built in 1883 for Samuel Judkins, this building currently is the home to The Bakery, a restaurant staple to the New Paltz community. Formerly a barn, this annex to 13 North Front Street (currently The Bicycle Rack) has since undergone renovations to near double in size. Its history since being a barn includes being a laundromat and most notably, the headquarters for the New Paltz Food Coop.

Physical Description:

The Bakery as it is today is a synthesis of two buildings. In the back is the original building being an 875 square foot barn with a lofted second floor. This building is where the kitchen is currently, and the second floor contains offices, storage, and a bathroom. The kitchen has high ceilings with horizontal beams, referencing the barn-like construction.

The newer part of the building is the 800 square foot addition, which is currently the storefront for The Bakery. The storefront consists of a display case spanning most of the length of the room, a deli case, a toaster oven, espresso machine, and a counterspace. The back wall of the storefront has a door connecting to the kitchen (the original building component) and a large glass-doored refrigerator containing refrigerated drinks. There is a smaller version of this refrigerator on the adjacent wall, as well. In between the two refrigerators is a bathroom, and on the other side of the smaller refrigerator are the stars to the upstairs, a door to the basement, and then the door to the outside seating area. The second floor is also lofted here and houses additional seating, both booths and tables, for patrons to eat at.


The ownership of the 13A North Front Street began in 1883 when it was built for Samuel Judkins. By 1886, it was sold to William Delamater for $1,600. I am still investigating the ownership in the next few decades. The next known property owner was Virginia Decker who used the barn as Ginny Decker’s Center Laundromat in 1970. By 1975, Alan Stout bought the property (both 13 and 13A) and turned 13 into The Bicycle Rack while renting out 13A to the New Paltz Food Coop. In 1981 Stout leased the barn to David Santner who turned the space into what is now The Bakery. In 1994, Santner doubled the size of the space to what it is today.


The former barn at 13A North Front Street has mostly been used as a center for New Paltz social life. It was built in 1883 for Samuel Judkins by Daniel Kniffio. By January 1886, Andrew Dubois occupied the space, yet it seems Judkins was still the landlord. Later that year, William Delamater bought the property from Judkins for $1,600. At that time, there is reference to Delamater having “three barns” on the property and expects “to have one for a bake house and one to sell bread.” This information leads one to believe that perhaps the current 13A might be a barn built at that time, however there is not too much evidence supporting this, and it seems more likely that 13A is the original barn built in 1883.

When Virginia Decker owned the space in 1970, she used the barn as Ginny Decker’s Center Laundromat, which supposedly was more of a laundry service rather than a typical laundromat with self-serve machines. It was noted that by the end of her time there, there was an extra large waterline to the barn, which would make for an ideal kitchen in the future.

Mural on the side of the New Paltz Food Coop. Designed by Arthur Kusher.

Mural on the side of the New Paltz Food Coop. Designed by Arthur Kusher.

In 1975, Alan Stout bought both 13 and 13A, turning 13 into a bicycle shop known as The Bicycle Rack, while renting out 13A, a then vacant space, to the New Paltz Food Coop, an organization started on the SUNY New Paltz campus that supplied bulk beans and grains to its customers, when those items were not commonly found in stores at the time (i.e. brown rice.) The second floor of the Coop was used for community classes such as Tai Chi. The Coop lasted for a few years, but closed around 1979.

In 1981, a former student from SUNY New Paltz and member of the Coop, David Santner, rented 13A from Stout, turning it into The Bakery. The space was filled to the brim, the kitchen occupying most of the space, while customers would have very little room to stand.

Santner said his goal in starting The Bakery was to have a place where people from all parts of the New Paltz social life could visit. So in 1994, Santner and Stout arranged for renovation of the space, adding the 800 square feet for seating and additional customer space. This renovation also coincided with an expansion to the menu from just baked goods to include sandwiches as well. Santner said they were one of the first places to have an espresso machine in New Paltz which made The Bakery known for this hot commodity.

Illustration of the proposed renovation from 1994.

Illustration of the proposed renovation from 1994.

One of the most important contributions Santner and Stout were able to make to the community came from their desiring of outdoor seating. Santner said his ideal restaurant would have been built somewhere next to a park so people could enjoy the outdoor eating experience. However, since this was not what was available to them, Santner and Stout got a permit from the Village of New Paltz in 1996, granting them permission to maintain a landscaped outdoor seating area, a novelty at the time. This permit set the stage for future New Paltz establishments to have outdoor seating permits as well.

The Bakery also introduced an important tradition to the New Paltz culture when it began hosting The Night of 100 Pumpkins in 1990. Santner said his wife came up with the idea to host a pumpkin carving contest open to the community around Halloween time. The event, which has occurred annually since its inception, features carved pumpkin displays, as well as free hot chocolate, cider, and pumpkin bread. The Bakery’s location on North Front Street, being a one-way, wide street near the end of the traditional Halloween parade route, makes it a convenient place for people to gather and take part in the festivities. It is truly a haven of the New Paltz social life.


Kwiatoski, Debbie. “Planners encourage property owners to find solution for garden spillover.” The Daily Freeman 10 July 1996. Print.

Ryan, Jeanne. “The Bakery builds on 800-square-foot addition.” Huguenot Herald 22 Dec 1994. Print.

Santner, David, and Alan Stout. Personal interview. 13 Mar 2013.

“The Bakery, in New Paltz, NY.” Photograph. Baking Fix, 7 May 2011. Web. 15 Mar 2013.

Clips of articles also referenced (from the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection):

New Paltz Times: 11 Apr 1883, 12 Jan 1886, 5 Nov 1886

Poetry of Objects and the Quintessential Museum

There are two major parts to this introduction that really resonate with me.

The first being the practice of writing on or altering objects to document its history. Apparently this has been done before and I find it incredibly fascinating. The example of the Qianlong emperor who had an interest in history and would actually engrave his own poetry about the bi ring onto the object itself speaks a lot about the documentation of history in the past.

Although the concept of physically marking up an artifact nowadays seems sacrilegious, back then it was likely thought of as a useful tool. Simply writing about an object (on a piece of parchment, for example) does not ensure the object and parchment will stay together for the rest of the object’s “immortal” life, so marking the object itself is the only infallible technique. In the true spirit of this book, what is so telling of the culture and the time through the emperor’s practice is his uncontested ability to do so. This implies that at the time, the emperor’s word was truth, even if he himself acknowledges a lack of complete knowledge about the bi by expressing his thoughts through a poem.

MacGregor writes, “thinking about the past or about a distant world through things is always about poetic re-creation.” This is something that I have seen as a theme for our class. Just as DeWaal does in The Hare With Amber Eyes and as we have been doing with our own personal objects, there is always this hint of speculation that comes with creating an object’s history, no matter what extent of scholarly (or nonscholarly) research is put into discovering the timeline of an object.

The second notion that really stuck with me from this text is the idea of a museum as a tool for creating a better understanding of the world. It is something so basic, yet I have never thought of it that way before. Essentially, a museum is a glorified collection, allowing its patrons to expand their knowledge via objects and accompanied texts. This is the best example of what MacGregor’s “ideal history” should be. Through this project centered around the objects at the British Museum, there is the ultimate exchange of knowledge: the museum acts as the central base showcasing their collection to the public while the experts that would best understand the object meanings can flock from all over to help create a more complete history for these objects.

As we start to piece together New Paltz’s history through objects, I think we should consider ourselves curators. We want our collection of objects to be relevant and come from a variety of contexts. It should also be accessible to not only people in the community, but perhaps others who might be familiar with an object’s original history, before it became part of New Paltz’s history. Then, once the collection and its meanings are assembled, we can hopefully help ourselves and others have a better understanding of New Paltz and its history.

Two-Dollar Bill



Much like Ricky, I had a really difficult time picking an object for this week’s assignment. The past week I have been assembling things that I could maybe write about, but none of them seemed to have a history worth delving into. It was not until I read Ricky’s post that I realized to look to my wallet. But not the one I’ve been using, (a see-through plastic coin purse circa 1990s… although that might be interesting to look into one day), but the wristlet I used to use all the time which has become more of a paper-collecting receptacle at this point. In there I found a two-dollar bill that has been there for roughly three years now. 

I received the bill when I sold my old books to a textbook buyer at the end of my freshman year. I made exactly $102 from that transaction (as you can imagine, there were about 12 books sold.) And although, as a college student, the 100 dollar bill was fun to look at, I knew (read: hoped) there would be more of those in my future. I did not know how lucky I would be to find a two-dollar bill again. There would be times where I would have absolutely no money left in the wallet besides the two-dollar bill, yet I could never bring myself to spend it. I felt like it was too rare of a find to just go and spend. What could be worth the exchange of this oddity? A pack of gum? Half of a latte? 

It is this sentiment that makes the two-dollar bill seem so valuable. In fact, it is not worth more than, you guessed it, two dollars. According to an article in Eagle News, one percent of bills produced annually are two-dollar bills. Furthermore, they make up $1.2 billion of printed currency in the US. There is even a website,, devoted to cracking the myth of the two-dollar bill. Their mission is to get these bills back into circulation and stimulate our economy. 

Exploring the website further I was able to track my particular bill. Mine is from the most recent printing, the 2003A series, which occurred between July and September 2006. There were 230,420,000 bills printed in this series. According to, this bill was printed in Fort Worth, Texas in September of 2006 (as evident by the serial number beginning with a “D”.)

However, the two-dollar bill first came to be in 1976 to honor the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The front of the bill has a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. The back of the bill features an illustration of the painting, Declaration of Independence, originally by John Trumbull.

Nowadays, you can even track your two-dollar bill. The website,, which is most notably used to track one-dollar bills also features options for bills with denominations up to 100. Here is the list of the top 20 two-dollar bills reported.

After learning all of this and debunking the myth of the “valuable” two-dollar bill, I am still not sure I can part with mine. It has become a sort of keepsake for me. It has been a great conversation piece and something I find myself studying whenever I come across it. I always joke that I will spend it when it is literally the last bill I have left in my name. But who knows, it might just get me out of a tight spot one day.

My Mother’s Shirt


My mother’s shirt is made of a flow-y, cheetah print. The tag reads “100% Rayon”. There are five brown plastic buttons down the middle of the shirt. The collar is one of my favorite parts: it is long and pointed with black trim. Inside the shirt there are two semicircular shoulder pads, also in the cheetah print, and lightly stuffed with fabric.

My mother told me that she bought this shirt when she first heard she was pregnant with me. She is a high school teacher and thought it was appropriate to hide her “baby bump” for as long as possible. So in a way, I suppose I have worn this shirt before, but as a fetus, so I’m not sure that counts.

Every time I’m home for a break, my mother will have a pile of old clothes waiting for me to try on and possibly add to my own wardrobe. Sometimes I’ll take the garments to school with me, other times I leave them at my parents’ house and revisit the clothing later. The latter is the story of this particular shirt. This winter break, having worn other hand-me-down shirts to death, my favorite being the painted denim ones, I decided to give a second-string shirt a try. This one was in the back of my closet but the unique collar drew me in. It wasn’t until I tried it on did I realize how enormous the shoulder pads were!

Interested in the history of fashion and even more intrigued by the concept of shoulder pads, I started looking into its conception into the fashion world. When they first were introduced in the 1930s, shoulder pads were often triangular and stuffed with cotton or even sawdust. The style did not really take off until post World War II when women, coming off of doing men’s jobs during the war, adopted a more militarized fashion. However, the shoulder pad craze is most commonly associated with the 80s and even into the early 90s (this shirt being circa 1990 exactly.)

Now I think it is socially acceptable to wear these dated clothes (and maybe that is just my opinion.) I am grateful for this semi-recently-discovered source of clothing (my mother) and I enjoy finding ways to integrate her clothes into my wardrobe. I’d like to think I bring new life into the garments by the way I style them. People will sometimes ask me where I get these interesting pieces from and it makes me proud to say “I got it from my mama.”

Long, Carola, and Harriet Walker. “Shoulder pads: A history.” The Independent, 14 Oct. 2009. Web. 7 Feb 2013.

Crocheted Scarf



(Click image for more photos)

I am a self-proclaimed “dabbler”. I like taking on new projects, hobbies, interests, skills that I could be decently okay at and adding them to my repertoire. Admittedly, I can only teach myself so much and sometimes I will give up, but hey, at least I tried! 

Well anyway, my project for myself during Winter Break of 2012 was to learn how to crochet. I was determined to at the very least make a headband, or something at least slightly more dignified than a string with some knots in it. My friend and former coworker is a crochet aficionado and took me shopping for all of the supplies that I would need. She recommended that I start with a thinner, light-colored yarn and a smaller hook. 

I went to work right away, scouring Youtube for the best tutorial (in case you didn’t know, you can teach yourself ANYTHING on Youtube. Anything.) I single-crocheted (that’s the name of the stitch) a “scarf” for hours upon hours, not getting as far as I wanted with it, but learning from every stitch. I knew I couldn’t pull the yarn too tightly, nor too loosely, and I figured out the best way to unravel the yarn without getting all tangled. Although I do not think this scarf was anything to write home about and was teeming with imperfections, it got me thinking about all of the other combinations I should pursue. 

This brought me to the craft store about a week later. The lush, thick yarn (Wool-Ease Thick and Quick… product placement) was on sale. The rich red, navy, and wheat colors seemed like a great combination to use. I just had to buy it! I knew it would be a very different experience than what I had been going through, but I was up for the challenge. I also bought a Q hook (15.75 mm) which I had heard would work best with yarn of that thickness. 

When I got home I went back on Youtube, looking up new stitches and techniques. I wanted to learn how to change colors and experiment with stitch-type. And so I began to work on this project, vaguely knowing that I wanted it to be really long and wide. I later thought I would make it into an infinity scarf (where the ends are stitched together to make it look like one big loop.) The process took about two weeks to do. The skin on my hands began to get chapped and irritated from the repeated motions, while my joints and muscles became sore from being persistently tense. I distinctly remember laying down on my back at one point, crocheting this monster of scarf and realizing it was taller than me! Probably a good 6+ feet. It got me thinking that this had the potential to be a great blanket and maybe I could make a blanket one day (if I had a mere month to spare.) I also came up with this arbitrary color pattern which came from experimentation and I am ultimately fond of. 

So needless to say, this scarf is a labor of love. It made me appreciate what work must go into other articles of clothing/fabric goods. It is something that I am really proud of and love to wear as a reminder of all the hard work I am capable of doing. Oh, and it keeps me warm. So there’s that, too.