Post-Sandy, Two Icons Emerge From the Architectural World

The wake of Hurricane Sandy was a divisive one for New York City, demarcating the island between the have-powers and have-nots. Amid the chaos and the peddling of thumbs waiting for power to return, however, two contributions from the architectural world have been able to make light of the darkness.

A helicopter-equipped Iwan Baan, the architectural photographer known for his unique ability to convey the soul of built structures (capturing their relationship to their environments, their blurry, real-life interactions with human beings, and other details architects typically care very little for), snapped images of our fair city from thousands of feet in the air. A single shot, likely out of thousands (ten of which can be seen on, has gone on to become the cover of this week’s New York Magazine, and hands-down one of the most striking magazine covers in recent memory. In its poignance, capturing a Lower Manhattan shrouded in darkness amid the halo of powered, immediately identifiable landmarks — the singular cool-blue glow of the Freedom Tower, or the half-lit expanse of the Williamsburg Bridge — it brings Baan’s name into more mainstream recognition. The image has earned a place among the pantheon of iconic magazine covers (no doubt right next to Annie Liebovitz‘s pregnant, naked Demi Moore for Vanity Fair).

On the far more ironic side of things, Upper West Side-based architect Jake Levine provided New Yorkers a very simple sketch delineating the island’s two newest neighborhoods, the lower half called “SoPo,” a shortened version of “South of Power.” It’s an in-joke among our bourgeois residents about an old real-estate trick of hyping up a new neighborhood via acronym, and our fondness in demarcating where exactly we are and aren’t willing to hang out. Even in the midst of natural disaster, we’re still, like, the painfully coolest people ever. After quickly going viral, the image is now available as a commemorative tee shirt, the proceeds of which go to hurricane relief efforts.

However far they might fall from each other on the poignance-ridiculousness spectrum, these two have managed to condense the sentiments of the harrowing previous week, in the succinctness of an image. Despite the confusion of enduring a standstill in a city that’s never supposed to stop moving, these show that everyone living there wore their New Yorker status with a sense of pride.

— Janelle Zara