JR-Untapped Cities-Anna Brown12

Walking the hallways of an abandoned hospital would give anyone shivers. But what if throughout the tour, apparitions from times past unexpectedly appeared in the adjoining rooms, windows, and staircases? We visited the South Side hospital complex on Ellis Island, the site of Unframed, an installation by Parisian street artist JR that opened on October 1st.

Artist JR is known for his large scale photographs in places accessible to the public view, like New York City’s Times Squarethe Pantheon in Paris, and the favelas of Brazil. The hospital site has been off-limits to the public, apart from special visits like our coverage for the 2012 Partners in Preservation campaign. For a short time, it will only be accessible through a  guided “hard-hat” tour.  The tours are capped at 10 people and tickets are sold out thorough November, but tickets are still available into April 2015. So why would JR choose such an exclusive site that requires a hard-won reservation to visit?


5Pointz-Interior Demolition-Rooftop-StreetArt-Long Island City-Queens-Urban Exploration-NYCFall 2014-0185Pointz from 3rd floor of demolition. Photo by franklyfrank

The last time we heard from urban explorer __Macgyver and his crew, they were creating pyrotechnic fire art in New York City’s abandoned subway stations. This time, they’ve hit up the demolition at the beloved street art haven, 5Pointz which was whitewashed last year. In an evening raid, __MacgyverMr_Dume, Jenyc_photography, _Fabricios_franklyfrank and thompsonlxs_ capture what they describe to us as “a last hoorah” for 5Pointz. According to __Macgyver, 5Pointz “literally looked like it was blown away by a tornado.” Yet some of the street art was still intact. With a central building already down and the rest prepared for the wrecking ball, it is likely that 5Pointz will come down imminently.


Urban Layers-Downtown Manhattan-Morphocode-NYC

“…each block is covered with several layers of phantom architecture in the form of past occupancies, aborted projects and popular fantasies that provide alternative images to the New York that exists.”

A map tool that opens with a quote from Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York? How could we resist? Urban Layers by Morphocode allows you to trace the building history of New York City starting in 1765–with an added bonus of using up-to-date mapping tools like Mapbox to make everything look pretty and open source data like PLUTO and NYC Building Footprints. Those of us in the urban planning world use these data sets frequently, but this is a wonderful and fun way to introduce the general public to it.


Recently, the New York Times launched a weekly video series called “Living City,”explaining New York City’s infrastructure.  The fourth and most recent installment, “Living City: A City Shaped by Steam,” explains the steam systems beneath our streets. The 105 miles of steam pipes in New York City power about 2000 buildings, of which the largest 300 buildings are over half a million square feet. When skyscrapers were going up in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the steam system was put underground to avoid a skyline of chimneys and to reduce soot from coal-burning chimneys. Into the 21st century, Con Edison has continued to make sure that the largest steam system in the world provide a cleaner source of energy, despite a few accidents caused by steam pipes exploding. This mini-documentary calls on museums, restaurants, historians, private executives, and city officials to share their experiences with this unique system that both heats and cools the city.


Street art is a beautiful form of art, which is why we love seeing pictures of graffiti. Judging from the amount of great photos of street art, so do our readers! Hashtag #UntappedCities on Instagram and Twitter if you would like to have one of your photos entered in the running for our weekly “Best Of”column. Also, you can keep an eye on what contributors and readers are checking out by browsing the live feed.

Wall Blanketed by Graffiti by __macgyver



historic-Newsboys-and-Newsgirl-of-nyc1Newsboys and newsgirls on Newspaper Row, Park Row, NYC. Image via Library of Congress

While news continues to make its way around the world, it may be hard to imagine today that the publishing industry was at the epicenter of some of the world’s most important architectural feats. But this was the case in late 19th century New York City, when the daily newspaper industry was centered at Park Row, near City Hall. Such institutions included The New York Times, The New York Tribune and The New York World.