[Editor’s note: the following is an excerpt from Stuart E. Cohen’s Hardy Holzman Pfieffer on America in the February 1975 Progressive Architecture magazine. Cohen recently retired as Full Professor from the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he taught from 1973 to 2002. he recived his Master’s in Architecture from Cornell in 1967 and founded his own firm in Chicago in 1972. There he was part of the “Chicago Seven,” a group of architects who held a series of influential exhibitions and symposia to encourage new approches to architecture in Chicago. A prolific writer throughout his career, Cohen (FAIA) authored “Physical Context/Cultural Context: Including It All, “ in OPPOSITIONS 2, January 1974. This article, Cohen acknowledges, was “largely responsible for introducing the concept of ‘Contextualism’ in architecture and introducing the term into the vocabulary of American archietctural theory.”]
By Stuart E. Cohen. Progressive Architecture, February 1975.
The ArtEl, L-shaped and elevated. at Artpark in Lewiston, N.Y . is a huge timber boardwalk, reminiscent of 19th Century seacoast structures. It connects two high points on the site and forms a pedestrian entrance to the park from the upper level. Originally this entrance was to have been via a pair of monumental stairs forming the lower legs of a giant letter "A" Identifying the entire Artpark complex and recalling Claus Oldenburg's projects for buildings and monuments. Oldenburg, describing his projects involving letters, writes, “Another source of the association of letters and landscape is the map of the area one has to consult. I imagine the coordinates, for example, constructed to cover the territory they fill on the map, or a colossal alphabet spilled haphazardly. . . . The characters become landmarks of the community.” The “A,” was not built, but Lewiston has a big “L” on its hillside.
The ArtEl —both traditionally American and contemporary in its function—provides, as boardwalks usually do, spectacular views, it also replaces the vendors and penny arcades in a rather unique way that may be a subtle and humorous comment on certain new leisure-associated commercial values in our society. The boardwalk's cultural vendors are artists in residence who work and interact with the stroller spectators. ArtEl’s proposition is the recreational appeal of watching art being made.