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Taking an Alternative Path: Uncovering Controversy & Societal (Un)Conditioning

I uncover the hidden history of racism in Columbia University’s proposed “Gym Crow” building in Morningside Park by creating a new experiential circulation path that is differentiated from the very straight, direct, stair paths that currently cut through this contentious site. As a woodworker, I challenge wood’s material properties through each of the five interventions. Using the diaspora of different wood species, the material explorations include laminating wood veneers, curving wood, floating on water, flammability, fire-resistance, and concepts of solidity, gravity, weight, flexibility, temporality, and surface. This project exposes how the scars from drilling and dynamite activity, the massive change in elevation that symbolizes the socioeconomic differences between Columbia University and Harlem, the danger of abandoning a construction site, and the use of gates, fences, and boundaries to divide and control communities of color can leave a void––an imprint, that persists through time and space. Through the implementation of the Fragmented Gym, the Rock Slide, the Dynamite Funicular, the Flexible Raft, and the Rolling Fire Pits, park-goers are encouraged to create a new self-directed path, but hopefully one that is changed through a change in perspective, a change in speed, a change in struggle. Emily Ruopp