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Washington Square Park in New York City’s Greenwich Village. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Washington Square Park in New York City’s Greenwich Village. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

A Walking Tour of Greenwich Village With Architecture Critic Michael Kimmelman

December 15, 2022
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It’s a late afternoon in early November, nearing dusk, and I’m sitting with Michael Kimmelman, the New York Times architecture critic, inside the West Village outpost of Daily Provisions, a café from the New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer. A sort of contemporary town square, Daily Provisions is exactly the kind of place that Kimmelman, who’s widely known for his egalitarian, public-oriented prose, would consider from a development and urban design perspective: its impacts on the streetscape and the neighborhood, the community around it, and the city beyond. (In 2016, he wrote about another Meyer establishment, Union Square Cafe, unpacking the implications of the then-new location and layout of the legacy Manhattan restaurant.)

Located on the corner of Downing and Bedford Streets, Daily Provisions also happens to be a block from the red-brick prewar apartment building Kimmelman was raised in, at 10 Downing Street, along Sixth Avenue. This is the neighborhood of his youth, but this being New York City, and Kimmelman (aside from his studies at Yale and Harvard, from 1976 to 1982; stints in Philadelphia and Atlanta; and a period in Berlin, from 2007 to mid-2011, during which he was the Times’s “Abroad” columnist) being a lifelong New Yorker, the Village remains his neighborhood, even if he technically now resides on the Upper West Side.

I’m meeting Kimmelman here to discuss his new book, The Intimate City: Walking New York, but also—playing directly off of its theme—to take a walk. Before we head out, we first talk about the book over cappuccinos.

Daily Provisions café in the West Village. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Daily Provisions café in the West Village. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Comprising 17 deftly, expertly composed walks with architects, urban planners, writers, and others, The Intimate City provides multilayered views of the city through the lenses of Kimmelman and such visionary thinkers as the writer Suketu Mehta, the architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, and the landscape architect and urban designer Kate Orff. Conceived at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and originally published in the Times—beginning with a walkthrough of an empty Times Square with the architect and designer David Rockwell, renowned for his Broadway sets—the project is at once a time capsule, a memorial, and a paean to this city that more than eight million people call home. When I ask Kimmelman about his March 2020 walk with Rockwell in particular, he says, “There was something terrifying about the emptiness. I remember feeling like we had the city to ourselves, which was this great gift and also like, Oh, my God, if anyone comes near us, we’re going to die.”

In a similar vein to his 1998 book Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere, for which he walked through those institutions with artists including Balthus, Cindy Sherman, and Kiki Smith, The Intimate City explores certain neighborhoods themselves, from Harlem to Midtown Manhattan to Jackson Heights, each effectively as its own sort of gesamtkunstwerk.

An “abiding mission for the project,” Kimmelman tells me, was to give readers “a sense of distraction and hope.” For him, the series was also, in many ways, about taking a prolonged period of slowdown to patiently probe and prod the city and many of its multifarious layers. “If you just look at the city as a bunch of buildings,” he says, “you’re not really understanding what made it and what can change it, and how we live it.” A sort of close reading of the vast, combustible metropolis that is New York, The Intimate City offers an alternative way of seeing, being in, and feeling the city: lost in its wonderment, with a critic’s openness, curiosity, and candor, and guided by some of its shrewdest urban-design minds—all in the midst of a pandemic.

The cover of Kimmelman’s new book, “The Intimate City.” (Courtesy Penguin Press)
The cover of Kimmelman’s new book, “The Intimate City.” (Courtesy Penguin Press)

I ask Kimmelman how he went about organizing the walks, which have a breezy, easy-to-read quality, but are also highly intelligent and densely packed with detail. Noting that the strolls were “the product of a lot of work,” Kimmelman says, “Even a great jazz musician—I’m not conflating myself with that; I’m merely making that point about jazz—does have a lot of preparation beforehand. All of the people I talked to took this seriously. Nobody was winging it here. I wasn’t, either, and that was important. That doesn’t mean that the conversations weren’t also spontaneous and real, but we were trying to create a tone and a kind of intimacy representative of how you would walk around the city with a friend. Each walk also contains within it an enormous amount of obscure, complex information.”

Cappuccinos done, Kimmelman begins our tour. Admittedly, we sort of wing it—I told him to take me wherever strikes him, without much foresight or planning. Not that this is a particularly challenging assignment for him: These streets are his home turf, and a literal walk down memory lane. What follows is our brisk hour-long ramble through the neighborhood, condensed and edited for clarity, beginning at 10 Downing Street; continuing on to Winston Churchill Square, up Minetta Street, and down Minetta Lane and MacDougal Street; back up to Washington Square Park; over to the gated Jefferson Market Garden; and finally, with a stop at Greenwich Avenue and Charles Street, next to his alma mater, P.S. 41.

Here, Greenwich Village through Kimmelman’s eyes.


The widened sidewalk along Sixth Avenue near 10 Downing Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The widened sidewalk along Sixth Avenue near 10 Downing Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Spencer Bailey: I didn’t know until reading your book that Sixth Avenue used to be what you call an “eight-lane Thunderdome.” This is where the other two lanes were [points to the widened brick sidewalk]?

Michael Kimmelman: Actually, it’s hard to remember from my childhood. The sidewalk was widened in order to narrow the street, because we had just this crazy amount of traffic, and it would get clogged here. I don’t want to mislead you, but fundamentally, there were, I think, two more lanes—six there and two more here.


The entrance to 10 Downing, the building Kimmelman was raised in. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The entrance to 10 Downing, the building Kimmelman was raised in. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: My dad’s medical practice was on the ground floor. Now, you have to understand, Spencer, this does not even vaguely resemble what this building looked like. It was an incredibly banal, kind of dumpy building. It was horrible and rat-infested.

You see that person in that window [points to a window on the second floor, above Clover Grocery and the restaurant Hancock St.]? That was my bedroom. And that was my fire escape. My piano was in the den that’s straight ahead. This was my parents’ room here; that was my parents’ bathroom. We had one of the building’s most extravagant apartments, which as you can see is extremely straightforward.

The second-floor apartment Kimmelman was raised in, at 10 Downing, now above Clover Grocery and the restaurant Hancock St. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The second-floor apartment Kimmelman was raised in, at 10 Downing, now above Clover Grocery and the restaurant Hancock St. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

It was quite noisy here. I would look out on the traffic, and also on the park, where I would go and play basketball and occasionally throw a baseball with my dad.

I went back into that apartment a few years ago and discovered that it was split in two and that the rent on each was—I don’t even want to tell you, but let’s just say, an incredibly mediocre apartment, in an incredibly loud place [Editor’s note: As if on cue, two fire trucks came screaming up Sixth Avenue as Kimmelman said this, with their horns and sirens at full blast], in a not-remarkable building, between the two, the monthly cost was twice my college tuition as a freshman. Which tells you what happened to the Village, that such a place would change this much.

Downing [Street], where we just walked, one reason I wanted to meet you there was because there were a couple of artists, friends of the family who had bought a place there, but fundamentally, it was a back alley, mob run, with a few garages and lots of nefarious things going on. It was a place you really wanted to avoid.


The garden at Winston Churchill Square. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The garden at Winston Churchill Square. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: I used to go to this little playground as a kid. Before this area here, which has now been turned into a garden, was greened, it looked like a little penitentiary for toddlers. It had that feel to it. So you’d go onto this ratty alley and into your children’s prison to swing on the swing over a concrete floor.


Minetta Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Minetta Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Bailey: From your walk through the Village with the architectural historian Andrew Dolkart, it was interesting to learn about the neighborhood’s mob history, and how at one point the gay community and the mob were quite linked.

Kimmelman: Absolutely. Well, the mob had—listen, I don’t want to associate the Italian community here simply with the mob. This was a very Italian neighborhood and there was also the mob. But that was true. The mob made gay bars possible because New York City didn’t.

Bailey: Right. The mob would pay off the cops or whatever.

Kimmelman: That’s why there was a Stonewall [Inn], even though it was a dump. But you see that change after Stonewall, and then places like Crazy Nanny’s, which took over these odd little triangles that were created by the changing streets, after Sixth Avenue cut through the Village.

Minetta Street, looking north to Minetta Lane. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Minetta Street, looking north to Minetta Lane. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

By the way, the Minettas [Minetta Street and Minetta Lane] are interesting. This is one of the things you don’t think about until you’re told, but why does this weird street curve off this way and deadend? And then another Minetta [Minetta Lane] is over there [points north, to Minetta Lane]. Well, this was a creek. It was a waterway, and it curved around here and then drained basically toward Downing. Originally, this was an area where freed African American slaves lived. So the Village—here, and if you go up the Minettas toward Washington Square Park, that southern end of the park—was an African American neighborhood. Then immigrants started to arrive, especially from Germany and Italy, and they began to take over that part of the neighborhood.

You know, so much of the history of New York is the constant dislocation of African Americans. That’s the story at Penn Station, for instance. The Tenderloin, which was a largely Black neighborhood, was cleared out. And where did they go? They went to the next place that was possible, some of them having come from here, and that was Harlem. So Harlem’s development, if you track it back, runs through Minetta Lane.


The street corner at the intersection of Minetta Street and Minetta Lane. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The street corner at the intersection of Minetta Street and Minetta Lane. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: All I’m going to tell you here is, since I’ve written about bikes… I always walked home from school. Even as a little boy, in second, third grade. And then I started to ride my bike home from school. It didn’t look all that different, this street.

But I would swing down here, coming from Friends Seminary—I went to P.S. 41, and then to Friends, with a short stint [in between] at I.S. 70. One day, I came down the street, speeding, and there was a giant pothole, more or less right here [points at the street corner, just beyond a stop sign]. And I couldn’t quite see the turn. So my bike went into it, stopped dead.

Bailey: Did you go flying?

Kimmelman: I went into the wall—splat, like in a cartoon—and slid down it. All I remember is that one of the elderly Italian women in the neighborhood, who was, I think, a patient of my father’s, came from the corner over there, which was then a Pioneer Supermarket, carrying the Pioneer bags, stepping over my body as she went to her apartment. I thought, That just tells you so much about New York. She sort of knew who I was. She was like, “He’s alive, he’s fine.” That stopped me from riding the bike for a little while. But every time I come to this corner I relive my near-death experience.

Bailey: Against that very brick wall.

Kimmelman: Yeah, it’s got my head mark on it.


Minetta Tavern. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Minetta Tavern. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: We’ve been walking through what are fundamentally a bunch of alleys—Downing Street, the Minettas. Now, because the economy has changed and the nature of the Village has changed, we’re at Minetta Tavern, at the corner of MacDougal [Street]. Minetta, when I was growing up, was one of the better, not the best, Italian restaurants. This area was full of these places. Now, of course, Minetta Tavern is super high-end and quite good.

Bailey: And with a bouncer at the door.

Kimmelman: And with a bouncer at the door, yes. But look at these buildings. There are a lot of tenement buildings. You walk down MacDougal and you think, Okay, it has always been this sort of thing. On some level, that’s true. But it’s quite distinct architecturally from where we’re going to walk in a second, and that’s because this area, when tenements started to be built, the cold water flats, the Village was full of these places. That’s what made it attractive to immigrants and to what became a bohemian community. Because it wasn’t what we all have an image of now, which are these higher-end townhouses.

When people walk through the Village, or a neighborhood like this, they don’t really see why things are where they are. The southern end of Washington Square Park was one economic class, and the northern end was the other. That’s important. Because the Village was maybe the first place in the city where you had within a single neighborhood these very distinct lines drawn between classes. You could begin to read the city as a map of privilege, poverty, different kinds of economic opportunity, races, and so forth.


The row of townhouses on MacDougal Street near Houston Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The row of townhouses on MacDougal Street near Houston Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: These buildings were built as a different model that was turned inward and created this [interior] garden. I would come here to visit my aunt and uncle. This is a good example of the way in which the Village was a really peculiar neighborhood. My aunt and uncle lived here, and Bob Dylan lived next door.

This was built for middle-class clientele. It’s a beautiful model of urban living, in which you sort of are on the street, but you also have a shared space in the back. A lot of the Village developed housing in the back, so there are a lot of townhouses, brownstones, other buildings—like on Jones Street, where I used to go visit friends—where you go in and don’t see it, but the backyard is essentially a shared garden.

For instance—this was a typical Village situation—I used to go to my friends on Jones Street, play basketball in the backyard. It was a cobblestone yard with a tiny house in it. Those houses were built, many of them, because you had a growing working population, and they needed extra housing. It wasn’t what it now sounds like, which is a beautiful little house with a cobblestoned, tree-lined garden in the Village. It was: We’ll just build a house here because somebody needs a place to live.

By the way, the famous photo of Dylan walking down a street—he’s on Jones Street, on that [The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan] album cover.


Kimmelman: The northern part of the park became a place where the wealthy settled as they moved out of Lower Manhattan. They moved out of Lower Manhattan because it was overcrowded, and there was a lot of disease, cholera, and so forth. They wanted to move essentially to the country, and in the early days of the city’s development, this was the country. This had been a parade ground, and also a cemetery, and then it became a park. As a result, it was a sort of open space. Wealthier, old, blue-blood families would move to the northern parts of the park. Around them, lower Fifth Avenue developed.

It’s interesting how you move from one [part of the Village] to the other. And what has happened? We moved from the overcrowded sidewalks, noise, density, a certain amount of light, to something that feels like we could be in London, in a gated park. The beauty of New York is that you do this without noticing. You move through these extremely different spaces that are somehow seamless and therefore feel like they’re the same neighborhood.


The row of south-facing townhouses along Washington Square North, many of them now owned by N.Y.U. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The row of south-facing townhouses along Washington Square North, many of them now owned by N.Y.U. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Kimmelman: I’m stopping here because my friend—it’s a horrible real estate story. I had a friend who grew up in this building here, a floor-through to the back—in this case, to the mews. When his mother died, at over the age of 100, my friend was deciding what to do, because the landlord who was here, who had known this woman for fifty years, said to my friend, “Look, you can keep the apartment. I would never want to kick you out.” But he had moved to Portland, Oregon, and didn’t think he wanted it. I said to him, “Well, you don’t want to pay for an apartment when you’re not living here.” He said, “It’s not really the money. She told me I’d pay the same rent.” I asked, “What is it?” He said it was $112 a month. So this apartment facing Washington Square Park was $112 a month, and he gave it up. I wanted to kill him.

So why was the rent $112 a month? Well, it turns out that the story of these buildings is a little more complicated. Because, while the landlord owns the building, there’s some dispute about whether she really has the right now to control the building. Why? Because the descendants of the Dutch family that originally owned all of this land when it was a farm still own the land under these houses, and therefore believe that they have some claim to ownership of the buildings themselves. Because, of course, now the buildings are worth something. N.Y.U. took over all the rest of these [points to the buildings to the east, one of them with a purple N.Y.U. flag hanging at its entrance], but these particular buildings on the western end of this row remain privately owned.

The entrance to the floor-through apartment where Kimmelman’s friend’s mother lived along Washington Square North. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The entrance to the floor-through apartment where Kimmelman’s friend’s mother lived along Washington Square North. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

I think the landlord felt they weren’t going to start to change things around and start raising red flags about this, because there’s still some dispute. The pre-colonial farming Dutch family—now a foundation in, I don’t know, Amsterdam, The Hague—has decided that this property is worth something. So right here you have the entire history of New York City, from the Dutch; to the first families, like Henry James, who came here; to my friend living here for all those years; and now, the Dutch again.


Kimmelman: We’re now at the Jefferson Market Garden, which was the site of a women’s house of detention. That incredible, weird Victorian building, which is now a library, was a courthouse.

One of the city’s most beautiful, although not always accessible, community gardens is in some ways a memorial for the suffering that many women were put through in this particular site. When I walked home, I would walk past—this was a jail. Women were kept here, and many of them, it turns out, were abused. And they would be screaming out the window, constantly.

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Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
Jefferson Market Garden, the former site of the women’s house of detention. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation signage at the gate to Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The vine-covered fence at Jefferson Market Garden. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Just imagine, this was actually a place where you were walking past a twenty-four-hour site of suffering and misery. But what was the history of the women’s house of detention? Why was it here? It’s because the jail system in the city was so abusive and broken that the city decided, at a certain point, that it needed to build “reform” jails, and that they should be in neighborhoods like this. So placing a women’s jail in the Village, next to the courthouse, was considered a more humane thing to do. And not only that, but the jail itself was to be a humane place. So it was an Art Deco building, if I recall, with art in it. The idea was that it would be a place of culture, a place of architectural distinction, and in the beginning [when it opened in 1931] I suppose that’s what it was. But like so many of these experiments in the city, it was an abject failure.

As a result, the city decided it needed to reform its jail system and build a place that would provide a campus for women, as well as for men, someplace that wasn’t smack in the middle of things, but was a refuge, and would have a whole new regime of progressive incarceration. The way to do that was to move to a place called Rikers Island, because Rikers would be so much more humane and better-run than this urban disaster, which had grown out of a failed urban-reform movement.

Bailey: So this little piece of greenery can be tied directly to Rikers?

Kimmelman: Yes, and Rikers is now doing what? Undergoing the same transformation, to come back to neighborhoods where people will be embedded back in the city, and will have a much more reformed system. So we’ve been through this cycle before.

For me, it was just a very, let’s say, formative experience, to come home from P.S. 41, right here around the corner. And while deciding if I could afford to get a cupcake at Sutter’s bakery, I would also be yelled at by these women who were trying to describe the horrors of what was going on inside there.


Kimmelman: When I was little, P.S. 41 was a progressive school. It was the Village school for Village kids—still is, I’m sure.

One of the things that was characteristic of when I was growing up is that, even when you were little, as an elementary school student, we would go out for lunch. It’s a crazy thought. Nowadays, parents—and I’m one of them—would never imagine sending your fourth-grader out for lunch. But we did that, even though the Village was a lot less safe than it is now, notwithstanding alarmist headlines about crime.

So kids would come and go at the beginning of the day and at lunch, and at the end of the day. By the time I was in fourth grade, I was one of the street monitors. We were kids who had a sash and a badge, and we would stand on the corners to make sure the kids were crossing the street properly. Crazy. But it tells you something about the peculiar nature of the Village.

[Points to the P.S. 41 playground, behind a chain-link fence] This was our playground. This field here is where I shared the trophy as best fifth-grade softball team. It was one of the great triumphs of my life.

The P.S. 41 playground, as seen behind a chain-link fence along Greenwich Avenue. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The P.S. 41 playground, as seen behind a chain-link fence along Greenwich Avenue. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

So I was a street monitor, and one day, I was late coming back from lunch, because I decided to try a new French restaurant just around the corner there, on Christopher [Street]. I don’t remember what the name of it was—Chez something. And I was late. Who knows, in fourth grade, how long a French restaurant lunch takes. I’m sure it was, in retrospect, like going to Le Pain Quotidien, at the most, probably not even. But to me, it seemed like it was a fancy restaurant, I guess.

I came back late, and my classmate—whose name I could give you, because I remember to this day, but won’t, just in case he reads this—fired me. I was just so upset. I reported to the head of the street monitors, who was a P.S. 41 teacher named Mr. Capiaggi. I remember tearfully going to Mr. Capiaggi and explaining to him that I was really sorry. But I had gone to Chez Marseille around the corner and ordered a quiche, and it took a long time. Something about his reaction, I now realize, was the reaction of an adult public-school teacher hearing one of his students complain that he had gone to a French restaurant—

Bailey: To have a quiche!

Kimmelman: —as a fourth grader, and was late. We were not a wealthy family. Nonetheless, I said I was deeply sorry, and I would never do it again. But I did this, and he replaced me. I remember going home that night and telling my parents this story. I can still see in their eyes that look of “Oh, my God, our child went to a French restaurant for lunch, and then tells this to the teacher as an excuse!”

Why do I tell you this? Because there was about the Village—and about the city even—at that point a kind of openness. To me, it’s a little bit what progressiveness is about. I think it’s why I’ve always felt the city is an open place. Really, it wasn’t incredibly safe. But it was just a different attitude. It was a trust in children, trust that I knew people in the shops. It gave me a sense of ownership of the city, a sense of comfort that this was a place where I could navigate and find my way. Now, the concept of a 9-year-old, 10-year-old, first of all, going into a restaurant alone, but even just walking the streets, is really hard to imagine.

Bailey: And monitoring their elementary-school classmates as they cross the street.

Kimmelman: It seems impossible and totally lunatic, but it didn’t seem that way to me at the time. It was wonderful. We all survived, somehow, and I think it gave us a sense that being a New Yorker was a special thing. I came to understand that only when I went away to school—

Bailey: And later, to Berlin.

Kimmelman: —and met other people. I began to understand that there’s a sense of pride that comes from, as it were, owning the city.

The street sign at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Charles Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)
The street sign at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Charles Street. (Photo: Spencer Bailey)

Bailey: So how does it feel to stand on the corner of Greenwich and Charles today?

Kimmelman: It’s an odd thing. I’ve lived now—with my family, raised our children—in Berlin and now in an entirely different part of the city, and they’re very happy there. And so am I. But I am here all the time. Like a homing pigeon. For reasons that have to do with my family, but also because some part of me is drawn back here regularly. I know what you want me to say is “I haven’t been here in years, and it’s wonderful to be back,” but actually, I was here last night. I’m around here with some regularity. I think that also speaks to the way in which the city can be a neighborhood, really be a place where people feel entirely at home. Even a place like this, which seems so anomalous, the Village.

I just want to say one more thing along those lines, which is that the great privilege of my job is that I’ve been able to discover all of these other places in the city, which I didn’t know before, where people have these same feelings. There are literally hundreds of these places. The city is a constant, shocking discovery. And that’s not an advertisement or just words. It’s truly astonishing how complex and beautiful the city is. This is just one place. It happens to be where I was lucky enough to grow up.

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Aerial view of the new Son Bunyola hotel in Mallorca, Spain. (Courtesy Son Bunyola)

Five Trendsetters on Their Most Anticipated 2023 Travel Destinations

The old’s been rung out, the new’s been rung in. We’re now all looking out on the year ahead, thinking about what it might hold, and where it might take us. This latter question, we realize, is quite literal for a lot of people, particularly with the tide turning on travel restrictions and peace of mind slowly being restored to the masses. 2023 is forecast to be the year when, for better or worse, travel will make a full return to its pre-pandemic patterns.

Clockwise from top left: “The Essentials” from Eleven Madison Home, Ikebana Kit Box from Space of Time, “Conversations with Noguchi,” Ghetto Gastro Ancestral Roots waffle and pancake mix, Gohar World Host Necklace, Rice Factory New York rice, Papier d’Arménie “Discovery Box,” and Michael Kimmelman’s “The Intimate City.”

Eight Distinctive and Delightful Gifts for the 2022 Holiday Season

A few years ago, some days after my birthday, a cardboard shipping tube appeared at my door, beige and unassuming, addressed to me but with no sender information listed. Upon discovering its contents, I was in tears—I knew immediately who had sent it and what was meant by it. It remains the best gift I’ve ever received, and it’ll stay with me for a long time.

“Ilan's Garden” (2022) by Doron Langberg. (Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro)

As Art Basel Turns 20, Miami Art Week Enters a New, Slightly Less Hyped-Up Dawn

That the first work of art I saw during this year’s Miami Art Week was a newscast seems somehow appropriate in our precarious-yet-emerging-from-Covid present. “How do we make sense of things in today’s age of misinformation and sped-up media ecosystem?” the artists behind it, from the civic-engagement coalition For Freedoms, appeared to be asking. “And really, what’s the difference between art and the news?”

Installation view of “Young Lords and Their Traces” at the New Museum. (Photo: Dario Lasagni. Courtesy the New Museum)

Theaster Gates’s New Exhibition Poetically Prods the Meaning of a Museum

What’s the purpose of a museum—and who decides which objects are worthy of value, attention, and care? These two questions, along with decades of inventive and collective artmaking, are at the core of “Young Lords and Their Traces” at the New Museum, the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates’s first-ever museum survey exhibition to be staged in New York City (on view through February 5, 2023).

Installation view of “RE_________” at the ICA Philadelphia. (Courtesy the ICA)

At the ICA Philadelphia, Sissel Tolaas Presents Smell as a Poetic Provocation

Walking into the cavernous first-floor gallery of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia—where “RE_________,” an exhibition by the Norwegian-born, Berlin-based artist Sissel Tolaas is currently on view (through Dec. 30)—feels like stepping into a scientist’s laboratory, if the scientist it belonged to had also studied minimal sculpture. There’s a wall of small vials printed with the artist’s name, each containing a bit of clear liquid. Plastic tubes and metal piping run high along the gallery, carrying who knows what to who knows where. Others descend from the ceiling towards concrete reservoirs that have been raised from the floor. One of them is disgorging, drop by drop, a bit of unknown liquid. In the center of the room, an assembly of large flasks, some of which are bubbling, releasing visible vapor into the air, surrounds a huge pillar. Beyond it is a long, multilevel plinth covered in small objects; in the center of the floor, an assemblage of glass sculptures, seemingly empty.

A view of Auster’s performance “Sound Mo(ve)ments.” (Photo: Destiny Mata)

Sara Auster’s Sound Baths Are a Tonic for Our Tumultuous Times

Experiencing true silence is probably impossible. The closest I’ve come is perhaps my 30 minutes inside Doug Wheeler’s “PSAD Synthetic Desert III” (1971), an installation presented at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2017 that gave visitors an experience of near-soundlessness. Stepping into that carefully designed chamber at the apex of the museum’s rotunda, the air felt thick and flat, like everything had suddenly been smothered under a heavy velvet curtain. It was so silent that, after a moment, I could hear the sound of my own blood pumping. I was suddenly aware of my body in a new way. The sound of it maintaining itself was coming through a different kind of physical channel than the regular, everyday hearing I was used to. This produced a simple, but lasting revelation: Hearing, as a perceptual act, is a physical phenomenon.

Photo: Zeph Colombatto

Sound Is at the Core of Musician-Turned-Ceramicist Kansai Noguchi’s Vases and Vessels

From his Tokyo studio, Japanese artist Kansai Noguchi crafts striking, one-of-a-kind ceramic vases, vessels, and painted canvases that make a bold first impression that invite the eye to linger on their mesmerizing visual contrasts. His preference for working in a limited palette is obvious, and is inspired by ceramics of Japan’s Jōmon period (10,500–300 B.C.), considered among the oldest pottery in the world. Noguchi’s approach isn’t just about visual aesthetics; equally present in his pieces is their ability to possess “sounds of music.”

Courtesy Tertulia

This New App Gives Readers a Place to Convene and Connect

How or when do we talk about the books that move us? Perhaps at a dinner party. With a bookstore clerk or librarian. Maybe on Twitter or Facebook. Raving to a friend.

Courtesy Jill Singer

Sight Unseen’s Jill Singer on Why She Doesn’t Actually Consume That Much Design Content

Home is unequivocally where the heart is. But in a world that far too often embraces soulless or downright bland furniture and interior design trends, it may not always look like it. Which is where the pathbreaking work of Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov, the co-founders of the online design magazine Sight Unseen, comes in.

Photo: Andrew Zuckerman

A Start-Up Is Monitoring Space Junk to Enable a More Sustainable Space Economy

In February 2009, some 500 miles above the Siberian tundra, a defunct Russian satellite and a U.S. communication satellite collided with massive force and shattered to pieces. Circulating low Earth orbit at speeds north of 20,000 miles per hour, the two instantly broke into thousands of fragments of aluminum and titanium space junk. Of these bits of debris hurtling at hypervelocity, only a fraction of them were large enough to be accurately tracked. And of those roughly 2,000 fragments that have been tracked, they’ll continue circulating for anywhere from 20 to a hundred years or more from the time of impact.

Le Bernardin’s apricot sorbet and chamomile ice cream, infused with Nature’s Fynd dairy-free cream cheese. (Courtesy Nature’s Fynd)

A Microscopic Fungus From Yellowstone’s Hot Springs Is Spurring a New Culinary Movement

Born beneath the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, a microscopic fungus is spurring a new culinary movement. Fy, short for “Fusarium of Yellowstone,” has sprouted into the limelight as a sustainable alternative for conscientious diners, and has begun to germinate in menus and stores across the United States.

Courtesy Artisan Books

Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray on “Durag Diplomacy” and the Beauty of the Bronx

Over the past decade, the Bronx culinary collective Ghetto Gastro has—through a combination of creative finesse, clever tactics, linguistic gymnastics, and food alchemy—risen up in the worlds of art, fashion, and entertainment, serving up a new, raw form of cultural ambassadorship. Unofficial representatives of their home borough, the group’s co-founders, Jon Gray (the guest on Ep. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast), Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, practice what they call “durag diplomacy,” bringing the Bronx to the world and the world to the Bronx. The trio’s scope and impact is vast, from collaborating with French luxury house Cartier on a “Bronx Brasserie” pop-up in Paris, to launching kitchen appliances with Target, to cooking with Wolfgang Puck at this year’s Oscars. An unabashed gastronome and the group’s self-described “dishwasher,” Gray has the agility and energy of a frontman: Currently an artist-in-residence at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, he’s perhaps best known for his 2019 TED Talk, which has been viewed nearly two million times. Serrao and Walker are seasoned chefs with backgrounds in top restaurants, including at Cracco in Milan and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s now-closed Spice Market in New York, respectively.

A view of the “Slow Show” performance. (Photo: Anne-Sylvie Bonnet)

With “Slow Show,” Choreographer Dimitri Chamblas Emphasizes the Mysterious Power of Slow Movement

What gives a physical movement meaning? There are myriad answers: context, shape, intention. For internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, educator, and creative director Dimitri Chamblas, there’s another, primary answer: speed. “If I go to shake your hand, you would understand because of the movement, but also because of the speed of it. If I do it super fast, it’s an offense. If I do it super slow, you won’t understand where I am going. The identity of the movement is given by the speed of it.”

Courtesy Phaidon

Danish Design Firm HAY Heralds Its 20th Anniversary With a Superb, Highly Tactile Book

While the Danish design firm HAY is just celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it has achieved a rarefied place in the design lexicon that’s more often associated with brands many decades older. This standing is defined, in part, by being often imitated, yet maintaining a certain level of quality and integrity. HAY originals can always be told apart from those trying to knock it off.

Courtesy Aedes de Venustas

A New Perfume Translates the Greek Island of Corfu Through Kumquat

Growing up in the Midwest, I wasn’t exposed to the widest range of foods. True to the Scandinavian heritage and harsh winters of the region, I remember a hearty, meat-and-starch focused cuisine, one meant to warm and sustain through the cold and dark. As I got older, I started expanding my palate, and I can remember many firsts: my first pho, my first dosa, my first doro wat. But out of all these first experiences of more far-flung tastes and flavors, none stands out in my memory as sharply as my first kumquat.

An array of Baudar’s wildcrafted vinegars. (Courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing)

“Culinary Alchemist” Pascal Baudar on the Art of Foraging and the Craft of Vinegar

Pinning a single job title on the award-winning food expert and forager Pascal Baudar is no easy task. A self-described “culinary alchemist” who cans, dries, smokes, ferments, steams, and pickles cactus buds, harvester ants, and other obscure flora and fauna, Baudar is the go-to source for Los Angeles–based chefs Curtis Stone, Josiah Citrin, and Ludovic Lefebvre, as well as cocktail maestros, including Matt Biancaniello, seeking these delicacies. “The majority of chefs use 30 wild ingredients, maximum,” Baudar says. “We deal with four hundred and fifty-six.”

Courtesy Strange Attractor Press

A New Book Explores How, Via X-Rays, Banned Albums Made It Into the Cold War–Era U.S.S.R.

The bad news is that this particular set of X-rays won’t be covered by your health insurance. The good news? Discarded hospital film of broken bones can defy a communist regime, deliver banned music to the masses, and endure as art.

Photo: John Cairns. Courtesy the Bodleian Libraries.

An Exhibition at Oxford Highlights the Sensorial Splendor of Books

In 1940, Dorothy Kunhardt published a book that would forever change the way young children read. Pat the Bunny, an interactive book full of activities such as touching the sandpaper of “Daddy’s scratchy face,” playing peekaboo with a piece of cloth, or gazing in a mirror, imbued the act of reading with a new form of sensory engagement. Today, “touch and feel” books for babies and children are almost required reading—their cellophane stuffing produces a satisfying, A.S.M.R.-level crunching sound, while the use of faux rabbit fur or horse hair offers an exhilarating tactile experience. As we age and our reading comprehension sharpens, the books we pick up prioritize a single sense—sight—their stories seemingly locked away in lines of text.

The Sculpture Gallery at The Glass House. (Photo: Michael Biondo)

Robert Stadler Has a “Playdate” With Philip Johnson at His Glass House

It’s a serene, bluebird-sky day, a slight chill in the air, and I’m walking with the Paris-based, Austrian-born designer-artist-provocateur Robert Stadler along a central pathway on Philip Johnson’s 49-acre Glass House estate in New Canaan, Connecticut. We’ve just exited the property’s whitewashed, brick-floored, glass-ceilinged Sculpture Gallery, a transfixing space of light and shadow built in 1970 that’s home to works by artists including Michael Heizer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Now, for one of the first times ever, a temporary installation by a contemporary artist—Stadler—is being shown among the sculptures of these art-world giants.

Photo: Marco Galloway

Willo Perron’s Debut Furniture Show Makes the Case for a “No Coasters” Design Movement

With everything he does, the Los Angeles–based designer and creative director Willo Perron always considers the macro and the micro. From the L.A. headquarters of Roc Nation, to Stüssy stores around the world (including in Kyoto, Milan, and Shanghai), to the set build-outs for Rihanna’s and Drake’s latest tours, to album art for those same artists, to the branding and art direction for the non-alcoholic aperitif company Ghia, Perron has an adroit ability to work across many scales.

The “shite” (primary performer) in “Makura Jido” (“Chrysanthemum Boy”). (Photo: Yutaka Ishida. Courtesy Japan Society)

Ever Heard of Noh Theater? Our Primer to Three Major Productions Arriving in New York City This Fall

Two winters ago, I picked up a copy of Penguin Classics’ Japanese Nō Dramas, a volume of two dozen translations by Royall Tyler I’d been meaning to read since tearing through Yukio Mishima’s Five Modern Noh Plays a decade previous. I had moved into a New York City gem (an apartment with a fireplace), and with Covid cases skyrocketing and temperatures dropping, I decided that a winter fireside with a handful of centennia-old ghost stories (cat in my lap, or reading aloud to a friend) might carry me away from the pandemic—from Brooklyn, 2020—to somewhere entirely distinct.

Cover of “The Seed Detective” (left). Adam Alexander (right). (Courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing)

“Seed Detective” Adam Alexander Imagines a Better World—Through Rare, Endangered, and Unusual Vegetable Varieties

For British author, TV gardening producer, and “seed detective” Adam Alexander, the supermarket serves as perhaps the finest symbol of our modern food systems and their discontents. Of course, there’s undeniable quantitative material abundance, with aisles upon aisles of vegetable varieties—chopped, pickled, canned, and fresh—all that one could imagine within the confines of some idea of a generic palette. But it arrives at a qualitative price, and not just in terms of flavor, but also in context, in our ability to see this food as a part of our own story—as a connection to the land we live on or a cornerstone of the traditions we uphold. Vegetables are more than just so many anonymous pounds on a scale. “This strong connection with the land and what we grow and what we put in our own mouths has been lost, especially in the U.K.,” Alexander says. “To me, it’s really important that we try to reconnect and recognize that these vegetables are part of our human story and, in that way, we can do a lot to serve rare and endangered varieties.”

Courtesy Assouline

Why Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Remains One of the Most Enduring Watches Ever

Designed in 1972, at a time when a luxury watch made of steel was still a radical concept, Audemars Piguet’s nautical-inspired Royal Oak captured the “stealth wealth” style of the moment, mirroring the cutting-edge ethos of the French fashion scene (think: Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro, Pierre Cardin), as well as the era’s groundbreaking architecture, such as Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano’s inside-out postmodernist Pompidou Centre in Paris, completed in 1977. “To me, the Royal Oak is a work of art that happens to be a watch,” says British GQ editor Bill Prince, author of the new book Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon (Assouline), coming out October 12. “It’s one of those works of culture that has managed to cut through time, in the sense that it was born of an era, but it already had the criteria to be bigger than the era.”

Courtesy Olivia Sammons

A New Zine Highlights the Poetry and Beauty of Food

Each of us has our own individual way of following the changing of the seasons, a private choreography in relationship to the calendar. For interior designer and prop stylist Olivia Sammons, the produce available from the farms, orchards, and markets near her family’s Hudson Valley home marks time for her, leading her forward through the year. “I spend so much time thinking about food,” she says. “What I’m going to eat, where I’m going to find it, which orchard has the best blueberries.” This focus led her to create the new zine Is My Favorite Flavor, which just launched its first issue, appropriately titled Summer! Is My Favorite Flavor, at the design-focused Head Hi bookshop and café in Brooklyn.

Photo: John C. Hawthorne. Courtesy Alex Tatarsky.

Alex Tatarsky on Art as a Means to Live Out the Absurd

It’s late August, and I’m walking on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan. It’s one of those summer evenings that’s cooler than expected, a pleasant foreshadowing of fall. I’m on my way to discuss compost with the artist Alex Tatarsky, and as I head east from the subway, I pass through the dense, networked scents of the edge of Chinatown: the briny tang of fish markets, the sweet snatch of a fresh egg waffle from a rolled ice cream shop, the yeasty cloud that floats around the famous bialy shop. Approaching Abrons Art Center, where Tatarsky is doing pick-up rehearsals for an out-of-town run of their show Dirt Trip, this close-packed olfactory landscape opens up into something with more space: a faint vegetal whiff from a small vacant lot, the not unpleasant chemical tang from a passing truck, and beyond these, the smell of a certain rot rolling in from the East River.

Courtesy Blue Note Records

An Album of Cover Songs Honors the Legacy of Leonard Cohen

Though nearly six years have gone by since Leonard Cohen’s passing, the long shadow cast by his legacy as one of the 20th century’s most esteemed and idiosyncratic singer-songwriters shows no signs of lifting from the public’s imagination anytime soon. From the enveloping warmth of “Suzanne,” to the high drama of “Hallelujah,” to the chilling minimalist and gospel juxtaposition of his swansong “You Want it Darker,” Cohen managed to constantly reinvent himself, leaving behind the rare achievement of a musical body of work whose most impressive moments exist across eras.

Courtesy OMA

For a Tiffany & Co. Pop-Up in Paris, OMA Designs a Literal Jewelry Box

Hiring a world-class architecture firm to design a tiny temporary retail space may seem an extravagant choice, but given the high aspirations of Tiffany & Co.—especially now that it’s owned by the French luxury conglomerate LVMH—it makes sense for the American jewelry company’s Paris debut under its new French banner.

The “Urban Sun” installation at the Solar Biennale, designed by Studio Roosegaarde. (Courtesy the Solar Biennale)

An Energy Summit in the Netherlands Imagines a Solar-Powered Future

As changes in weather patterns, economic realities, and public perception have triggered a wave of climate consciousness over the past few years, renewable energy sources have enjoyed a newfound level of attention, no longer relegated to the status of a far-off potentiality, but elevated, at least in the nebulous promises and sloganeering of powerful institutions, to that of an urgent necessity. Included in all of this is the long-sputtering industry of solar power. Factoids like how an hour and half worth of sunlight hitting the earth could provide the world’s total energy consumption in a year have been employed to tease out the industry’s transformative power for decades. Now, with technological advances making solar energy cheaper and more efficient than ever, it seems better poised than ever to take on a greater role in weaning humanity off of its fossil fuel and coal dependencies.

Courtesy Chronicle Books

An Heirloom Masa Supplier Champions the Origins of the Historic Latin American Dough

Many people eat masa—the Spanish word for the maize dough produced from stone-ground corn and used for making corn tortillas, gorditas, tamales, pupusas, and other Latin American staples—with little or no idea that it represents a multibillion-dollar industry, one that relies heavily on environmentally damaging agricultural systems that strip corn of its flavor and health benefits. A game-changing player in the masa world, Jorge Gaviria is the founder and CEO of Masienda, a supplier of heirloom masa, corn, and beans, and the first to create a scalable market for the surplus corn grown by more than 2,000 smallholder subsistence farmers using regenerative practices across more than 30,000 acres throughout Mexico.

Courtesy Acqua di Parma

A New Magnolia-Scented Fragrance Invites the Promise of Springtime Year-Round

A blooming magnolia tree, decked out in its distinctive, cup-shaped flowers, is one of the most welcome and fragrant signs of spring in New York City. In my part of Brooklyn, I have a mental map of where to find magnolias—there are a surprising number of them—and for the few weeks they’re in bloom, I take my dog on longer walks than usual, passing by as many as possible to savor both their blowsy beauty and resplendent scent. Clean, sweet, and creamy, the smell of magnolias seems to carry within it the promise of warmer months ahead.

Courtesy ArtReview

ArtReview’s Podcast Collages Audio Out of Artists’ Life and Work

One episode begins with sputtering phonemes. Another plays back organized cries of dissent from the 2019 Hong Kong protests. In a third, virtuosic jazz guitarist Pat Metheny plays a few bars from a sweet, nylon-string track before the music fades and becomes a soundbed over which Ross Simonini, artist, writer, and host of the podcast, begins an aural investigation into the musician’s lifelong engagement with sound. Episode after episode, Simonini chases a similar depth with a sly and often behind-the-curtain approach, splicing interviews and disparate worlds of sound together to create ArtReview’s formally experimental podcast, Subject, Object, Verb.

Courtesy A Space

This Collection of Hand-Carved, Noguchi-Inspired Bowls Imbues Spaces With an Earthy Essence

In 2020, the Noguchi Museum opened “The Sculptor and the Ashtray”—an intimate, one-room exhibition chronicling the artist’s pursuit to create the perfect ashtray. The negative space employed in Isamu Noguchi’s designs, as well as the show’s culminating statement about design and its power to shape the modern world, inspired designers Anna Aristova and Roza Gazarian, founders of New York–based studio A Space, to make a collection of hand-carved bowls, produced from special material—Lebanese cedar—that has a signature balsamic scent.

Courtesy Slow Factory

A Garment Recycling Program Confronts Global Textile Waste Head-On

In co-founding Slow Factory in 2012—a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to advocating for slow fashion and advancing climate justice and social equity—Lebanese-Canadian designer, writer, and researcher Céline Semaan—the latest guest on our Time Sensitive podcast—created a platform to further one of her life missions: to replace socially and environmentally harmful and outdated systems with replicable, zero-waste solutions.

Ji Hye Kim. (Courtesy Miss Kim)

An Ann Arbor Restaurant Fuses Korean Tradition with Modern-Day Michigan Ingredients

When Ji Hye Kim first moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, she didn’t find much that resembled the homemade Korean cooking she’d grown up with. In 2016, in an effort to fill this gap, she opened Miss Kim, where her aim is to fuse traditional Korean recipes—like those her mother would cook—with the distinct produce of Michigan and the Midwest. But Kim, who was named one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs of 2021, didn’t always see a culinary career in her future.

Elizabeth Dee. (Courtesy Independent Art Fair)

Elizabeth Dee on Rethinking the Canon of 20th-Century Art

Since 1997, when she founded her eponymous (now shuttered) gallery, Elizabeth Dee has been a fixture of the New York art scene, a doer and seer known for having her finger on the pulse. A multi-hyphenate collector, curator, and writer, her robust resumé includes authoring monographs about artists such as Josephine Meckseper, Ryan Trecartin, and Meredyth Sparks; a stint as director of the John Giorno Foundation, a position from which she’s stepping down this month; and her most high-profile role, as co-founder and CEO of New York’s Independent Art Fair. An elegant, tightly curated event that remains an outlier in its efforts to elevate overlooked, underrepresented, and unsung galleries or artists, and an Independent champions discovery. True to its name, the fair, which Dee created with Matthew Higgs in 2009, stands out from the global art-circuit pack for its intimacy, intricacy, and consistent high quality.

Courtesy Mack Books

A New Book Captures the Magnificent Breadth and Melancholic Beauty of Alec Soth’s Photography

What does it mean to revisit a photograph? When a camera shutters, it locks a moment in time, forever trapping the image it renders. That well-trod notion, however universally understood, becomes unsteady in Gathered Leaves, the latest book by the Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth, whose work has long documented lonely souls and fractured dreams in spaces across the United States. In Gathered Leaves, Soth revisits five of his previous books, including in its pages new notes, annotations, text excerpts, and even photographs—melding his works into a distinct and retrospective road trip across his accomplished career.