I am pretty lucky. I am a science writer who, from my home office not too far from Wooster Square, gets to write about topics like giant, gassy planets that would float in a bathtub—if only there existed a bathtub large enough. I recently felt the Nerd’s Elation—an internal, rising giddiness—when I asked an astronomer about how, exactly, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy ejected a gang of rogue stars from the Milky Way. My current fixation is graphene—one-atom-thick sheets of carbon that look like teeny tiny honeycombs and will profoundly influence the future of electronics in one way or another. All that to say, I usually write about things either far away—or very small. Last year, the good people at the New Haven Review let me take a welcome detour from the world of exoplanets, metamaterials and deep-space cannonballs. For Issue #3, I wrote about how Elm City artists responded to the demolition of the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, a colossal hulk that stood at one end of downtown New Haven like a neglected barbarian. I finished the story in the summer, and the issue was published in the fall.
Thus, the article was done. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The following sentence may be a tired truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless: most stories are never finished. You just stop working on them.
After I finished the piece about the Coliseum, I still had loads of information—bookmarks, postcards, pictures, tattered photocopies with illegible scribbles—I hadn’t used. I kept coming across architectural factoids and images that seemed interesting. Not all of these bits were Coliseum-centric. By the time Issue #3 went to press, the Coliseum had started to seem like one minor player in a long and complicated story about New Haven’s tangled relationship with architecture. But I was hooked: I had begun to pay attention.
In an effort to finally put this story and all of its tangents to rest, I’d like to offer just a few of these tidbits and highlight a couple more Elm City artists who have may or may not have had anything to do with the Coliseum.
• The firm of Roche Dinkeloo designed the Coliseum, and Archinect.com has an interview with Kevin Roche about his approach to architecture in general and the Coliseum in particular. Roche’s answers are heady but accessible. A photo essay about the Coliseum accompanies the interview. Under one of the photos of the gutted behemoth, there’s this lovely quote that I would have loved to include in my article: "Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy: that is their tragedy." Ishirō Honda (Director of Gojira, 1954).
• Man oh man, do I like looking at pictures of the Elm City through the lens of Christopher Gardner's camera, and I’m sure he’s got pictures of the Coliseum somewhere. Karyn Gilvarg, New Haven’s city planner, tipped me off to his work while I was fact-gathering for the Coliseum story. Gardner’s pictures—some of which show up in the latest edition of Yale’s alumni magazine—are vivid and rich. On his web site, he’s got outtakes from that photo shoot, and they make New Haven look like a million bucks. The other thing I appreciate about Gardner’s site is his blog. He provides know-nothings like me a window into his process. He explains why that laptop is about to fly off Yale's Art and Architecture building, and why he later had to take that laptop apart.
• Painter Charles Santarpia exhibited some paintings at the Hull’s Framing store downtown, right where Church becomes Whitney, last summer. Santarpia’s paintings stopped me because they looked like the Elm City by way of Edward Hopper. And yeah, he’s got a Coliseum picture or two. On his web site, you can see his rendering of the Anchor Bar, the reflection of City Hall in the Chase Bank building, and the Smoothie underwear factory condos, among other local haunts. And I do mean haunts. Santarpia’s paintings are a little spooky—but hey, they’re familiar. Maybe I am one of those people who don’t dance if they don’t know who’s singing.
So that's what I've found. What/whom have I missed?