NY’s Iconic Buildings Are Even More Stunning in Unfamiliar Lands
Frank Lloyd Wright spent 16 years designing the Guggenheim. The white, spiraling building stands today as a bonafide architectural icon. But on any given day no end of visual pollution mars the promenade surrounding the museum. Smoke-puffing hot dog stands, vendors hawking myriad forms of the I ♥ NY logo, and lines of tourists crowd the view of anyone trying to gaze at Wright’s work.
The Guggenheim is but one example of this problem. “There are a lot of buildings designed in New York that are very beautiful, and within a year they turn into shit,” Anton Repponen says. “CVS will move in below with their ugly branding. Starbucks moves in. Cars are parked, there’s trash.”
Repponen reimagines the Guggenheim in “Misplaced → New York,” his photography-meets-architecture fan fiction project. The designer plucks the museum out of the Upper East Side and plops it into a volcanic landscape of red and black rocks. It looks like the Guggenheim—on Mars. He designed “Misplaced → New York” like a travel guide, with a vignette accompanying each of the 11 photos on the site. The vignette with the Guggenheim reads:
Guggenheim museums began sprouting across the globe, from the Basque Country to faraway Dubai, until there was nowhere else for them to grow. The board of directors sent agents to scour the earth for primitive lands that knew nothing of modern and contemporary art. At last word arrived of such a place. A check was written, migrant workers hired, and a museum rose from the volcanic mudflats of X. Ticket sales have been sluggish.
Repponen, an interaction designer who left a big agency two years ago to start his own firm, is an avid photographer. He started making the composites last fall and launched the site last week after media outlets discovered his Instagram account.
The series includes the United Nations Headquarters nestled into a lonesome sand dune, the new Whitney Museum atop a grassy, rocky hillside, and the Cooper Union building on a sandscape filled with pink blossoms. And some of the vignettes, written by Repponen’s friend, journalist Jon Earle, lean toward the absurd:
Building the brutalist Breuer Building in the bloody boondocks was brutal. But worth it. Try making a clay pot inside a kiln, or basting a turkey that’s still in the oven. That’s what it was like at night, when the gnats crawled out of every little crack in the ground and kamikaze-attacked our eyeballs. I honestly don’t remember how we got the concrete on site. Mules? It was such all such a blur. There’s only one window because the glass was so hot none of the guys would touch it. Nah, I’m just kidding. Breuer wanted it that way. I kind of like it; it’s like a cyclops eye or a barnacle or something.
Repponen’s version of architectural surrealism is captivating, partly for how meticulously he stitched the images together and partly for how mystifying they are. When photographing buildings in New York, he times his shoot with the sun to avoid capturing any shadows on the façade. When he matches the images to a landscape, he sifts through ten years’ worth of travel photos to find scenes with shadows that coincide with the building. The farflung locations range from a Costa Rican volcano to Hawaii to a desert in northern Brazil, but Misplaced identifies each as “Current Location: Unknown.” Repponen did this deliberately. Including the locations, he says, “would ruin the whole thing.”
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