american institute of    architects'    
      guide to   new  york cit  y
    four th     edition    (2000)

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    part seven
continued from previous page.

But now, we have to consider the future of AIA-NYC for reasons that go beyond "obsolescence"; not only is Willensky gone, but at the present rate of gestation Norval White would be in his mid-80s by the time the next edition comes out. Whither a fifth edition? Some, saddened over the loss of the Necrology and other architectural confetti, might greedily or presumptiously wish for two volumes...and don't get me started on what advances in electronic/digital publishing technology and text distribution shall signify. Myself, I definitely feel that the enterprise should, like Banister Fletcher, survive its originators...but who are the sensitive heirs on the horizon? Who can carry on the special, idiosyncratic tone without lapsing into pedantry, sentimentality, triviality, cynicism, or just plain flimsy pastiche?
               Among the names singled out in the acknowledgments is Andrew Dolkart, who in recent years has become something like New York's official architectural tour guide, with several published guides and tours and histories to his credit; while his own approach is more "popular" than W&W's (though not at all in a bad way), one can readily imagine a Dolkart, if not as straight heir, then as an editor/overseer of a future edition (and look to the Chicago AIA volume for proof that lively stuff can emanate even from a quasi-anonymous writing "team"). But I have an offbeat nominee, perhaps out of the specific AIA-NYC loop, indeed a sort of intellectual upper-left-field "media celebrity", but arguably the truest unsung "heir" to the spirit of Norval White & Eliot Willensky: Kurt Andersen. A high-low Renaissance man of the arts and cultural observation, author, journalist, host of WNYC's "Studio 360", et al...and keep in mind that Andersen not only co-founded that legendary 80s satirical journal Spy--which I've already referred to as a sort of White-Willensky progeny--but, prior to Spy, made his mark as Time's chief architecture and design critic! It's tempting to think that, no, it isn't just fancy or coincidence: the "allseeing eye" of AIA-NYC really was seminal to Kurt Andersen's development. And it's also tempting to think that were Kurt Andersen assigned the task of compiling a future edition, he'd take to it with the utmost in passion and sensitivity and sympathy for the task at hand...he might indeed be, out of the blue, the best person for the job. A truly magical passing of the torch: could it happen?
               Let's not get hasty and overidealistic; any "next edition" won't (unless electronic, perhaps) be popping around until 2010ish. In the meantime, get it. Get the latest edition of the AIA Guide To New York City. And get any other edition you can; it isn't the Omnitectural Bible for nothing. Get to know your city, your constructed realm, even your un-constructed and de-constructed realm, as religion. And that way, you'll transcend it. Remember: there's no virtual world like the real world.

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guide to guides AIA Guide to New York City entry in Omnitectural Forum's "Guide to Guidebooks"

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