I loved the Viaduct, a fact that is documented by acres of elegies, eulogies and shrines made in its honor. As one of its passionate defenders, I mourned when it came down for the as-yet unproven benefits of a “park” and an “underground tunnel.”
The viaduct’s mood range was immense. Beneath its clumsy mastodon pillars one could wallow in the dank smells and charcoal smears of pure grime. Above, given a tenth of a gallon of gas and any class of car, a million-dollar view rolled out from sea to shining sea and a white-capped mountain. It was our last glimpse of The View, as contrasted with our current life with an ever-diminishing View Corridor. We now see the world beyond the city in slivers, something blue or gray and moving slowly as atmosphere does, sliced against a block-long bank of windows that only reflect the sky and will never be it.
All that said, what a difference in perspective 10 years and a pandemic! Never again will I write eulogies to graffiti in the same way. Now that random scrawls are inescapable and cover every inch of our city with relentless self-regard I just want the power of a large hose filled with bleach and the god-powers of erasure.
This shift in perspective hit me with bracing clarity as I stumbled into the Waterfront Park Construction project on a gray Sunday morning. With no hall monitors present, no generators, no growling excavators or men in hard hats shouting at me to leave or show my permit — I had freedom to walk during Sunday matins like a slow monk observing, shooting, revising, studying every angle of scaffold and ramp and the lyric possibilities of fresh concrete.
I have to tell you I felt something like joy. Particularly counting the hundreds of tender tiny plants, all waiting to go into formation.
We need this new thing. It’s been three years of long hard dark, and I am more than ready for the shock of light unimpeded. The Urbanists and others have savaged the plan, and I think they are probably right– all 8 or 9 traffic lanes of right. But to see the scope and grandeur of the idea in construction filled me with pure electricity and hope for a new city. It is not, by any stretch of imagination, going to be the same city. But perhaps if we start from the water and walk backwards we can be surprised into something even better. As Wallace Stevens put it in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,”
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying. ”
Below are a few of the many scenes that captured me over two days of shooting in various weather. These have been added to my architectural photography portfolio and the entire collection can be seen here.
I have been waging a campaign against invasive English ivy for decades. Much as I like this particular juxtaposition of The Wheel with Graffiti Undertow, perhaps ivy everywhere is the solution. Let the plants talk. The designer of Freeway Park thought of it first: who wants to spray their name on a thousand leaves that will move in the wind and change in the seasons? It could be we become Findhorn West simply to combat this scourge.
All photographs and text © Iskra Johnson and may not be used without
permission of the artist.