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.
NEXT: nothing else right now... but you can get
MUCH more nyc here!.
and return to omni's nyc index here!