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Integrative Studio 1 Project Proposal

Photographer: Tomas Herold

Model: Ella Snyder


“Dumbo NYC has been bought!” One of the many main attractions in Dumbo, Brooklyn are the tracks from the old trolley cars still peeking through the cobblestone streets. The tracks were designed on December 18, 2007. The tracks represent the historic district of dumbo. “The cobblestone streets in Dumbo only add to the beauty of the neighborhood, already complemented by its close proximity to both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, not to mention its views of the East River and Manhattan skyline.” In Dumbo, there are a lot of parks, pieces of art, and new apartment buildings. The factories that are being replaced by apartment buildings and new trendy store businesses are pushing out natives and bringing in tourists. Along with factories, cobblestone roads and buildings should be preserved and not renovated. My subject matter is a collection of garments that show the beautiful, olden glory of Dumbo.

The iconic cobblestone architecture of Dumbo should be commemorated because although renovated buildings and roads are not a bad idea, it pushes away the history, natural art, and magic that is home to Dumbo. On Washington Street, some new stones were placed down the center of the street to make it more bike friendly. On Water Street, the blocks were turned at a different angle for a bike path. Belgian blocks are made of granite and such paving stones were widely used in the mid-1800s in commercial areas like Dumbo because they withstood the wear of carts and carriages. They were phased out by the end of the century when the city began using less-expensive concrete. Since then, periodic road repairs have left many old-style streets pockmarked with tar, asphalt and cement patches.

More about the cobblestone, The New York Times states “they have survived in Brooklyn’s northwestern corner for over a century — handmade and rounded, their shades weathered to a medley of noble grays — rattling the frames of carriages and Chryslers, buses and bicycles beside the waterfront.” If I lived in New York, I would attend Dumbo as much as possible. I thought it would be the perfect place to relax on a carriage ride, bike around, walk down the beautiful century old cobblestone streets, or ride the carousel. These activities are the reasons why the details of Dumbo should be preserved. The building, especially 1 Front Street, which is Grimaldi’s Pizza, has been one of the oldest stone landmarks. Before it was Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, the building was the first safe loan bank. Even this landmark has changed over time.

Making my garments will impact the neighborhood because it seems that the native culture is hanging on by a thread, only in certain areas of Dumbo. So the collection will revive some of the dying culture. Also, it would remind the people how Dumbo became, and more of its history. The message I aim for my work to convey is that there is more culture in Dumbo than first seen by a tourists first glance, and that renovation is taking away the core of Dumbo. If someone were to encounter my dress, they would first be intrigued by the sights like the shining gold, but then looking closer, they would see the culture and history of Dumbo. It could be a teaching tool to share with strangers and locals to change one’s mindset.

I will be making an interactive temporary monument that will impact the community of Dumbo, Brooklyn. For my temporary piece, I will be designing a collection of garments using fabric with a cobblestone pattern on it to represent the olden, glorious cobblestone streets and buildings of Dumbo. The models will be fully aware of what the garment’s purpose is and the models will be walking around the area. There will be multiple because of the more there are, the bigger impact. I will use gold organza that matches the gold in the cobblestone to represent the new renovation of the stone around that area. Layering the shiny organza over the cobblestone fabric, it will symbolize the new shiny reconstruction covering up the olden stone glory. The garments will be lined with the gold cobblestone fabric, so community members will be able to write their favorite cobblestone place in Dumbo under the dress on the lining. It will look like graffiti of the people.

This will impact the community members because if one interacts with a garment or model wearing it in any way, one will walk away more knowledgeable in the renovation of Dumbo, either from verbal information or written information on the garments.

The beautiful stone buildings make the streets unique; but now some of the old belgian block stones are being renovated. “There is a reconstruction project that began two years ago with the refurbishment of cobbled Washington and Water streets. But for some residents and history buffs, the stone job is “historically inaccurate” and some say it’s too expensive.” Numerous people who live in the area do not think that the cobblestone should be getting reconstructed. According to the New York Times, “some residents are angry about plans to make streets in Brooklyn’s Dumbo and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods easier to walk and ride on by replacing cobblestones. Now after some renovation, the cobblestones in the roads are facing the wrong way, and there are potholes on the sides of the roads. It’s a controversial topic because some think the beauty of the cobblestones is iconic and others think the streets and buildings all need to be updated.

Incorporating the color gold into my temporary monument gives a magical, fancy feeling. Carefully considering how I can use line as an element of design in my proposal, I designed one of the garments to have a deep V neckline of two converging lines. The look has great harmony because of the continued use of gold throughout the whole piece.   

Since it is too cold to wear a garment like a dress for a long period of time, the models will wear the garments for about an hour or so, go inside a store to warm up, then went back outside for another hour. It would be most impactful right in front of Grimaldi’s where one can see the cobblestone or near stores around Grimnaldi’s because it is a fashion idea so the customers shopping are already looking for fashion inspiration. In the future this event could happen twice a month, depending on how many garments are made and how the people in the community respond.

If I partnered with a local organization in Dumbo, I would definitely partner with the New York Landmarks Conservancy for preserving the cobblestone parts of Dumbo. They are credible, powerful, and have worked on the U.S. custom house on Bowling Green, along with the “Upper Manhattan Historic Preservation Fund” and Astor Row, which now features many restored Victorian porches. In the early 1880s, William Astor built 28, semi-attached row houses on 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues in Harlem. Each double building shared a turned-wood porch in the Victorian style. Their work shows nothing is impossible.

I would also partner with the New York Historical Society. Now the organization has developed for kids and families as well. With all of this information, I hope that one takes a closer look when they see the dress, and that the information learned is fascinating.

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