ABOUT THE PROJECT
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
― Italo Calvino
New York City may be known for its iconic structures, new and old—Empire State Building, Seagram Building, Guggenheim Museum—but it’s impossible to marvel at these feats of design and engineering without noting future paragons in development, and past architectural jewels lost.
The first thing I noticed when I moved to New York in 2014 was the cranes. I felt immersed in construction sites, from the quiet depths of downtown side-streets to the frenzied corners of Midtown thoroughfares. As the old adage goes, the only thing constant in life is change, and perhaps that is even more true when considering the ever-shifting landscape of urban environments. A tower replaces a tenement here, green space becomes retail-ready there. While this is a reality many of us accept, that doesn’t mean it should come without question. Over the years, I’ve had cause to wonder: is New York City evolving too fast for its own good?
Deconstructing NYC is a collection of photographs of 100 buildings, taken between 2015 and 2017, that captures building sites in various stages of development. With the curiosity of a newly minted New Yorker and the aid of a camera and wide-angle lens, I walked hundreds of blocks to reveal a city in transition.
My approach was methodical; the final array of images systematic. With this collection I want to provoke a sense of repetition and examine homogeny. All of the photos feature similar frames (single-point perspective or balanced two-point perspectives) and blur the city’s most unpredictable elements: pedestrians and cars. Some show empty plots, open like wounds, while others display skeletons waiting for their final skins. Amidst them all, a swarm of energy and activity abounds.
For the people of the City of New York, and other urbanites who have witnessed overwhelming topographic change, these images reveal more than breaks from visual continuity, they reveal communities under relentless revision by the powerful forces of globalization and gentrification. I, too, accept the eternal pull of change, however, this project was borne out of the unfamiliarity I felt in the place I had come to call home. Throughout my walks, I wondered about New York’s evolution and how these new designs would impact existing communities. Will the local shoe store still be around? Will the corner deli still be family-owned? What is the “soul” of a city, and does it change with the landscape?
It was then that I realized this project had only just begun: To truly understand the revolutionary nature of New York City I intend to photograph the same sites in ten-year intervals. In 2025, ten years after the launch of this project, I will commence a new set of walks, one that will take me to each location in this project, capturing whatever stands (or used to stand) from a single- or two-point perspective. Perhaps only then can I see the true deconstruction of New York and answer my own question regarding its evolution.
I am not the first to chronicle the transformations of built environments, nor will I be the last. In the spirit of experts before me and visionaries to come, this project uncovers yet another face of New York — one that may not last the next decade, or even until tomorrow.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Montse Zamorano is a Spanish architect and architecture photographer. Her work examines the intersections of culture, design, and humanity to reveal new perspectives on space and what happens in it.
Currently based in New York, Zamorano previously lived and worked in Madrid, Shanghai, and Chicago.