Geologic City: A Field Guide To The GeoArchitecture Of New York

This review is geopoetic due to my interpretations of their interpretations of geology.

Anyone could point out several factors that make up a city. In a quick glance, it’s easy to see the layers of pollution, vehicles rushing by, statues that hark to another era of local history, buildings being built up and other ones being torn down. But where did the city come from? All those buildings are made out of something. And what about time? How has the literal influence of time changed the landscape, health and aesthetic of the city?

In Smudge Studio’s Geologic City: A Field Guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York, the guide visits twenty sites in New York City that identify geologic material and consider their relationship with the space they inhabit and once inhabited. The examples takes readers all over New York City and the world — sometimes even the galaxy — and the guide provides an interpretation the human connection to this geologic material or process. Smudge Studio follows the Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen’s idea that the modern human impact on the planet is so massive that is is “geologic in scale” and worth of its own era, the Anthropoecene.

In other words, the city is not just the remnants of social history, but also of geological and natural history.

Geologic City takes some of the most ubiquitous icons of New York City and reverts them into their natural subterranean origins. For example, it points out that the famous yellow taxis derive their golden glow from a paint made out of crude oil. In another snapshot, the guide contemplates how humans themselves turn into carbon deposits at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, home of the bones of over half a million people.

The new perspective Geologic City lends is a surprisingly fresh and new way of thinking about the built environment. At a time when when the local food movement is at its peak, it’s curious to think that there is less noise made about the geography of building materials. While Geologic City encourages people to “recalibrate [their] sense[s] of the City,” it also raises important questions about the global (interplanetary!) relations of building cities and does a good job of being, well, down to earth about it.

If you’re interested in seeing the places listed in the guide, the book includes a map of all the examples.

Geologic City: A Field Guide To The GeoArchitecture Of New York
46 pages, 8.25″ x 4.5 x .25, FSC paper, vegetable inks
Smudge Studio, 2011
ISBN 978-0-9838034-0-9
$10.00 USD + shipping and handling